Digital literacy is key to a better future

Published on: 14th Feb 2022

Funding raised at WASPA is used by SchoolNet to better prepare students and teachers for a digital future.

There can be little doubt that in today’s technological world, the importance of teaching digital skills to the youth is absolutely critical, especially as, in a country with massive unemployment, such skills will give learners a leg up in finding a job.

To this end, the Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) recently helped to raise some R50 000 at its annual fundraising golf day, to benefit SchoolNet South Africa. As a public benefit, Not for Profit Company (NPC), whose work is centred around basic education for teacher and learner development, SchoolNet has now expanded into community projects focused on the promotion of digital literacy.

The organisation understands the importance of training both teachers and students to utilise digital technologies and to leverage these effectively for teaching and learning purposes.

According to Omashani Naidoo, Executive Director at SchoolNet South Africa, the organisation acts as a catalyst for positive change in education and focuses on improving opportunities by creating knowledge through the dissemination of basic digital literacy skills. “We recognise that, especially for students, understanding digital technologies and having the relevant skills around this will help them to put their best foot forward when they are ready to join the working world,” she says.

Naidoo notes that SchoolNet optimised the use of the WASPA funding, allocating it to provide two days of online student training in basic coding, and another two days of teacher training in Atteridgeville. With the latter, they assisted some 37 teachers, more than a third of whom were women, introducing them to Microsoft Teams and other digital tools to enable them to more effectively employ digital platforms to stay connected to learners, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of academic teaching time.

“With the online coding training, the idea was to teach young people how to consider aspects of problem solving – something which coding, with its logical framework, is ideal for – so that they can leverage these skills and their improved digital knowledge in their future roles. The aim was to motivate them to think of coding as a pathway to enable their growth. These workshops were very successful and witnessed nearly 100 youngsters joining, of which more than 40% were women and girls,” she adds.

“Digital literacy is vitally important in today’s world, whether it is the problem-solving skills offered on this course or teaching other digital skills like how to effectively manage your social media presence. Many of the youth are unaware that future employers look at social media pages to gain an understanding of a prospect’s potential fit with the organisational culture, nor do they realise that once out there, a digital footprint is always available for the world to see.”

Ilonka Badenhorst, managing executive at WASPA, states that the Association was pleased and proud to be able to support SchoolNet in its crucial training endeavours.

“We are aware of the critical importance of digital literacy in 2022 and the necessity of ensuring people understand how to use their devices to serve them and make them more productive. After all, not only are they more adept and connected online, but more productive people will spur the economy, assist with growth, encourage entrepreneurship while also increasing their individual opportunities,” she explains.

“From a gender-equality perspective, we would also like to say we find it particularly encouraging to see the number of women and girls involved in these workshops and hope the skills they have learned will help them find a career path that leads to fulfilment.”

Naidoo notes that it is important to have organisations like WASPA involved in what SchoolNet does, because it needs the industry to understand that digital success is about more than mere devices and connectivity.

“At the end of the day, it’s about what one does with those tools and how they are able to optimise their use for personal and professional growth. This is why the funding we received was so important, and we are especially grateful to WASPA for their efforts in helping to fund these training workshops, as it enabled us to achieve this level of digital literacy across these various workshops,” she concludes.