Case study: Assessment of after school programming at low and no-fee schools in the Western Cape

By Case Study, Education

From January to March 2019, we worked with Western Cape Government’s Department of the Premier and After School Gamechanger to conduct a research assessment of after school programmes at schools. The education/youth development project was funded by The Western Cape Government.

classroom after school

Project Outline

The After School Game Changer programme was one of seven interventions or “game changers” identified by the Western Cape Government that were seen as most likely to improve opportunities and address some of the greatest challenges facing the citizens of the Western Cape. The Game Changer programmes were: skills development; energy security; high-speed broadband;  eLearning; after-school activities; better living models; and alcohol harm reduction.

They were implemented by the Department of the Premier between 2015 and 2019 and have since been absorbed into their respective line departments.

The After School Game Changer was implemented in some of the 1059 no- and low-fee schools in the Western Cape province. This programme has since been incorporated into the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport as the After School Programme Office (ASPO).

The After School Game Changer worked to increase the participation of learners from no- and low-schools in after school activities, ensuring regular attendance by significantly improving the attractiveness and quality of such programmes for learners. By 2019 the target was to get 112,000 learners participating regularly in quality programmes – 20% of learners in no- and low-fee schools. This was a joint Game Changer in partnership with local government, provincial government departments, and a number of NGOs. The Mass participation; Opportunity and access; Development and growth (MOD) Programme was the flagship after school programme run by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS).

Between 2015 and 2018, baseline assessments were undertaken of all 181 MOD Centres and 93 After School Partial Care sites. These assessments were aimed at determining the scope of after school programmes offered at each school, run by the school and its staff, as well as by external organisations. In 2019, the After School Game Changer commissioned another assessment with the aim of measuring the progress in a sample of Western Cape schools with regard to After School Programmes (ASPs) against the baseline assessments conducted in 2018.

The main assessment question was “What is the status of facilities/centres that provide school after-care services as part of the After School Game Changer programme compared to the situation at the time of the baseline assessment?” Two further key considerations were considered: “To what extent are the schools developing and sustaining a culture of after school programming?” and “What does an after school programme at a no- or low-fee school ideally look like?”

Development Works Changemakers (DWC) was contracted to conduct this assessment in January 2019.

Project Deliverables

Project deliverables were:

  • Assessment visits to 112 low or no-fee schools in eight districts around the Western Cape.
  • The production of 112 school reports covering a large range of issues relating to each school’s after school offering.
  • A comprehensive summary report outlining the methods used and the key trends from the data coming out of all 112 assessments.
  • A PowerPoint presentation on the results

client testimonial

Our Approach

DWC assembled a team of experienced researchers who were specifically trained over a two-day period by the lead DWC researcher in all aspects of the fieldwork and data gathering protocols, tools and processes. This team of 12 individuals traversed the province, conducting site visits at each of the 112 schools.

All schools were informed of the research by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) ahead of the visit. But actual visits were unannounced so that the researcher could see the most natural scenario at a school, rather than a pre-arranged display of after school activities. Researchers spent up to five hours at each school, interviewing key individuals, and observing ASPs.

Detailed interviews were conducted with at least three key individuals at schools with insight into the ASP. These interviews were done through a set of carefully designed questionnaires which were developed using Survey Monkey and loaded onto a tablet device. Surveys were tailored for different interviewees such as Principals, ASP coordinators, teachers and NGO partners. Researchers conducted each interview with their tablet device and uploaded the completed surveys to the cloud as soon as it was over, using data loaded on each device. Quality checking could thus happen very quickly, with the lead researcher monitoring the uploaded surveys as they came in and providing feedback to the researcher.

In addition to the interviews, where possible, at least two after school activities were observed during visits. A detailed observation form was also loaded on the tablet device used by the researchers. These forms were completed during observations and also uploaded to the cloud for checking and analysis.

The project was conducted under considerable time pressure. School visits were conducted concurrently by the 12 researchers, and as this data came in, another team of four researchers analysed the data and wrote each school report up, following a detailed standard report structure. These reports were then edited and streamlined by the lead researcher and another member of the research team.

The lead researcher then analysed the overall data from the 112 Principal/coordinator surveys, as well as data relating to each school’s ASP contained in the school reports. This analysis informed the overall summary report.


This assessment was of high value to the After School Game Changer and its partners. It provided a comprehensive picture of what ASPs are happening at low and no-fee schools in the Western Cape and showed what an after school programme at a low or no-fee school can look like. The assessment provided 112 high quality and comprehensive reports on schools across the province, which show the range of activities and how schools have overcome difficulties to run ASPs.

The reports also allowed a broader analysis of what is happening in each district, based on the sample included in the study. It showed trends, such as districts with higher numbers of good ASPs, where schools focussed in their ASP offerings, as well as common challenges and gaps. The assessment showed that no-fee schools can offer ASPs, but it also showed the conditions under which these can thrive, and what is needed for success in this endeavour.

The assessment also is a resource for the ASPO as it seeks to involve schools and the WCED in a conversation about what can be done to improve after school programming at schools, and what support the WCED can provide in this regard.

Read more

We have been documenting our recent case studies on our blog. Browse our case studies to learn more about our involvement in the research, evaluation and development space.

reopening of schools

Prof. Shabir Madhi – COVID-19 and the Re-Opening of Schools

By Current Affairs, Education

In early May, Ronald Abvajee spoke with Professor Shabir Madhi, who is an esteemed sector expert in vaccinology. He holds a number of reputable positions including Professor of vaccinology at Wits, Director of the Medical Research Council Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit, South African Research Chair in Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, and Co-Director of the African Leadership Initiative for Vaccinology Expertise.

In the discussion, Professor Madhi spoke about the latest developments to date around COVID-19 in South Africa, and how it affects children and the re-opening of schools.

Pandemic in South Africa

Madhi noted that South Africa is still at a relatively early stage of the pandemic. While the increasing numbers already appear frightening, the peak is expected in July or August, with still a long road ahead thereafter. Further, the numbers currently reported are not accurate, and he surmises that we are probably only picking up 10-15% of infected cases.

This is due to not testing at scale and the result’s turnaround time (5-10 days) being too slow for quick action. Including isolating the testee, tracing their contacts, and isolating them. By the time someone knows their status, they are likely no longer infectious and it is too late to trace and isolate their contacts.

He also noted that there is no preventing people from eventually getting the virus. No respiratory virus has ever been eliminated with a vaccine. As such, he expected (assuming no vaccine) that within 2-3 years there will be multiple waves and at least two thirds (i.e. 60%) of the population are going to need to be infected for immunity to be developed. Making the virus less efficient in transmitting from one person to another. With this extended time in mind, he asserts that whatever decisions are made now will need to be followed for the next 2-3 years.

International evidence

Madhi advised that international evidence is showing that not everyone who has the virus actually becomes ill – reportedly 50-80% of those infected have not shown symptoms. Therefore most people who have the virus will be completely well. The majority of those who do become symptomatic will only have mild symptoms, appearing like the seasonal flu.

In the minority, approximately 26 people out of 1000 will require hospitalisation, and in 2-3 years, an estimated 5 people out of 1000 will die from the virus. These estimates however are sensitive to age (e.g. above age 65 years) and comorbidities (e.g. hypertension and diabetes).

Non-therapeutic interventions such as wearing masks and social distancing are about protecting these high risk groups from hospitalisations and death, and protecting the healthcare system from overburden and collapse.


figure 1

Figure 1. SARS-COV-2: What to expect in adult population over approx. 2 years


On the positive side, the Professor highlighted that out of the 3-4 million cases globally, only approximately 2500 children make up these cases. This is a very low proportion especially considering children make up 20% of the global population.

Yet, there are few children severely affected by the virus; there is no clear reason why. It is estimated that few if any children will die from COVID unless they have severe comorbidity. Madhi asserts that there is no escaping children getting infected, but they are not expected to contribute to hospitalisations and mortalities.


figure 2

Figure 2. SARS-COV-2: Estimates for children under 18 years of age


Schools Reopening

Schools were initially closed in early March given learnings from other respiratory viruses such as seasonal flu, for which children are effective transmitters. However, this was before international evidence emerged indicating that children are not vectors in the transmission of the virus and they play a minor role in infecting adults.

As indicated in Figures 3 and 4, evidence from the Netherlands indicates that infected children infect almost no one. In sum, not only are children not severely affected by the virus, but they are also not effective transmitters.


figure 3

Figure 3. Percentage of contacts that became infected, by age group of the patient


figure 4

Figure 4. Distribution of COVID-19 by age-group: Relationship of infector (transmitter) and infected (secondary case)

When schools are opened, there are some precautions that should be taken, but the pragmatics must be considered:

  • Children using public transport should wear a mask, and the driver should ensure that there is no talking in the vehicle (to prevent droplet spread).
  • Children should wear a mask if practical (less practical for children under the age of 5).
  • Hand sanitation products need to be available; not just waterless sanitiser, but water and soap to wash hands
  • The gathering of children needs to be minimised. There should be no assemblies.
  • Children’s movement should be minimised. They should be limited to a classroom to reduce traffic in between classes. Teachers should be moving from class to class.
  • Given that teachers are more likely to be infected and infectors of others (especially other teachers more so than children), they should be taking strict precautions in terms of wearing masks, hand hygiene (frequent hand washing and using sanitiser when changing classes), and maintaining physical distance (at least 1.5m) from learners and staff (avoid gathering in the staffroom). Further, if teachers have any symptoms, they must not attend school.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, Professor Madhi emphasised that children will indeed be infected; there is no escaping it. But they will not be infected severely and they are not effective transmitters. He asserts that the greatest risk to children in this time is thus not infection with COVID-19, but rather the harms associated with a lockdown. Including their families being pushed below the poverty line, poor food security, and fewer vaccinations.

