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South Africa's Saray Khumalo helping underprivileged kids cross the digital divide

South Africa's Saray Khumalo helping underprivileged kids cross the digital divide

According to work published by WITS University, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. This level of inequality has a devastating effect on education. Using the well-known Gini coefficient as a way to measure inequality, South Africa’s score was 0.67. In comparison, China is at 0.38 and some European countries score 0.24. This means that, during the pandemic when many children were forced to take their lessons online, millions of children in South Africa’s underserved communities were being left behind.

To combat this, Saray Khumalo, the first African woman to summit Mount Everest and founder and executive director of Summit With a Purpose has been on a mission to make literacy more accessible. Since 2015 Summit With a Purpose has been actively involved in building traditional libraries and now, they have expanded their efforts and will also deliver digital libraries. In fact, three libraries are set to be delivered within the next four weeks through two different campaigns.

Saray says, “Since 2012, I’ve lived by the motto ‘Why just climb and take a selfie when you can climb and make a difference.’’ This became particularly important to me during the Covid-19 outbreak when I saw how the children from privileged environments were able to simply navigate the pandemic online while others were left behind.”

Crossing the bridge

Summit With a Purpose and Cindy Van Wyk in collaboration with iSchoolAfrica and Vuma, successfully raised funds for the first seven digital libraries giving children in 7 of the 9 provinces around the country access to digital learning facilities. The campaign also operates under the hashtag #Trek4Education, an annual trekking adventure dedicated to raising funds for and delivering digital libraries.

The other campaign, #Spin4literacy, was established in 2020 and saw participants break a Guinness World Record by cycling more than 5,000 kilometres in eight hours to raise funds for the libraries.  Now, after these extensive fundraising efforts, the last two libraries are ready for their recipients to close the #Spin4Literacy campaign which started during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

In addition to the two libraries Summits With a Purpose is delivering the first #Trek4Education to a community school in Edenvale and will deliver another one to a school in Namibia in 2024 with plans to put at least one library in every country on the continent.

The Edenvale library falls under Community Provision & Social Services (COMPASS) - a non-profit organisation based in Edenvale which cares for abused, abandoned and destitute babies, children, and women. Additionally, digital libraries will be launched at three more locations: Manamani Primary School in Venda, Limpopo, Francois Visser Primary School in the Northern Cape, and the last school will be built in Namibia.

“People keep saying that Africa has the youngest population in the world, but this fact is of little value if that population is not educated and prepared to lead the world. This project is my small contribution toward that,” says Saray.

The libraries will be equipped with tablets and projectors, and teachers will undergo training while monitoring the progress of the children.

Michelle Lissoos, Executive Director of iSchool Africa, says, “From the very beginning, we’ve believed that this partnership has the potential to achieve phenomenal things. It helps Saray connect children to the world around them and all the opportunities it brings. With this kind of connectivity, there is the power to grow and make a mark for yourself, no matter where you come from. We believe Saray’s programme is key to helping young people understand that.”

The learning material on the tablets is updated in real-time, and it allows monitoring to identify areas where learners may encounter difficulties.

Saray adds, “Digital education can help connect children with the world and evolve their thinking, showing them that their dreams are possible. With these libraries we can open their world to so much more than we have been able to with traditional libraries.”

By helping bridge this digital divide, Saray is helping kids across the country reclaim their own future and shrink an inequality that is already too wide.






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