Gauteng’s Department of Education recently celebrated the new term with a project to take make every matric classroom in the province paperless, but the scheme has hit early problems. According to IOL Online one school, Phafogang Secondary in Rockville, has been broken in to and a number of tablets, laptops and smartboards were stolen.

The roll-out of educational tablets and technology is part of the Gauteng Department of Education’s (GDE) Paperless Classroom Project, which aims to equip schools with different kinds of technology to make learning easier – while moving away from traditional text books.

GDE spokesperson Phumla Sekhonyane said that the theft is robbing pupils from a better educational system.

“The department is extremely concerned that valuable resources, which are meant to enhance the delivery of quality education to learners, are seen by some as an opportunity to feed their criminal deeds and rob our learners of their right to quality basic education,” she said.

The latest roll-out of technology into classrooms involve the distribution of 17 000 tablets and 1 800 3D LED interactive boards being distributed into 4 000 classrooms, predominantly in township and rural areas.

Even thought the theft is a setback, Sekhonyane says that the department is committed to delivering on its goals of a paperless classroom.

“The department would like to categorically state that it remains committed and determined to realise its vision… to build a world-class education system by modernising public education and improving the standard of performance of the entire system. No amount of thuggery will deter our efforts in attaining this vision.”

This is not the first time that a school has had it’s tablet stolen, and schools with a high crime rate will soon have to give the tablets back.

In May, MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said crime and violent protests in areas where up to 88 000 tablets were distributed has had a heavy negative impact on government services including schools, with a recent incident resulting in schools in the Etwatwa area in Benoni, where he made the statement, having their property and computers vandalised by protesters.

The Paperless Classroom Project recently came under fire from the Democratic Alliance, which raised concerns that company tasked with delivering equipment and electronic text books to the schools in the latest launch is the same company that infamously failed to deliver hard copy books in Limpopo.

The Department on the other hand, has refuted the claims, saying that it sought legal advice on the matter.

“When the Paperless Classroom Project was initiated, the department obtained legal advice on this particular matter. The advice was that it would not be in the best interest of the department to cancel the existing contract with EduSolution and appoint a new service provider. This was going to be costly for the Department and also cause delays in the implementation of the project,” it said in a statement.

It also added that penalties have been put in place if EduSolution don’t deliver.

“Over the past years EduSolution has delivered to the satisfaction of the department. Strict mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that contractual obligations are adhered to by EduSolution e.g. penalties where there is non delivery.”

The DA’s claims were also slightly inaccurate: it talked about iPads and tablets procured by EduSolution, when in reality the tablets used for this part of the paperless project are the same ones that were recalled after CloudSeed’s failed eLearning tender last year.

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.