He thus argues that keeping schools closed is not for the benefit of children. He expressed concern for children missing out on learning opportunities, especially young children whose cognitive development is at its prime, making it difficult for time out of school to be made up at a later stage. There are certainly trade-offs between keeping schools closed which serves more to protect the adult population, versus re-opening schools which safeguard the livelihoods of children.

To hear the full discussion with Professor Madhi, please visit MyHealth TV.

By Jenna Joffe

For more on COVID-19 and education, you can read Who Should Go Back To School First.

boy reading a book in sunset

Nic Spaull Policy Brief – Who Should Go Back to School First?

By Current Affairs, Education

Nic Spaull is a Senior Researcher in the Economics Department at Stellenbosch University and a well-respected expert in the education sector in South Africa. He recently released a policy brief summarising the emerging international evidence as it pertains to the question of children going back to school.

His policy brief presents evidence on key considerations in answering this question, including the COVID-19 risks of illness and death in children, children as transmitters of the virus, and the social and economic costs of keeping children at home.

The emerging international evidence is presented from research conducted in China, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, America, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and Iceland (who have tested the largest percentage of their population).

Children and COVID-19 risks

There appears to be a consensus among the emerging international research that children under the age of 10 years old are;

  1. Less likely than adults to catch COVID-19, either from other children or from adults;
  2. Less likely to transmit the virus, even when they are infected
  3. Are extremely rare found to get seriously ill or die from COVID-19

These trends were consistent across countries including those in North America, Europe, and Asia. While South Africa is still relatively early in the pandemic, the age-profile of infections and deaths has been consistent with international findings.

As of 2 May, no deaths were reported for persons under the age of 20. And of the positive cases, only 0.4% are aged 11-20 and 0.3% aged 0-10 years.

In sum, young children are low risk when it comes to being infected by the virus and in transmitting the virus.

reading a school book

Impacts of keeping children out of school

Children under the age of 10 are the highest child-care burden in their households. With these young children out of school and at home in need of supervision and care, caregivers are prevented from returning to work and earning an income.

Younger children also have limited capability to follow self-directed learning at home – they may not be able to read by themselves and they often require more active stimulation to learn. Spaull surmises that it is unlikely that any curricular learning is happening at home for the poorest learners in the country. Given what is known about the loss of learning during school holidays, limited access to computers, internet, and learning materials, and a lack of preparation for distance-learning.

See our blog about the digital divide in education.

Current efforts

While the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has been providing COVID-19 Learner Support” via TV and radio, it only targets ECD and Grades 10-12. In addition, it is only available for 1.5 hours per day. This ignores learners in Grades R-9, and households with multiple children in different age groups needing to share access to TV or radio.

Further, it does not appear that keeping children out of school necessarily contributes to flattening the curve. Spaull references a widely cited rapid systematic review on the effectiveness of school closures in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Where the authors conclude that data from China, Hong Kong, and Singapore suggest that school closures did not contribute to controlling the virus. He also cites another study from China that concluded that “social distancing alone, as implemented in China during the outbreak, is sufficient to control COVID-19.”

See our blog on what we can learn from other countries.

Children’s wellbeing is expected to improve if they could return to school, given the receipt of meals, peer interaction and caregivers being freed from childcare to work or relax, improving their mental health and caregiving abilities. In sum, keeping children out of school does not necessarily curb the spread of the virus, and instead, there are more apparent negative implications for their wellbeing, their caregivers’ wellbeing, and for the economy.

chalk board in a classroom

Spaull’s suggested evidence-based approach

Spaull states that “given the practical impossibility of continuing with meaningful learning from home – at least for the poorest 80% of learners, the emphasis for DBE should be making schools safe for learners and teachers to return.”

DBE has decided that schools will return as of 1 June 2020, and re-opening schools is in line with other countries that have had more severe outbreaks. However, DBE plans to start with Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners returning.

Spaull argues that emerging evidence should be followed – based on the evidence of children under the age 10 years being least susceptible to COVID-19 infection, illness, mortality, and transmission, they should be the first to go back. He suggests that in addition to Grade 12 learners, Grades R, 1, 2, and 3 learners should return (rather than Grade 7) and ECD sites should be reopened.

A phased-in approach is suggested with special precautions for teachers and close monitoring of infection rates of teachers and families of returning children. Spaull does, however, acknowledge the administrative complexities involved, including how to manage the risks for adults in the education system, possibly temporarily replacing high-risk staff (over the age of 60 and with pre-existing conditions).

Despite these challenges, the suggested approach would curtail risks to teachers and parents more so than if high school learners returned to school first, would allow many caregivers to return to work and earn an income, and in turn contribute to the functioning of the economy.

