Online Education For South Africa’s Poorest (1998)

Net Development (1998): The internet is helping to bring dynamic education to South Africa’s poorest townships.

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The sun rises up above Soweto as hundreds of kids troop to school. But what most children arrive to every morning is an under funded, and under equipped shack. And without a decent education, the economic prospects of young black people in the new South Africa is severely limited. So with government support Interaid are helping to fit township schools with computers and hook them up to the internet. In the first wired township school new web browsers enthuse about their new tool: “The internet is very exciting, we are able to communicate with other people, hear what they have to say, their views and everything.” Via a live video link with a school in Birmingham, British pupils chat with their cyber-friends in SA. Lending kudos and funding, Clare Short, Britain’s Minster for International Development, is a keen supporter of the scheme. “[It’s a] profoundly important thing for development if you can get a whole generation of educated children.” Interaid is wary that its efforts are well distributed to avoid exasperating the gap between the have and the have nots. Yet the school needs to capitalise on the computers and charges pupils for using them. Despite the setbacks though, it’s a positive step to bridging the divides between black and white education in South Africa.

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