Over weekends, Vodacom employees Lebo and Thomas can be found helping learners get set up on the Vodacom e-school platform. Here's why they do it.
Launched in January, Vodacom e-school is an educational website containing extra lessons, assignments and even past exam papers for students in Grades 8 -12, in all major subjects, aligned with the South African curriculum.
It’s a zero-rated service – meaning that if you are a Vodacom subscriber, you won’t be charged for the data you use while browsing the site.
We spoke to Lebo Mokoena and Thomas Zondo, two facilitators who have volunteered their weekends to introduce Vodacom e-school to learners at Motshegoa High School in North West.
Lebo Mokoena and Thomas Zondo, two facilitators who have volunteered their weekends to introduce Vodacom e-school to learners.
'When we explained how e-school works to the pupils, we had mixed reactions, all valid. They felt very special, being the "guinea pigs" for such a massive project – but some of them had never used the internet before, and were anxious,’ says Lebo.
‘However, once we took them through the step-by-step and illustrated the benefits, they all were excited and ready to try this new world of online learning,’ says Thomas.
A noble cause, but is it worth sacrificing your weekend for? ‘Absolutely,’ both agree. 'As Nelson Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."’
They recently chatted to Vodacom now! about their involvement with the Vodacom e-school project:
Q Why did you feel inspired to pitch in?
A Thomas: We are passionate about personal development, the youth, education and South Africa. We feel it’s our duty to be the change that we want to see in our world.
Lebo: The reality is that low-quality education is a poverty trap that reproduces and reinforces already high levels of inequality in society. The hunger we have to help young people unleash their potential inspired us to get involved.
Q Tell us about the moment you hand a device to a learner so they can register for Vodacom e-school…
A Thomas: The school we work with is in a township where the average household income is very low. This means that these kids only have entry-level handsets that either don't log onto the internet or have very small, bad quality screens. What we did was take our own devices to help with the registration process.
They were excited about the prospect of having their curriculum in their hands and overwhelmed by the portal, as some of them had never experienced the internet at all! Since we are both qualified facilitators we used those skills to help orientate them, teaching them how to use the handsets and the software.
Q Are the subjects listed on e-school the ones that pupils find most challenging?
A Lebo: They all agreed that maths and the sciences are tough and they need extra help. Now we know that in the high-income areas it is common to hire a tutor for the areas you wish to improve in while in the townships that becomes another expense that the parents of these pupils cannot afford.
Which subjects did you battle with in high school?
Lebo: I battled with maths. Back then we had no fast internet or portals to log onto. The devices that were popular when I was in matric were the Nokia 6110 and 3200, and were used for voice calls and texting. When I needed extra info the library was my best friend and I was fortunate because the area I lived in and school I attended provided them. When you look at the schools we visit, they do not have libraries or extra lessons, so it makes it harder for a student to improve.
Thomas: I had issues with maths and science that led to me switching to business economics and biology. If I had access to Vodacom e-school then, I wouldn’t have changed my subjects. The portal would have highlighted what I missed in class. To have a tutor who not only is free but also has videos, audio and assessments to embed the knowledge is priceless!
Q How can parents support pupils who use Vodacom e-school?
A Thomas: The platform has made it a bit easier for parents as they are able to view their children’s progress and assist where they can. Keep in mind that many parents of these kids are illiterate. When a pupil comes back from school struggling with a certain subject, the parent sometimes can’t help. This makes the Vodacom e-school portal even more important, as it teaches both pupils and parents, creating a culture of discussing schoolwork in the home.