The following images have been taken from Spaull’s policy brief.


graph of covid infections by age

graph of deaths from covid by age

By Jenna Joffe

aerial view of city lights

Part 3: How Access To Technology And Other Strategies Can Keep Education Afloat In The Time Of COVID-19

By Current Affairs, Education

In Part 2 of this series, the importance of access to infrastructure, devices and the cost of connectivity were highlighted as some of the elements required to use technology for ongoing learning during the COVID-19 lockdown.

While these are important elements in the use of technology for learning, much more is required for effective learning.

This article will look at other aspects that are required to enable school learners and students to derive the best possible benefit from technology. A snapshot is provided of some of the approaches followed by schools, teachers, parents and learners during the lockdown period.

Change needs to be accelerated exponentially

broadband quoteA key, if not the key characteristic of the COVID-19 epidemic is the aggressive and engulfing pace at which it is swamping the world. With school and university lockdowns in 166 countries catapulting learners and students into the unknown within the space of weeks, regular plans for upscaling technological access now seems powerlessly pale.

COVID-19 requires rocket-like rapid responses which makes the ambitious agenda of the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, prepared under the leadership of the African Union Commission (AUC), appear pedestrian.

This strategy provided what was regarded as a “bold vision” before COVID-19 struck: “to ensure that every African individual, business, and government is digitally enabled by 2030. The goal is to drive the digital transformation of Africa and ensure its full participation in the global digital economy.” (Broadband Commission Working Group on Broadband for All, 2019).

If only, this was in place in 2020 already.

It is probable that this envisaged growth trajectory has now been surpassed by the need to cope and recover from COVID-19.

Collaborative multi-dimensional effort required

While education is not mentioned explicitly in the section above, it is incorporated because education is part of government. Digital enablement of all sectors, including government, and education as part of government, requires a multi-faceted, collaborative effort, including;

  • Investment,
  • Policy and regulatory frameworks,
  • Digital skills and local content development,
  • Device availability,
  • Supporting infrastructure and electricity, and
  • Universal, affordable and good quality connectivity.

Bearing in mind the extent to which COVID-19 has disrupted education in the world, and specifically in the developing world, the UN (2020: 19) has called upon the international community “to support governments not only in providing distance learning solutions that use multimedia approaches to ensure learning continuity, but also in supporting teachers, parents and caregivers in adapting to homeschooling modalities.”

The UN further mentions the importance of inclusion and equity as  guiding principles “to avoid a further deepening of inequalities in access to education, with special measures taken to jointly meet the health, nutrition and learning needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized children and youth, as well as policies to address connectivity and content challenges.” (UN, 2020:19).

While this poses a large challenge to find innovative and equitable solutions fast, it also provides an opportunity to leapfrog development in this important area.

school children in kenya

Education inequality in South Africa

The unequal digitisation of the world has been highlighted in Part 2 of this series. It has been pointed out that South Africa is in a better position than the African continent as a whole, in the area of digitisation.

However, the Digital Infrastructure Moonshot for Africa report (2019) mentions that in addition to the extensive variance of the coverage and quality of mobile networks used for the internet between countries, it should be noted that significant gaps exist within countries, specifically between urban and rural areas. The rural/urban divide as an impediment for online and distance learning has been researched by various scholars[1].

For example, in the context of tertiary distance learning, Lembani et al. (2020) found that “students in urban areas have a significantly different educational experience to students with poor ICT access in urban, peri-urban and rural areas”.

In addition, it should be taken into account that South Africa remains a highly unequal society, and that South Africa’s relatively low rating on the Human Development Index (HDI)[2] is also informed by continued inequality in education.

Against this background, and taking into account the multiple aspects that need to be in place to benefit from technology, DWC has done a rapid environmental scan of resources put in place during the lockdown, and has spoken to a random range of stakeholders regarding the arrangements that were made by the educational institutions their children attend.

Education limping ahead under COVID-19 lockdown

While the bulk of the South African government’s efforts are understandably focused on the medical response, enforcing the lockdown and providing some relief for the inevitable hardship that is following the lockdown, some resources have been put in place by education departments.

From a collection of information discussions with a random range of ordinary people, it seems that early responses in the education environment vary considerably. It is interesting that these responses seem to be informed by a number of interrelated factors.

These factors include the assessment of the risk posed by COVID-19, institutional capacity, technological literacy of key role players, the extent to which learners or students have access to technological resources, and the resourcefulness of individual educators.

