Riaan Graham, Sales Director for sub-Saharan Africa at Ruckus Networks, says there are many factors that are impacting not only the education sector in Africa, but the resultant skills shortage – especially in the engineering and IT sectors.
Africa’s dearth of skilled employees and its poor ability to nurture talent through educating, training and employing its people has been highlighted in the Human Capital Report 2017 from the World Economic Forum (WEF), where sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest ranked region in the Index characterised by chronically low investment in education and learning.
The rise of e-learning
Considering this, it is evident that should we want to uplift our education methodology – not only from grass root levels, but also across all levels of training, so we need to look at things differently. We need to view technology as an enabler. In an education system for example, it enables a better teaching/learner experience as it opens up new and improved ways to learn, access information and interact.
Take e-learning for example. Educators have the opportunity to add the curriculum online and communicate with their students regardless of the location – which means feedback and interaction is boosted. Additionally, parents can also get a view of what is being taught in class instead of waiting for a parent/teacher meeting that occurs once a quarter – allowing for a more hands-on approach.
In a corporate space, technology can enable project success or career development. Having a training portal allows businesses and teams to keep abreast of new industry developments, new products and of course, technical and engineering information. What’s more, it can also include sales and marketing material to assist the partners in their business outreach. Having modules that technical teams can go through to test their knowledge and skills after completing training can also go a long way to upskilling individuals.
There is no doubt that technology has changed the way we communicate as it enables real-time interactions – and putting this platform in the hands of school children, varsity or college students and adult learners can have a positive impact on the entire process from access to books, access to information and case studies, real time feedback and monitoring of progress.
Bringing together technology and infrastructure for the 21st Century student
There are many technological solutions available to achieve this and one would have to look at the most feasible option(s) for the school or corporate environment. Looking beyond basic physical infrastructure, connectivity is imperative. Connectivity means students and teams have access to knowledge. Not so long ago, we were limited in how we could learn, where we could learn and what we could learn, but today we have an option to not be constrained to the information that has been written in a book or on blackboard.
Technology and particularly Wi-Fi is playing a huge role in the classroom and while it’s easy to get caught up in the sci-fi vision of tomorrow, school IT administrators face more mundane – and much more pressing – challenges right now. Ensuring that the infrastructure in place services the masses adequately, comes at a price. A single classroom that can service around 50 concurrent Wi-Fi users in a school would cost an average of R5000 to connect – excluding the fibre connection, the switching infrastructure and additional costs. Regardless of the Wi-Fi infrastructure that one deploys at schools, the costs of connecting the network requires either fibre, 3G or 4G, GSM technology or satellite and these technologies are still expensive.
With many local schools struggling financially, the Government has to ensure that the technology deployed serves the needs of the scholars and very importantly is robust and sustainable.
As we enter the era of technology solutions that enables learning and development, digitised learning is taking a huge leap forward toward ‘always-on’ lifelong learning. Education and training is critically important and technology is truly changing the education process for the better in Africa. In fact, with the right infrastructure, the installation of Wi-Fi technology in the academic arena can not only further collaboration and educational participation but can truly change the current market and education situation we find ourselves in today.