Last night president Cyril Ramaphosa held a press conference to update South Africans about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with confirmed cases sitting at 61, and it now being classified as a national disaster.

One of the consequences has seen South African schools and tertiary institutions shutter their doors and advising that students stay at home.

For those in Matric, which is arguably the most important year of their academic lives to date, learning has not truly stopped, with mid-year and end of year exams to worry about.

As such it’s worthwhile for South African schools to look into online platforms to assist students with learning materials moving forward. For now no institution has announced such an initiative, which is understandable given that the national disaster status was only detailed a few hours ago.

This brings us to the latest announcement from Zoom, an online videoconferencing platform which has proved quite popular among enterprises. To that end Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan, confirmed that it would be making its platform freely available to K-12 schools in the United States.

“Given that many K-12 schools are starting closing, we decided to offer Zoom access to all K-12 schools in the country starting tomorrow,” he explained.

This follows a number of actions the platform has taken in recent weeks due to COVID-19, with it also extending the length of video chat time available on the free version of the conferencing tool.

As such, it may prove worthwhile for Matric students to use platforms like that moving forward, especially if they can still afford to do so.

We mention that as platforms like Zoom, Skype for Business and Slack are quite data-intensive, which as we all know is expensive in South Africa. Added to this is the current plight of loadshedding, which also impacts connectivity in the country.

As always, the health of students comes first, but tech-savvy schools should be actively looking at ways it can continue to tech its learners in such a crucial year, and tools like Zoom can do precisely that.

[Image – Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash]