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South Campus delivers much-needed educational support during pandemic

By Eugene Seegers

South Campus IBP Control Room

The control room in the IDEAS Lab studio on the South Campus.
Photo: Supplied

In a time of uncertainty and constant change, it is refreshing and heart-warming to see how resilient and resourceful our colleagues at the University of the Free State (UFS) can be. One example of this is the IDEAS Lab on the South Campus. This studio is responsible for the Internet Broadcast Project (IBP), which transmits 25 hours per week of educational content in over 15 subjects to 80 schools in the Free State. But with schools closed during the lockdown, was it business as usual, or were they able to adapt so that they could continue to serve the community? Bult spoke with Eugene van Wyk, coordinator of the IBP, to find out more.

What was the strategy to rethink teaching and learning as an essential part of the university’s business?

“Since schools were closed during the national lockdown in South Africa, teaching and learning have been affected radically, in that no face-to-face classes could be conducted. Grade 8 to 12 learners are missing out on the curriculum coverage for the second term. The 80 IBP schools are Quintile 1 to 3 and therefore do not have online facilities or capacity. This results in creative thinking and drastic ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions. Our strategy to assist these learners is to distribute the IBP videos digitally.

It is most definitely not business as usual. We are compelled to adapt our processes to bring quality education to our rural communities in the Free State.”

What are you doing differently? 

“We are currently designing a YouTube channel where we will upload all second-, third-, and fourth-term videos. We are planning to get the link zero-rated or to have it on a ‘free’ platform. This means that these children will be able to access our videos without cost, seeing that our learners are from needy families and communities.”

What challenges did you have to overcome to still be able to serve the university community, as well as the broader community in the Free State? 

“One of the biggest challenges we had to overcome is the use or accessibility of cellphone data and usable mobile devices belonging to learners. Another challenge is the scope of the Free State Department of Education’s request. They asked us to distribute these videos to ALL secondary schools (over 300) and their learners. We’ve decided to distribute the videos to all the secondary schools, enabling them to distribute the videos to learners. Another challenge we had to overcome is budgetary; this initiative will cost the UFS additional funding and we need to find alternative ‘free’ platforms from which to distribute the videos.”
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