  • A tertiary institution who offers qualifications through post-graduate contact sessions, have acted swiftly and have already adapted content and schedules to respond to a scenario where face-to-face classes may only resume during the 4th quarter of the year. In preparation for this, students were polled regarding their internet access, the type of devices they work on, and where they have access to technology and connectivity.
  • An urban Model C School has also polled their learners and parents on technology and internet access, and are sending daily lessons to learners, on their own choice of device.
  • Some primary schools are providing links to educational material without much further guidance. Other primary schools are not providing any learning materials and have also kept learners’ books at the school, due to fears that books will be lost or vandalised if sent home with children during the lockdown period.
  • A school for high-functioning learners with special needs sends daily learning materials to learners.
  • Some teachers are providing Zoom lessons to their learners.
  • Some teachers are providing summaries of work to learners and hope to catch up with the curriculum when schooling resumes.
  • Other teachers say their learners come from poor communities and do not have access to technology, which renders them unable to communicate with learners, and provide assistance during the lockdown.

Various other resources are being used in addition to the links provided by the education department. These include online resources which are either free or require subscription; parent groups; Facebook groups, and WhatsApp. In addition, radio stations and television channels are offering content.

smiling african childrenFocusing and streamlining responses

Our rapid snapshot has indicated that most are doing the best they can under challenging circumstances, which caught everyone total off guard. While these responses will help to different degrees to keep learning going, it is interesting that most of them seem to be based on the assumption that learning will continue like normal after the end of the lockdown period in mid-April.

The problem with this assumption is that no-one knows if it will hold. The situation is simply too fluid and unpredictable to assume that classroom activities will resume as normal within the next two weeks.

It is therefore imperative that the education response to COVID-19 be focused and streamlined as soon as possible. Technology will save the day for those with access and resources, but disadvantaged communities may be affected disproportionately. It is for these learners that the digital divide may become a digital chasm in 2020.

The important role of education ministers

The Centre for Global Development recently published an open letter to “an education minister” (Mundy[3], 2020), where it is stated that education ministers worldwide will now have to make sense of the “COVID-19 mess” following worldwide school closures. Emphasising that limited information is available about the likely path of the pandemic, it is acknowledged that “ministers, educators, communities, families, and learners will all have to make decisions in a context of ‘radical uncertainty’ “.

Against this background Mundy offers six suggestions that should form the backbone of a plan for education (see Text box below).

text box

(Mundy, 2020)

Ultimately things will change for the better

The positive side of a crisis like this is that it may create increased interest technology and motivation to explore new possibilities. “Forced usage during this time will help people overcome barriers to adoption of digital services… Higher adoption rates during this time will lead to a larger base of users, many of whom will continue to use the innovations beyond the current situation.” (Ipsos[4], 2020: 5).

Hopefully the COVID-19 crisis will leapfrog education in South Africa to innovative use of technology, and faster digitisation of the sector.

By Fia van Rensburg

[1] Lembani, R., Gunter, A., Breines, M., and Dalu, M. 2020. The same course, different access: the digital divide between urban and rural distance education students in South Africa, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 44:1, 70-84, DOI: 10.1080/03098265.2019.1694876.

[2] The HDI considers the following dimensions: inequality in the expectancy at birth; inequality in education; and inequality in income.

[3] Mundy, K. 2020. Managing Education Systems During COVID-19: An Open Letter to A Minister of Education

[4] Ipsos. Innovating in challenging times. 2020.

[14] Based on research under the Building State Capability program at Harvard University

african child learning

Part 2: COVID-19, Disruption Of Education And The Digital Divide

By Current Affairs, Education

As discussed in Part 1 of this three-part series, COVID-19 is a universal crisis, which affects each person in each country of the world. This does not mean that it affects all in the same way. Part 1 provided a general overview of how the COVID-19 crisis has exposed vulnerability fault lines. Part 2 will look at how COVID-19 has disrupted education and the digital divide.

quote from UN secretary generalThe COVID-19 lockdown has given school learners and university students across the world unexpected additional time off this year. But with extended lock-down periods, the class of 2020 may battle to attain high levels of academic success unless they have access to reliable and affordable connectivity and appropriate technical devices.

For learners and students who cannot continue with their learning online during the COVID-19 crisis, the digital divide may well become a digital chasm, at least for this year.  For some, the shutdown of institutions of learning also has other implications such as loss of access to nutrition.

In relation to the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres emphasised that this crisis provides an opportunity to “deal decisively with those issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to crises.”

Apart from the eradication of poverty and enhancement of food security, technological access and participation in the digital knowledge economy should be one of the top items on that list.

girl in a classroom chalkboard

The extent of disruption of learning

According to the UN’s March 2020 report[1] titled “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19”, the magnitude of the impact on the education sector is that:

  • 166 countries have implemented country-wide school and university closures
  • 52 billion children and youth are currently out of school or university (this is 87% of the world enrolled school and university student population)
  • Close to 60.2 million teachers are no longer in the classroom

The map shows the extent of school closures in the developing world, and particularly Africa.

map of areas affected by school closures


In the USA, it was recently announced[2] that schools in California, which is home to 12% American children of school-going age, will remain closed up to the end of the school year. Classes will continue through distance learning.

Impact on nutrition

The problem is not only that school and university closures are taking place, but also the extensive detrimental impact of these closures on learners and students. In addition to the obvious loss of opportunity for social interaction and associated social and behavioural development, an important impact is that some children lose access to food and nutrition, especially in developing countries.

