It goes with saying that education plays a fundamental role in developing the minds on young South Africans. But, teachers- the real heroes of our country- are often overlooked and, worse, underpaid; and students often don’t have the financial freedom to purchase all the necessary materials and textbooks to help them further their education. Needless to say, the road to accessible education for all in South Africa is somewhat long and rocky.
Being an educator or learner in a developing country can be extremely challenging: setbacks to getting work done include lack of basic resources, underdeveloped infrastructure and insufficient funding. So, with this in mind, it begs the questions of how we empower both parties?
Well, something called Open Educational Resources (OERs) could be the solution, or, at least, form part of the answer. According to OER Africa, “In its simplest form, the concept of Open Educational Resources describes any educational resources (including curriculum maps, course materials, textbooks, streaming videos, multimedia applications, podcasts, and any other materials that have been designed for use in teaching and learning) that are openly available for use by educators and students, without an accompanying need to pay royalties or licence fees”.
So not only can OERs be used as supplementary material by teachers, but students have access to resources that might otherwise have been extremely expensive. Thus, Open Educational Resources could prove to be very valuable in the ongoing struggle for accessible education in South Africa.
There is, of course, the question of quality control. Many insiders have suggested having some sort of reviewing system in place, i.e. university students check resources meant for high school learners and professors examine those developed for tertiary education. But, ultimately, the responsibility rests with the initiators of the programmes and resources.
Building on the above, another hurdle is that fact that a comprehensive and evaluated listing of OERs doesn’t exist yet. So it is going to take a commitment from those who are serious about the future of education in our country to come together and create solutions.
So while the system is by no means perfect, it is certainly a step in the right directions considering the move to a digital age and the need to make materials, research and readings more accessible for learners and students.