January 18, 2017. Technologically sound: Mathonsi Msizi and Thandiswe Shabane, Grade1 learners from St Christophers Primary in Kwadukuza where they have rolled out Curious Learning with TabletsPIcture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

Charles Molele

The South African government has announced bold plans to phase out textbooks in all South Africans schools and replace them with digital content.

Speaking at the Ministerial Breakfast with Top Achievers  (#Matric2018 breakfast session) organized to honour the 2018 top matric achievers on Thursday, deputy minister of Basic Education Enver Surty said all school learners in South Africa, from Grade 1 right up to Grade 12 will in not-too distant future access their study materials entirely through the internet.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to provide more details about government strategy to phase out textbooks in schools during his State of the Nation Address.

Surty said that the decision to embrace new technologies in education was aimed at the provision of quality education where bulky textbooks would be totally replaced by tablets and digital learning.

“We are going to develop digital content to enhance the quality of education in SA by embracing technology through a highly sophisticated, digital learning as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Surty.

“All learner material and textbooks, from Grade 1 to Grade 12, will be digitized as part of our strategies in technology. President Cyril Ramaphosa and Vodacom chief executive officer Shameel Joosub will make an official announcement in due course.”

Surty said the department is grateful for the opportunity to contribute towards education during the centenary of struggle stalwarts former President Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu and encouraged the top learners to emulate their exemplary leadership styles.

Technology in education is set to open a huge world of possibilities for South African learners, be it sharing of study material or revision material via computer or tablet devices, according to Takalani Netshitenzhe, Vodacom’s Chief Officer: Corporate Affairs for the Vodacom Group.

Netshitenzhe added that the introduction of One Learner One Tablet at South African schools will assist government to cut costs amounting to billions of rands in the production of textbooks. Digitization of textbook content will also help government to deal with shortages of textbooks in provinces such as Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State Province.

It will also help in tackling the increasing number of learners sharing textbooks in some of the South African schools.

“The idea is to completely move away from textbooks hence our slogan One Learner, One Tablet. Textbooks are expensive and digitization will assist government in reducing costs of producing textbooks and reams and reams of copies. In terms of our partnership, the content belongs to the Department of Basic Education. Our company will merely be hosting it,” said Netshitenzhe.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga told the top achievers at the breakfast session that a lot was expected from them as they prepare to help to rebuild the country in line with the National Development Plan and the strategic vision of ANC-led government.

“We expect a lot from you [as top learners]. You are not here by prayer or miracles. You worked very hard. You are the best of the best and now form part of a critical mass of future leaders who are going to build this country; the Republic of South Africa,” said Motshekga.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution must not find us unprepared. You are going to find technological solutions to our socio-economic problems and take us out of the challenges of underdevelopment and being known as the Third World country.”