“The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that more than 320 million primary school children in 120 countries are now missing out on school meals.” (UN, 2020: 9). This places an additional burden on household finances and food resources, and also has implications for unpaid work, especially for women.

Demands on parents

With children at home, there are also more demands on parents to support the learning of children during this time. Some parents may have free time because they cannot continue to work; others will be working from home. Having to support their children’s learning will have to be balanced with getting to grips with working from home.

While parents can provide some level of support, especially in the lower grades, not all parents may be able to assist their school-going children with all subjects, for various reasons including literacy levels of parents, and lack of access to relevant educational materials.

(See the section below on how South African schools are responding).

Technology to the rescue

Technology is definitely the hero of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to helping people to stay connected during lock down, enabling some degree of business continuity, and exchanging key information on the medical and logistical aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, technology is also an education life-saver.

That is if you have access to technology.

As pointed out by the UN Report on the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, “inequality of access to broadband connectivity and inaccessibility of ICTs hinders effective remote participation and access to remote schooling arrangements….” (UN, 2020:9).

The report also points out that worldwide, approximately 3.6 billion people do not have access to the internet, of which the majority are living in the least developed countries.

boy using technology

What the digital divide looks like

Zooming in on the digital divide, it is important to note that “the cleavages that may open are not necessarily between developed and developing countries or between people at the top and people at the bottom of the income distribution…more and more depends— to a great extent—on the ability to connect to digital networks.” (UNDP[3], 2019: 200).

The report points out the nuances of the digital divide:

  • Groups with lower human development have systematically less access to a wide range of technologies;
  • Gaps in basic entry-level technologies still exist, but these gaps are closing;
  • Gaps in advanced technologies are widening.

Despite these nuances, the report shows that higher levels of human development and greater access to technology goes together, and that despite the fast pace and enormous impact of the digital revolution, it is “far from universal”.

For example:

  • “…in 2017 almost 2 billion people still did not use a mobile phone…”
  • “…of the 5 billion mobile subscribers in the world, nearly 2 billion—most of them in low- and middle- income countries—do not have access to the internet…”
  • “…in 2017 the number of fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants was only 13.3 globally and 9.7 in developing countries…”
  • “…the number of mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants was 103.6 in developed countries compared with only 53.6 in developing countries…”

(UNDP, 2019: 201)

classroom of students

The implications of the digital divide for becoming part of the learning society

Unequal access to entry-level technologies, such as mobile phones including basic service has been shrinking in the past ten years (see table below).

Mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants 2007 2017
Developed countries 102 127
Developing countries 39 99

(Source: Development Works Changemakers. Derived from UNDP Human Development Report, 2019)

According to the Digital Infrastructure Moonshot for Africa Report (2019: 60 – 61), broadband access in South Africa in 2018, was significantly better than for Africa as a whole:

  • Broadband[4] penetration was 53%, and the regional[5] average was and estimated 31%; and
  • 4G mobile broadband[6] penetration was 32% in 2018, and the regional average was 9%.

Access to technologies described as “more empowering” (technologies that allow users to access more content and to produce content) have not improved to the same extent. Countries at lower human development levels have made the least progress, and this trend is consistent with widening gaps in installed broadband capacity.

According to the UNDP report (2010: 202), “…the distinction between the number of telecommunication subscriptions and the availability of bandwidth mattered little when there was only fixed-line telephony, since all the connections had essentially the same bandwidth. But as artificial intelligence and related technologies continue to evolve, bandwidth will be increasingly important (as will be cloud computing, which depends on the ability to connect computers with each other). “

Additional factors

Another factor that contributes to the digital divide is that new technology is often expensive, which makes it less accessible to persons with lower income, especially at the beginning of the diffusion process.

Also, inequalities are larger for advanced technologies, which include computer, internet or broadband. This means that while improved access to mobile technology has “empowered traditionally marginalized and excluded people… digital gaps can also become barriers not only in accessing services or enabling economic transactions but also in being part of a “learning society.” (UNDP, 2019: 203).

A third aspect of access to digital communication and learning is the cost of data. Econometric studies conducted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)[7] suggests that a 10% drop in mobile broadband prices could boost adoption of mobile broadband technology by more than 3.1%.

inequality in the classroom and society

Opportunities for learning during lockdown

Whether or not learners and students will continue learning during lockdown will depend on a wide range of factors, and it is clear that for some it will be much easier to continue with their education than for others. In our society, which remains unequal, the impacts of school and university closures will have the greatest impact on poor and disadvantaged learners and students.

Despite various impediments to learning during lockdown, especially in disadvantaged communities, progress made regarding digital coverage in the developing world is encouraging and the COVID-19 crisis highlights that this is an area that needs further rapid transformation.

