Via Afrika’s digital libraries want to solve SA’s textbook problems

Via Afrika Digital Education Centre

We wrote earlier this week about Via Afrika and its mission to use technology to change the face of education in Africa. The publisher this week, in conjunction with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Breadline Africa, launched its national Digital Learning Centre initiative at Ithemeleng Primary School in Reddersburg in the Free State, South Africa.

Breadline Africa is a Cape Town based NGO that specialises in converting old shipping containers and recycling them for essential community purposes and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is the home of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

According to a release by the consortium, each library costs, on average, R280 000 to renovate and install — this includes provision for some books, librarian training and the complete upcycled structure. For its part Via Afrika is converting the libraries into Digital Learning Centres.

The Digital Learning Centres’ initiative will see each library being supplied with 15 first-class Android tablet devices. Currently, the initiative is being rolled out in three schools in Mpumalanga, the Free State, and Limpopo. The tablets are packed with the latest educational programmes, apps, electronic textbooks and tools developed by Via Afrika.

“The right tools are a non-negotiable in today’s technology-driven world. This is why Via Afrika has decided to embark on a roll-out of the Digital Education Centres. The centres will not only provide wonderful books – filled with adventure, foreign lands, make believe worlds, the gift of knowledge in languages, geography, art, science and maths – but will also contain technology filled with electronic textbooks. The electronic textbooks will ensure that learners know how to interact with modern technology and also how to demonstrate their knowledge using technological tools,” said CEO of Via Afrika Publishers Christina Watson during the launch.

Watson also added that the current education climate is one that technology is imperative in and that students need to be provided with the right tech tools to keep up with their education.

“Children must be able to use technology to be competitive in the workplace and to get jobs after they leave school. At Via Afrika, we don’t believe in arriving, handing over these resources, and then just walking away. We’ve also undertaken to furnish the Digital Education Centres with free wifi and ongoing training in the years to come, for the schools’ staff members.”

This solution can easily be ported around the country and the continent with more partners that can give it legs to grow in Africa’s troubled education space, perhaps Intel and Microsoft need to get on the case.



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