Teacher laptop initiative kicks off - TechCentral

Teacher laptop initiative kicks off

Garry Hodgson

The department of education has begun appointing its first accredited suppliers as part of its teacher laptop initiative to get computers into the hands of all of the country’s teachers.

On Thursday, JSE-listed computer company Mustek said it had been given the nod by the department to supply equipment to teachers.

Government first unveiled the initiative in 2009, but red tape and endless discussions over minimum specifications and costs meant the process took longer than expected to finalise.

The Education Labour Relations Council, a grouping of teachers’ unions headed by Dhaya Govender, was appointed to decide on the terms of the roll out and accredited suppliers.

“The idea was to ensure every teacher in SA gets a laptop,” Govender says.

The council decided on the minimum hardware specifications of the laptops, what software they should include, and stipulated that they must include a warranty, insurance and Internet connectivity.

“Our job as one of the suppliers was to put that together,” explains Garry Hodgson, national marketing executive at Mustek. “Teachers can opt either for a cash deal on one of the three laptops we’re offering or go for a two-year contract.”

The three offerings vary in terms of hardware specification and cost between R7 500 and R8 200. They are all available on a 24-month contract on MTN, with data contracts offering between 75MB and 500MB a month.

Teachers who take up the offer will be entitled to an allowance of R130/month for 60 months from the department of education, which means they get R7 800 back. Teachers opting for a 24-month contract will pay between R364/month and R518/month for the term of the contract before the R130 monthly rebate.

The laptops are sold with a large range of software preinstalled, including Windows 7 Professional, Office 2010 Professional Plus and Adobe Digital School Collection, which includes five Adobe titles. They also come preloaded with websites such as Intel Sk0ool and Mindset Learn to reduce the amount of time teachers need to spend online.

“The software alone is worth well over R30 000,” says Hodgson.

Though MTN is the first data and finance partner, Hodgson says Mustek is taking the products to the market through its dealers. “We want our dealers to go to schools and advise them properly,” he says. To encourage them to publicise the project, they will receive rebates from Mustek for each laptop they sell.

Though Mustek is the first accredited supplier there are a dozen other players in discussion with the Education Labour Relations Council about participating in the programme.

Govender says that although the goal is to have all teachers equipped with a laptop within two or three years, it is unrealistic to expect the effects of the project to be felt in less than five. He says that the council hopes the project will help to create better educators, and allow teachers to focus on other aspects of education because of the time that being connected and technologically enabled affords them.  — Craig Wilson, TechCentral

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