Eastern Cape rural schools still without internet access

Education MEC Fundile Gade says his department is still conducting the procurement process for internet access at rural schools in the province.

More than halfway through the academic year, the Eastern Cape education department is yet to provide internet to pupils at 1,000 rural schools in the province.

In April, education MEC Fundile Gade said the schools would have broadband internet connectivity by June.

But not a single one of the 1,000 schools has  been connected.

This comes amid the Covid-19 pandemic which has highlighted the digital divide among pupils in the province.

In response to a parliamentary question during a recent sitting of the Eastern Cape legislature, Gade said the department was still engaged in the procurement process.

The cost to connect 1,000 schools and provide uncapped internet connectivity (20MB min) for 36 months is estimated at R100m.

The department will have to reprioritise its budget to accommodate the initiative.

DA MPL Yusuf Cassim said it was unacceptable that the rollout was taking so long.

“In today’s times, we rely on the internet for communication, learning and development.

“The children in the Eastern Cape are being left behind and there seems to be no urgency to address the issue.

“The people of the Eastern Cape are tired of empty promises and blatant lies.

“We need a government that gets things done,”  Cassim said.

Cassim raised concerns about what he said was the true cost of the contract, pointing out that the Sizwe Africa IT contract  — to provide pupils with tablets —  was initially reported to have a value of R160m, but by the time the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) brought its court application, the value had escalated to more than R538m.

During a recent media briefing, Gade said his department was reviewing all contracts with service providers as a means of dealing with its financial challenges.

“The objective is to identify inefficiencies within those contracts for possible savings.

“The savings will be redirected to the key mandates that require funding for implementation within the 2021/2022 financial year,” he said.

By Lynn Spence – HeraldLIVE