Acknowledging Support for Mobile Learning in South Africa



Mobile learning features more prominently in the education sphere than it did a decade ago. In fact, there has been unprecedented growth in mobile learning that is tied with increased internet and platform coverage, as well as other technological improvements throughout South Africa.

As mobile learning becomes more widespread, its importance grows as a vital vector for education in this country, and as this dynamic take shape, it is critical that it receives recognition from relevant authorities and receives the support that it deserves. 

Mobile learning is thought to be limiting and that is why it is not shared in occupational learning and higher education as a priority.

As technology evolves, m-Learning has the ability to provide learning to anyone in the country in both remote and urban areas because it uses a smartphone to provide the content and lectures, not relying on transportation or movement to an institution of learning.

This is not to say, however, that there is no interest from the authorities. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Numerous governmental and non-governmental programmes have been initiated over the last decade.

A few examples are noted: 

m-Learning got its first kick-start in 2009 with a project called MELFA which was a programme specifically aimed at teaching people suffering from dyslexia. In South Africa, the programme was used to teach dyslexia-suffering construction employees. 

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research later developed a programme called Dr Maths. In conjunction with a local university, high school learners were able to communicate with lecturers about mathematics-related problems. 

Another good example is that of bringing books to mobile phones. One such successful initiative seeks to increase literacy in South Africa by making books available in multiple languages for m-reading. This success of this initiative is significant in both South Africa and Kenya and has been active since 2010.

Of course, there are many other examples that are too numerous to mention here. Suffice it to say that they exist, and they cater to specific niches that require educational attention. Progressing from individual contributions to the theme, however, requires a broad view from the top. In this regard, it is useful to look at how South Africa implements and has implemented UNESCO's guidelines on enabling m-Learning in a national context.

UNESCO has developed guidelines to help countries develop their own approaches to m-Learning. Assessing how South Africa has responded is critical for the progress of m-Learning in this country.

Firstly, South Africa has acknowledged the importance of Open Distance Learning in supporting its education system, and has enacted a policy towards it (Aluko, 2017).

Secondly, several documents have been identified as being important in the field of Information and Communication Technology in terms of m-Learning. The policies were drawn up within a framework of the government's broader economic, social, and development strategy (Isaacs, 2007, in Aluko, 2017). The most important policy here is the Policy for the Provision of Distance Education in South African Universities in the Context of an Integrated Post-school System which has been enacted and has gone through the proper legislative process (Aluko, 2017).

It is important, however, to keep in mind UNESCO's guidelines with regards its policy for m-Learning. Braun and Clarke (2006, in Aluko 2017) identify ten themes that are encompassed by these guidelines:      

  1.  Policy updates/creation
  2.  Training teachers
  3.  Teacher support
  4.  Developing educational content
  5.  Gender equality
  6.  Improving connectivity
  7.  Equal access
  8.  Safe and responsible use
  9.  Improved communication and education management
  10.  Awareness through advocacy, leadership and dialogue 

What is clear is that these themes are compatible and even espoused by our national constitution. As such, they form a backbone for the consideration towards education that has been envisioned as being the cornerstone of South Africa as a socially progressive nation.

It is our collective responsibility as business and industry to explore opportunities for learning delivery which are progressive and most importantly accessible.  

Get in touch with Omni HR Consulting, should you wish to discuss opportunities to help your organisation move to digital learning platforms. 

We are able to support learning delivery, through our online learning platform, Omni Stack, which is adaptable and accessible to most devices (including mobile) and operating systems.