Basic Education expands STEM digital school during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown

21 Apr 2020

STEM lockdown digital school goes into community television as it expands learner support during COVID-19

The FREE STEM Lockdown Digital School has expanded into community television in order to reach an even bigger audience. Starting tomorrow, Tuesday 21 April 2020, the COVID-19 learner support programme will be available on two DSTV channels; 1KZN (261) and Soweto TV (251) to increase access. The school is supporting learners who are learning from home because of the coronavirus which resulted in the lockdown which started on March 26. 

The initiative has been running since the Lockdown was put in place.  The digital learning and teaching school, not to be confused with the Reading Club, has been conducting classes via the Africa Teen Geeks YouTube Channel, Facebook Page and Zoom. 

The media partners (1KZN and Soweto TV) came on board at no cost to carry the digital school on their channels. There are 54 qualified teachers assisting learners for free and the service will now be accessible on the television channels. There has been growth in demand from learners and parents who had appealed for assistance to access the support on alternative platforms.  

In response to the growing challenge of accessing the Lock Down digital education by learners with less or no resources Africa Teen Geeks has joined forces with the two DSTV Channels. The community TV stations have a combined viewership of 5 million reach, with 1 KZN TV viewership currently sitting on 2.6 million and Soweto TV on more than 3 million respectively. 

The initiative by Africa Teen Geeks, a nonprofit computer science organisation to provide STEM curricula and literacy programme, has received financial support from Sasol Foundation and Apodytes. The Department of Basic Education, Umlambo Foundation, Microsoft and the Independent Media provide content, technical and advocacy support. 

The organization, its partners and stakeholders fully appreciate the Government’s motivation behind imposing a lockdown to avert a public health crisis and devastation of life but also fully appreciates the challenges that many learners are facing in accessing digital education during this time. It is in this light that the collective have been working towards finding a solution to the issue of data connectivity by partnering with a host of community TV stations as an attempt to mitigate connectivity challenges. 

The partnership TX schedule is split twofold; 1 KZN TV will air focus on the following subjects; Natural Science, CAT, IT, English, Coding, LO and IsiZulu; per day followed by one reading session. Both the lesson and the reading will be lined up to air weekdays between 14h30 – 15h30. 1 KZN TV will broadcast the Educational Content for a duration of one hour per day (Monday to Friday), starting on the 21st of April”.   Soweto TV will be airing Math (pure and Math Literacy), Physical Science, English and Literacy program from 07h00 – 09h00 in the morning, and 20h00-22h00 in the evening; Monday to Friday. 

Africa Teen Geeks through its partnership with Microsoft has confirmed that the classes which have been previously been presented on Zoom, will now be delivered via Microsoft Teams for efficiency and security reasons effective Monday the 20th of April.  “While schools remains suspended, learning should not be disrupted by the distance or limited by physical location” said Glenda Mile, Education Lead at Microsoft South Africa. 

While we appreciate the benefits that digital education brings, we must be mindful of the inequalities that it also presents in our schooling system, so we should remain resolute in striving to achieve an equitable and sustainable plan in all schools,” Reboile Mathabe, chief operating officer at Umlambo Foundation. 

 “As the largest gateway to the Gauteng communities the rest of the country, we have a bigger mandate during these difficult times. Education of all is the most significant and we thank the team at Stem Digital school and all its partners for working together with us” Thabo ‘T-bo Touch’ Molefe, Chief Executive Office.   The partnership with 1KZN TV and Soweto TV has been welcomed by all the partners involved.

“The Sasol Foundation welcomes Africa Teen Geeks’ partnership with pay-tv service provider DSTV, which is aimed at enabling broader access to the STEM Lockdown Digital School. The addition of this platform to existing channels is welcomed in that it presents a more affordable channel to reach millions of learners from low-income households whose families cannot absorb the cost of data required to access the lessons online,” said Vusi Cwane, Head of the Sasol Foundation.  The Department of Basic Education has welcomed the expanded programme as it assist in efforts to bring some education to the home.

“Since the forced closure of schools the department has sought innovative ways of keeping learners engaged in their school work. We appreciate that our partners have come on board and explored creative ways of ensuring that education continues during the COVID-19 lockdown. We hope that parents and learners alike will make use of the learning platform,” Seliki Tlhabane, Chief Director for Curriculum Enhancement: Maths, Science and Technology. 

Parents are urged to continue to support their children at home while schools remain closed due to the coronavirus. More information about available resources can be found on www.education.gov.za.  A list of zero-rated platforms is also available.

Media enquiries:
Elijah Mhlanga
Cell: 083 580 8275                                                     

Africa Teen Geeks: Nonhlanhla Mnisi
Cell: 073 495 7392

SASOL Foundation: Matebello Motloung
Cell: 082 773 9457