Johannesburg, South Africa – A group of organisations, including lawyers, economists and activists, today released a research report finding that the South African Government is not meeting its own targets in relation to providing internet access in schools. This is severely impacting learners, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report finds that while the South African government has committed on paper to implement connectivity plans, due to poor planning, inaction, non-communication, and a lack of outreach and coordination among the stakeholders involved, there have been severe delays in implementation. As a result, many South African learners continue to suffer the consequences through the duration of their basic education and beyond.
Based on desk and field research conducted in Gauteng and Limpopo and a series of interviews conducted over an 18-month period, Access Denied: Internet Access and the Right to Education in South Africa documents the multiple barriers to implementation and effective internet access in South African schools.
These include limited adherence to policies by state actors, a lack of coordination and inefficient implementation, poor infrastructure and inadequate facilities, a lack of adequate training and IT support for teachers, and an over-reliance on NGOs and private actors.
Using South Africa Connect – South Africa’s primary connectivity policy – as a benchmark, the report finds that the internet access targets set by the South Africa government have not been met. South Africa Connect provides that by 2020, 90% of schools should have broadband access at a rate of 5mbps and 50% of schools should have access at 100mbps.
The report argues that while the targets in South Africa Connect are economically feasible, they are far from being realised. The failure to reach these targets may constitute a violation of the right to education in South Africa’s Constitution and in international law.
Avani Singh from ALT Advisory, one of the drafters of the report, is of the view that “differences in access between urban, peri-urban and rural schools may also constitute unfair discrimination between learners”.
The report concludes by providing a series of recommendations, including planning for sustainability of access, to ensure that no child is left behind and that South Africa works tirelessly to close the digital divide and moves towards the full realisation of internet access in schools. This is a prerequisite to the South African government’s stated intention of harnessing the power of the fourth industrial revolution as a driver of growth and employment.
The report can be accessed here.
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