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SA schools to get savvy with new virtual classroom tool by Mxit, UNICEF

Today, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty, together with the MEC for Education in Gauteng Panyaza Lesufi, officially unveiled a new mobile tool for the country’s public schools, called Ukufunda Virtual School in partnership with Mxit Reach and UNICEF.

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Ukufunda, meaning “learn” in isisZulu, will not only aim to promote access to quality teaching for students, but provide teachers with professional development and support curriculum delivery.

However creative many edtech startups in South Africa may seem, they too often face inaccessibility to their target markets. This recent dedication by the Education Department is a milestone for public institutions, highlighting the commitment to harness third-party technology at hand.

“The Ukufunda Virtual School will directly address inequalities in the school system, raise education standards and put the power of basic education back into the hands of every learner, teacher and parent,” says Surty.

Andrew Rudge, CEO of Mxit Reach says “We believe that one of our most important roles is to act as a technology conduit, linking experts such as the Department of Basic Education and UNICEF and their content and services with the people who need it most.”

In a recent press release, Rudge points out two of Ukufunda’s key components, namely the Calendar and the Annual National Assessment (ANA) tool:

  • The Calendar tool allows the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to populate one central calendar with the annual school terms, exam timetables and beyond that will be editable at a provincial, district and school level. What makes this calendar so resourceful is that it removes traditional communication barriers such as access and affordability.
  • The ANAs are assessments of grade three, six and nine learners’ levels of competency in literacy and numeracy. Conventional assessments can be costly, time-consuming and can take several months for results to be returned. The ANA tool for Grade 9 learners on Ukufunda provides instant feedback and builds a database for the DBE to assess levels of competency quickly and effectively.

Other features available to learners include links to textbooks and reference material, links to counselling and emergency services, and groups of virtual communities. Other features in the pipeline are the homework assist functionality and mentorship programmes.

Founded in 2005, Mxit has a rather big track record when it comes to supporting social initiatives. This has taken form in Mxit Reach. It recently partnered with Nal’ibali reading campaign in order to help improve literacy in South Africa.

From feature phones to the smarter ones, Mxit’s social platform can operate on almost all phones on the market today. On average, over 500 000 people access educational apps every month. Some notable services include Bookly, EverEgg, FunDza and Yoza.

Check out Ukufunda Virtual School’s introductory video:

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