We don’t have computers at my school because it is a very remote location. There are 80 children all in one class, there’s not even enough room for a teacher to move around.

Teacher from Zithulele Village

Lesedi's Story

Lesedi is a teacher in a remote village in the Eastern Cape, she loves teaching but with large class sizes and limited teaching resources, she has to work a lot harder than teachers at schools in towns and cities.

With the help of a Solar Learning Lab, Lesedi will be able to download teaching aids, worksheets and help her students to learn digital skills.

She will get the chance to study for her ICDL (International Computer Drivers’ License) and take the ICT in Education module which will help her to incorporate technology successfully in her lesson plans.

The need for ICT In South Africa

The need for ICT skills in South Africa has been documented for the past decade by the JCSE-IITPSA ICT Skills Survey. It has found that the country still lacks enough skilled workers in the tech industry, with many employers recruiting from overseas. 

South Africa is home to most of the Solar Learning Labs that have built to date, with 13 labs serving a country of 57 million people, nearly a third of them children. Several of the labs work with a local partner, Code 4 Change, which strives to address the ICT skills gap in South Africa with hands-on training and education. Code 4 Change’s offerings range from PC basics and intermediate coding to workshops that provide training for emerging IT technicians.  

“We all need ICT, no matter the industry or sector,” says Mpho Segola, head of training for Code 4 Change. “One of the key changes we need to effect as Africans to improve our continent’s economy and our overall quality of life is to position Africa in the forefront of ICT technology development and not to only be consumers of these technologies. We need a generation that is ICT-savvy to enable them to adapt to an evolving technological and industrial world.” 

At a school level, there was a survey in 2017 (Padayachee, K.: A snapshot survey of ICT integration) which looked specifically at the use of ICT in South African schools and the findings showed that although ICT is included in the curriculum, there is very little information for educators on how they can effectivly integrate technology into their teaching. Teachers in the survey explained one major issue was a lack of skills and the time for them to learn new skills, as well as frequent power failures and poor network coverage.

Many teachers were found to be using their own devices and data projectors, as well as using their personal data plans to download teaching material. Another concern from the teachers in the study was that there was no support provided and they were concerned about the physical security of the equipment. 

Our Solar Learning Lab project has been designed to address barriers like these, creating a dedicated power supply from the solar panels to ensure the lab can run even when areas loose their power supply. The lab is sturdy and locks to give teachers piece of mind that the equipment inside is safe. Providing equipment means that the teachers don’t have to use their own devices, and we implement teacher training during school holidays so that teachers are not choosing between improving their skills and running their classes. 

Our respondents were asked a new question in 2019 – do they feel a responsibility to assist their employees to reskill to meet the challenges of the new era of digitalisation?

The answer is an overwhelming “yes”.

2019 JCSE-IITPSA ICT Skills Survey

The principal barriers mentioned were the lack of infrastructure or the inadequacy of the existing infrastructure where the teachers complained that there was no internet access in the classroom or they did not have the necessary tools such as data projectors. The second major issue mentioned was the lack of funding for such projects.

A Snapshot Survey of ICT Integration in South African Schools, Padayachee, K. (2017)

South Africa Lab #1

South Africa, Eastern Cape region, Zithulele village
Local Partner: Sihamba Sonke Ngo
ICDL training 
100% funded by Dell and software donation by Microsoft. Deployed!