In South Africa, the February 2020 Competition Commission report which urged mobile operators to reduce data prices came none too soon, and will hopefully help young people to continue learning, at least to some extent during COVID-2019 lockdown. In addition, it is noted and commended that the South African government, including education departments, have made provision for access to resources that do not require data.

For more on what is needed for optimal access to the digital economy and digital learning, see Part 3 of this series, which also looks at the interim arrangements put in place for school learners to access educational materials during lockdown.

By Fia van Rensburg

[1] UN website

[2] Kohli, S. and Blume, H. 2020. Public schools expected to remain closed for the rest of the academic year, Newsom says. Los Angeles Times.

[3] Human Development Report. 2019.

[4] Defined as average download speeds of 256 Kbps or greater while the target download speeds by 2021 is 3 Mbps.

[5] Regional refers to Africa

[6] Defined as average download speeds of 10 Mbps or greater

[7] Broadband Commission Working Group on Broadband for All. 2019. Digital Infrastructure Moonshot for Africa.

TOC workshop for ECD

Integrating appreciative inquiry in a ToC workshop for an ECD programme

By Education, Workshop1,620 Comments

Early Childhood Development (ECD) at its best is about practitioners who put the child first and are more caring.  Development Works Changemakers endeavors to incorporate creative and innovative elements in all our work. Some years ago we included Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in a Theory of Change (ToC) workshop with a client who implements ECD programmes.

The TOC workshop

Firstly, the TOC workshop started with background on what ToC, Theory of Action (ToA) and Logic Models are, followed by examples of what a ToC can look like. Participants were then confident enough to build their programme’s ToC, guided by a set of questions. Participants worked hard, and through lively discussion and inputs, they plotted their high-level ToC. Below is an outline of the workshop process:

TOC workshop progress infographic

Once this brain-twisting exercise was done, participants went on to some “easier” work. The group had to consider what ECD looks like at its best. A thorough AI process can take an entire day or more but can be adapted. With only one day for the entire workshop, the team adapted the AI methodology to fit into an hour.  Four simple questions and five steps were used, as shown below:

ECD infographic

However, with only four participants, expectations were not very high of what could be achieved from the exercise with such a small group.  There was a risk of not getting any common themes at all. As a result, the process required that common themes had to be identified from participants’ stories and that these themes had to be prioritised according to their potential to design the best possible ECD programme.

The results

Despite these concerns, the group was not disappointed. It was proved once again that AI “lights up” our thinking and identifies important aspects that may be otherwise overlooked. As a result, The themes that emerged (ranked in terms of importance) were:

  • Putting children first – making environment ready for them; focusing on their needs and designing the school environment according to children’s needs, including those with diverse abilities.   
  • ECD practitioners who are more caring and go the extra mile for the learners.
  • Better relationships with parents and recognising them as key in their children’s development.
  • All stakeholders are motivated and engaged. 

Some of these themes were already incorporated to some extent, but the AI exercise made its importance clear, ensuring that these aspects will be included more prominently in the programme. Most importantly, however, is that the themes identified in the AI exercise points to critical values underpinning ECD at its best.  Infusing these values explicitly in the programme will enhance the impact of the programme.


In conclusion, the workshop evoked the following feedback:-

  • I have improved knowledge on how to develop a M&E ToC. I liked the practical aspects to the workshop.
  • Good workshop. Lots of headway made. Better understanding of the M&E tools for me. The process of getting to the final outcome was good. 
  • Now I understand the theory of change in ECD. 
  • To sum up, I loved the way she facilitated the workshop, simple, open-ended and quite fun.  

Article written by Fia van Rensburg  for Development Works Changemakers

Students at LSFT

Powerful lessons from a South Bronx educator

By Education1,540 Comments

Dr. Ramón Gonzalez, principal of the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (LSFT) located in the South Bronx borough, NYC, added a transnational perspective to the After School Dialogue event at the #enrichED Symposium which kicked off on 5 June 2019.

Overcoming obstacles

In 2003, LSFT learners were performing in the 2% percentile while 98% of the district’s students were excelling and testing well beyond them. Many of the struggling students experienced homelessness and qualified for free or reduced lunch due to their status of ‘living below poverty’.

With 24 years education experience and a background in gang theory, Gonzalez situates himself on the active side of the critical debate that sees after-school programmes and initiatives not only as a strategic means of academic and structural integration but more importantly as an extension of the school day itself.

South Bronx, New York CityexpandED day for an expanded future

Referred to as ‘expandED day’, rather than after-school, Gonzalez offers his Grade 6 to 12 learners over 40 activities and clubs made possible through his rigorous and passionate pursuit of partnerships – a total of 23 and counting, comprised of both international and national organisations. Two of the most innovative approaches he detailed include positioning external, gap-year students as teacher-assistants at both the middle and high school level, and a mentorship programme that begins with Grade 12 learners. Gonzalez says the main battle is not to get leaners accepted into college but to keep them enrolled so the mentorship programme guides learners through their first year of college.

