JONATHAN JANSEN | UCT’s online school: Admirable maybe. Equal opportunity? Definitely not
UCT deserves credit for its new online school, but let’s face it, it’s for the middle class, not the poor
When I first learnt about the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) new online school I was very excited and did an immediate “shout out” for the initiative to my 122,000+ Twitter followers. After all, there are so few bright new ideas about how to change the education futures of schoolchildren, especially from our 26 public universities. Then I took a closer look and, to be honest, I am no longer as enthusiastic about this much-heralded innovation.
Let me start, though, by making clear that our universities have a long tradition of working with schools out of a sense of public duty and pure self-interest — we need well-prepared pupils as first-year enrolments. Stellenbosch University has a celebrated telematics programme that has opened opportunities for “geographically dispersed students”. The University of the Free State (UFS) engaged in a huge schools turnaround programme that targeted principal leadership alongside the deployment of expert teachers as in-classroom partners to regular teachers to improve learning in science and mathematics. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has two schools — the UJ Metropolitan Academy for disadvantaged pupils, recently designated as a “high tech and innovation” focus school, and the Funda UJabule Primary School on its Soweto campus that also serves as a live training centre for teachers (like hospitals give practise training to medical students). Wonderful, the more the merrier. Or is it?..