Gauteng’s New Education Chalkboard pilot system – Akanyang Merementsi

AkanyangI listened with interest when Panyaza Lesufi talked to Motsweding FM early this week about this matter. Of course I welcome the initiative and understand that it is still a pilot system that may or may not work.

Over time, I then thought further about this matter.

Based on what Lesufi said and the station’s failure to ask him such questions, no clarity was given whether it is the Education Department that will provide students with (free) internet access to upload (while at home, for research and or home-work, or in class) whatever will be taught at that time or was taught in class earlier that day. Additionally, it is not clear how the Department – which currently can’t do, or maybe currently can prevent but won’t be able to as soon as students can easily access the Internet (for answers during classes) – will prevent students from using internet for getting answers from Wikipedia, etc.

Allow me to clarify something.

I have just come from visiting one Sister, let’s call her Bontle. Lucky for her, she is a single parent mother of two daughters and completed her Matric, post-Matric qualification and works in a strenuous mining unlike many mothers out there who are either single parents or unemployed or illiterate or are all of these.

When I got there, she was very busy, and her Grade 4 daughter had English homework to do. Trust me, with post Matric, and much as I think I’m literate, the homework was a challenge especially when dealing with a Grade 4 child who – and depending on her maturity and how well she understands this Queen’s Language – may be a slow/fast learner. Importantly, the homework was very time consuming too. For those with Grade 4 kids, check their English Exercise books’s page 1-5 – a story that talks of Mandu’s Running Shoes.

Here’s what I — and for understanding so that she understands it very well (and lucky for her she’s a smart and bright little girl) — had done:

1) I read about a 6-7 paragraph story (obviously in English). It was a requirement to the Exercise,
2) I then chose to translate it to her in Setswana – every sentence for clear understanding,
3) There were then about 3-page exercises which had to be done and answered. Luckily, and her Mom and I were surprised by this, she got home work on her first day of school in 2015, and the Mom, who happened to go to her school today, said they were already being taught when she got there,
4) I asked her questions and let her answer and explain and or justify each of her answers before she could even write them down – this was so that she is sure about her story,
5) When she got anything wrong, I told her she was wrong and had to think again,
6) Where she got the answer wrong, the question advised that the story be re-read again (which parent has time to read the story as long as this one, and in English, nogal, especially if they are illiterate as many parents out there who are single parents, especially mothers are and not only urban areas but also rural areas too?) and then go back and answer that question,
7) Where the question needed a sentence or two, or even a paragraph, I made her give reason(s) for each such answer. This was for her to understand that you can’t just give an answer just because it’s wanted but that she had to justify and give reasonable reason(s) for it,
8) Because this was an English homework, I told her to give these answers (where comprehensive answers were requested, as stated above) in English. I however had to correct her spelling and grammar as she talked even before I could confirm it by writing it down for her (which she then had to copy or write down on her exercise book with her own handwriting). This, as repeatedly noted above, was so that she understands why she says what she said,
9) I trained and exercised that little girl’s (about 10-years old) mind. At some point she didn’t want to cooperate, I ended up telling her – when she protested to my answer – that “Nna ke Akanyang, ke akantse se o bonang ke se kwadile, jaanong wena jaaka o le Orefile, mphe karabo e e phalang ya me, re e akantshisane pele re e kwala mo fatshe pele ke dumalana le yone/wena”. Clearly she wasn’t happy nor was she impressed, at some point saying my answer was not going to fit in in the space provided. I however insisted that unless she could come up with a better and shorter answer than mine, she is forced to write my answer. I even told her Mom not to help her if she refused to take my answer since she couldn’t come up with a better and shorter answer than mine after I had left. Her Mom wanted to slap her (but I protected her against this, and insisted she thinks deeper and come up with an answer – and she didn’t, and ended sticking with my answer) ,
10) The homework took about 2 hours to complete after an intense discuss and questioning of her reasoning for the answers she provided and or thought were the right answers,

Now, imagine what single parents – especially mothers and parents out there in the rural (or even urban areas, some of them domestic workers) – have to endure when they come across these challenges especial when many of them are illiterate, and also if they do not have any other kids close by who can help the young ones like this little girl?

Yes, this one, like I said earlier, is lucky for her Mom will have definitely managed to help her. But what of millions unlike her, coupled with their failure to operate technological gadgets that may soon be introduced as a mode of education in our schools?

NB: This reminded me of what Herbert Monadira posted ealier, which I shared on my wall: A seemingly upset parent (mother) about homework her kid(s) had to do, especially about something that is foreign to her.

By Akanyang Merementsi

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