The tiny rural town of Witbank, 80km outside of the Pofadder in the Northern Cape, has been transformed by the launch of an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) lab and internet connectivity facilities that serves its local school and community members. Funded by BTE Renewables’ Aggeneys Solar Power Facility, the ICT lab has been built at multigrade school, Witbank Primary School, creating much excitement for the town.
It is envisioned that inclusive access to digital technologies and basic digital literacy for learners, teachers and local community members will create an enabling environment for more robust and engaging learning to take place at the school.
“Effecting change needs to start at school level, where we receive our foundations in learning. To make a real change in our country, we need to focus more of our attention on schools in rural areas, acknowledging that there can often be a large gap between rural community school learning in the lower quintiles and the learning that takes place at urban or private schools,” said Libby Hirshon, Sustainability Director at BTE Renewables.
‘Our children are benefiting so much from the donated computer centre. Before this assistance, we had no connection to the outside world, as all we had was a landline telephone. We are now online all the time thanks to the new internet connectivity and enjoy the reading and maths programmes that are available to the children – they enjoy it so much!’ said Ms Fortuin, Principal of Witbank Primary School.
The programme aims to increase and create inclusive access to digital technologies by taking digital technology to remote and rural areas where it is most needed, in addition to providing digital infrastructure and improvements to public sector schools.
The ICT lab furthermore promotes the school as a hub of community activity, allowing online access to all community members, whilst also developing and upskilling learners on various computer programmes, which learners can utilize in the future at tertiary institutes or in the work environment.
IT INFRASTRUCTURE AND INTERNET CONNECTIVITY BRINGS RURAL TOWN ONLINE
With just 36 learners from Grades 1 to Grade 6, Witbank Primary School is the heart of the community. This farm town is made up of a population of just over 200 residents, with high unemployment rates as it is out of reach from many opportunities in surrounding towns like Pofadder and Upington.
“Connecting the learners and the community to the internet increases access to knowledge. On a practical level, this means that the facilities may be used to apply for vacancies, bursaries and improve rural youth access to economic opportunities and to reduce unemployment,” concluded Hirshon.
BTE Renewables (formerly BioTherm Energy) has been operating in Africa since 2003 and is positioned as a leading Pan-African renewable power developer with nearly 400 MW of wind and solar projects in operation in South Africa and Kenya. The company is owned by Actis, the world’s leading emerging markets investor, following an acquisition in 2019.