In an increasingly digital world, equipping students with ICT skills is critical. With funding assistance from the Goethe Institut, the eThekwini Municipality Digital Skills in Schools Project aimed to address the ICT skills gap among the youth in the township and rural areas in South Africa. The project focused on enhancing students’ digital skills and encouraging them to explore their history and culture through digital storytelling.
In township and rural schools of the eThekwini Municipality, there was a distinct lack of opportunities for students to acquire ICT skills. Additionally, many students had limited exposure to their own history and culture. The project aimed to tackle these issues by providing digital skills training and encouraging students to delve into their cultural heritage.
The project was rolled out in four township and rural schools, two in the second semester of 2011 and two in the first semester of 2012. It consisted of a task-based section and an online e-learning component.
A mentor worked with ten students from one school at a time, introducing them to digital devices and the internet and the process of creating digital content. They were shown how to use the eThekwini Library website to upload their stories and images. Working with the responsible teacher, the mentor set weekly themes for a story collection, such as family history or the area they grew up in.
Online E-Learning Section:
Students uploaded their stories and images to the eThekwini Library website and learned to categorize them correctly. They also completed an online test at the end of the eight weeks, which included questions that required using the eThekwini Library website and tested the ICT skills they had acquired.
The eThekwini Municipality Digital Skills in Schools Project successfully concluded in 2011, with participants receiving certificates of competency. This project gave 26 young individuals from marginalized communities an opportunity many of their peers could only dream of. They acquired research, people, and ICT skills, which will be invaluable in their adult lives.
The students demonstrated outstanding results, indicating their enthusiasm and dedication to the program. Besides acquiring digital skills, they also engaged with their history and culture through digital storytelling.
Lessons Learned and Future Recommendations
This project provided valuable insights for future initiatives:
- Flexibility in scheduling and resources is crucial to adapt to the specific circumstances of each school.
- Reducing the number of activities while ensuring a full spectrum of skills can be more manageable for participants.
- Providing incentives might encourage participants to put in extra effort.
In closing, the eThekwini Municipality Digital Skills in Schools Project has showcased the potential of digital skills training in empowering youth in marginalized communities. Through this initiative, students developed ICT skills and connected with their cultural heritage, preparing them for a brighter future. Future projects can build on this foundation, refining approaches and expanding reach.