TV can be used as a powerful tool for learning in schools where textbooks and teaching materials are rare – this is demonstrated by the following success story from one of DCGEP’s Learning Centers.
Umkhathizwe Primary School is one of the DCGEP Learning Centers in Africa. The school was one of the first schools ever built in Thokoza township, just outside of Johannesburg in South Africa. It serves a historically disadvantaged community where 56 percent of the people are unemployed. From 1990 to 1994, during the transition from apartheid to democracy, this area was a hotspot of political violence, and for the last decade, it has suffered the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS. About 16 percent of Umkhathizwe’s students are orphans. The Partnership launched the Learning Center project at Umkhathizwe Primary School in October 1998.
Through training and practice, educators at Umkhathizwe have become adept at using television to accomplish a variety of learning objectives. Nancy Tshabalala, a third grade teacher at the school, cleverly integrates videos into a variety of subjects. Using the programme, People of the Nile, Nancy shows the class the footage of a tribe of nomadic cattle herders. She pauses the video on a herd of cattle and teaches her students a math lesson by asking them to count the number of cows, multiply that figure by the number of legs to know how many legs there are and subtract the appropriate numbers when they see cows leaving the herd. Nancy holds the interest of the class by using television to show real-life images that illustrate mathematical concepts.
“Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership has brought the world to our classroom. We are travelling places, places we have never seen before, all because of television,” said Bongi Msimang, the former principal of Umkhathizwe Primary School in South Africa.
The learning content is developed in close collaboration with the communities, to meet their specific needs and to produce culturally-relevant programming. The programmes cover Physical Sciences, Cultures, Geography, Health, Biology and many other topics.
Besides serving educational purposes, the Learning Centers also provide the communities with access to national and international news, as well as the opportunity to enjoy live sports events. Although mostly set up in schools, Learning Centers can be established in any location central to community life. Most Learning Centers are utilised as community centers after school hours providing workshops on HIV/AIDS, other critical public health issues and skills training. The sites for Learning Centers are carefully selected. After three years of training and monitoring, the Learning Centers become a self-sustaining resource for the community.
Having started in South Africa as Discovery Communications’ corporate initiative, DCGEP, now an independent non-profit organisation currently reaches over 515,000 students and 6,900 teachers in Africa alone. Globally, the organisation works in 11 countries in three regions of the world (Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America). Seven of these countries (Angola, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe) are in Africa with expansion activities currently underway in four new African countries (Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and Morocco). As of today, DCGEP has reached over 611,000 children and 1,833,000 community members have access to Learning Center facilities. There are currently 221 active DCGEP Learning Centers.