The success of his diligent and comprehensive approach is reflected in steady growth data that now situates LSFT learners at the 80% academic performance percentile in a matter of just 15 years.

The Bronx, New York CityRooted in intention and loyalty

Eager to provide his predominantly black and Hispanic students with the same opportunities as their privileged counterparts, Gonzalez utilises an approach rooted in intention and loyalty, producing longevity that is fueled by ‘why?’ He steadily reiterated the idea that when there is a ‘why,’ the ‘how’ will emerge.

Placing his learners at the centre of his academic endeavours, Gonzalez has created a transparent ecosystem that nurtures a community built on value exchange. Despite the environmental pressures, oversaturated with gang activity and high crime rates, LSFD is redefining the trajectory of the youth, cultivating their power and mobilising what it means to be a South Bronx native and student.

By Malanna Wheat

When partnerships foster a culture of learning

By Education1,122 Comments

Nombulelo Sume has been the principal of Charles Nduna Primary School for 21 years. The school has successfully fostered a culture of learning and excellence by promoting partnerships, among other strategies. Nombulelo shared her experience of growing the after-school programme at the Fringe event of the #enrichED Symposium on 5 June 2019 at Philippi Village Solution Space.

Enriched symposium

New Brighton – Port Elizabeth’s ‘shadow’

Charles Nduna Primary School is situated in New Brighton, a township established in 1903 as the first official black residential area in Port Elizabeth. Defined by colonial policies and regulations New Brighton was set up well outside the city centre ‘to rehouse Africans relocated from Port Elizabeth’s inner city locations following the outbreak of bubonic plague’.

Apartheid spatial planning further consolidated this segregation. Politically, New Brighton has a strong struggle history as the home of many political activists and the first cell of the African National Congress’ armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) being set up there.

Cultural life and the ‘exuberance of New Brighton residents’ has been visualised in the paintings of George Pemba and the early plays of Atholl Fugard which portrayed elements of township life. The fabric of this township is bursting with history. Find out more about this township’s official discourse, cultural memory and public history in this publication.

Known as Port Elizabeth’s ‘shadow’ and the ‘Detroit of South Africa’, New Brighton comprises a number of townships including KwaFord, Boast Village, Chris Hani informal settlement, Elundini and Masangwanaville, among others. With a population estimate of 47 915 in 2011 (Census) living within 4.85 km², this community is plagued by high levels of violence and crime, coupled with poverty, poor service delivery, underdevelopment and unemployment.

Red museum new brighton

Nombulelo Sume’s testimony

Nombulelo shared that eighty percent of the learner’s parents are unemployed. Regardless of these challenges, she has with the help of 28 teachers, three non-teaching staff and 27 parent volunteers, transformed this school of 1061 learners.

The support from parent volunteers has been a key contributor to the school’s success. As a community school, the learner is at the centre together with the teacher and the curriculum and cohesion is necessary to achieve the school’s goal of providing quality education.

Nombulelo emphasised the need for partnerships, support, resources, organisational management and capacity building. She highlighted how working with a number of stakeholders and funders had been invaluable with the key being the value of partnerships. She gave examples including how Coca Cola had come on board with water provision, German volunteers continue to assist with sport and life orientation while international colleges run programmes and offer support, among others.

Nombulelo also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Calabash Tours, a local tour company. Cleverly, she charges each tourist visiting Charles Nduna Primary School R35 as an income-generating mechanism. She is proud of her learners who have excelled in sports, winning many trophies and competing provincially and nationally.

Calabash Tours

Image credit: Calabash Tour

Forming partnerships for community hope and change

Nombulelo spoke of about the importance of giving hope to the community. Working with partners to provide better opportunities for employment will slowly and consistently develop families in the New Brighton community. She believes in ‘stretching the kids’ and creating opportunities through partnerships with a particular focus on language, maths and science.

This principal’s vision showcases what is possible and positive in South African schools when combined with diligence and collaboration. 


#enrichED Symposium

The #enrichED Symposium, held at the Cape Town International Conference Centre on 7 and 8 June 2019, was a collaborative learning event focused on celebrating the growth of the After School Movement over the last three years.

The After School Game Changer programme is an initiative of the Western Cape Provincial Government in collaboration with the City of Cape Town and various non-profits. 

Development Works Changemakers (DWC) recently conducted an assessment of the After Schools Programme at 112 schools for the Western Cape Provincial Government.

The After Schools Programme is working to increase the participation of learners from no- and low-fee schools in after-school activities ensuring regular attendance by significantly improving the attractiveness and quality of such programmes for learners. 

By 2019, the target is to get 112 000 learners participating regularly in quality programmes with twenty percent of the learners from no- and low-fee schools. The DWC team is exhibiting and participating at the #enrichED Symposium with a commitment to further contribute to measuring and evaluating impact in education.

By Lindy Briginshaw