What if we re-imagined the entire education system?
What if we were able to recruit the country's best teachers, who live and work in South Africa’s urban hubs, and deliver the highest quality learning experience, digitally, to students in poorer communities?
Given current backlogs and budgets, South Africa will not be able to build enough schools and train enough teachers at the scale that is required to meet our educational needs, especially in socio-economically challenged and rural communities.
We need to think about new models of education, and new mechanisms for linking great teachers with the students who need it most.
In the heart of Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, something remarkable is happening. In the midst of the disruption and uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions, a pioneering cohort of Grade 9 learners are quietly, but boldly, charting their own tech-enabled educational pathway towards a bright new future. Unhindered by the extended lockdown that has left their peers sitting at home, these learners have continued with their schooling unabated, working and learning from home.
These learners are the first cohort of iBhodi Trust, a public-private partnership which is building a viable blueprint for delivering cutting edge, future-fit education at scale throughout South Africa to those who need it most. Guided by expert teachers and supervised by dedicated, highly-trained support staff, these pupils study an internationally-recognised curriculum, delivered entirely online at a dynamic physical classroom set up at Beacon Hill Secondary School with 28 computers, high-speed internet and collaborative workstations.
During ‘normal’ school times, students receive their lessons online, but are physically co-located in their dedicated physical classroom space. In response to the closure of school and the national lockdown, iBhodi Trust has provided students with the necessary technology to continue working and learning from home throughout the full course of the lockdown period.
The name ‘iBhodi’ is derived from an isiXhosa word which can mean something akin to the English words for blueprint or model. This speaks to the primary purpose of the iBhodi Trust, which is to develop and execute a viable blueprint for delivering cutting edge, future-fit education at scale throughout South Africa to those who need it most.
Founded by Robert Paddock, CEO of the Valenture Institute, managed by a board of trustees and supported by a number of trustees and donors, iBhodi Trust is a legally distinct entity which partners closely with and is housed within Valenture Institute to deliver exceptionally high socio-economic impact by making world-class education accessible to a broad range of students.
Acting quickly after the President’s initial lockdown announcement, an incredible effort from the iBhodi and Valenture teams saw each learner receive a work-from-home technology solution delivered to them within 72 hours. Learners resumed their Term 1 programme the following Monday (30 March 2020) and successfully completed Term 1 on Thursday 9 April. After a one week break over Easter, learners resumed their online schooling and began with Term 2’s academic programme (Monday 20 April 2020).
Learners will continue learning online, working from home, until the lockdown regulations are adjusted to allow learners to return to working from their dedicated classroom space. Any return to in-person working will be accompanied by strict health protocols, in-line with WHO and South African Department of Health regulations and advice.
We will continue implementing stronger monitoring and management tools to help students better self-manage and remain on track and we intend to and are excited to help our learners continue to grow and develop into the young men and women they were born to be.