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SA Human Rights Commissioner, Prof Tshepo Madlingozi delivers an insightful lecture on Digital Literacy as part of the Right To Basic Education

Earlier today, the University of Fort Hare (UFH) Law Faculty in collaboration with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hosted a guest lecture delivered by Prof Tshepo Madlingozi, one of eight Commissioners of the SAHRC.

According to Dr Eileen Carter, the Eastern Cape provincial manager of the SAHRC and UFH Law alumna, the lecture is one of the benefits of a valuable partnership between the University and the Commission that seeks to advocate for the realization of human rights.

Titled: Digital Literacy as Part of the Right to Basic Education, Prof Madlingozi whose focus is on basic education delivered an insightful lecture that painted a picture of the road travelled and still needs to be travelled in nurturing digital literature for inclusive education.

He started his lecture with an anecdote about his experience of embarking on a more than one-hour-long-walk to school with learners from a school in Xesi (Middledrift), an initiative led by the provincial SAHRC to flag and monitor scholar transport challenges.

“Access to education is critical for a developing country like South Africa. Coupled with our history, it is inevitable that mere access and conventional ways of teaching and learning will not be enough and led to the exclusion of already marginalized communities.”

“Put differently, merely saying schools should be accessible to all children is not enough for our landscape. Amongst others, the country’s terrain requires that schools be accessible for children with disabilities. Children must traverse long and treacherous roads, attend schools with limited resources, and suffer delays in the delivery of learner, teacher, and support materials. In all these scenarios, mere access is not enough,” he emphasized.

“A complementary system of education is required to amplify access to education while ensuring that education is of high quality and able to keep up with the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This system is digital literacy.”

According to Prof Madlingozi, the contours of education are being reshaped by the advent of technology.

“Digital literacy which is the ability to navigate, comprehend, and critically engage with the digital world, emerges as a linchpin in the realization of the right to basic education. In the context of basic education, this proficiency becomes a conduit for enhanced learning experiences, ensuring that students are not merely consumers of information but active participants in a digitally connected world.”

He also highlighted some of the interventions and efforts by the Commission that seek to bridge the inequality and access to education gaps and ensure no learner is locked outside in the digital and literacy space.

He also delved into some of the hindrances that prevent or delay entering the digital literacy space, this includes the lack of technology infrastructure and the absence of Wi-Fi connections at some schools.

In conclusion, Prof Madlingozi made several recommendations, such as providing schools with state-of-the-art computer labs and reliable internet connections; initiating comprehensive curricular reforms to integrate digital literacy and establishing robust training programmes that will empower teachers with the skills and knowledge required to navigate the digital realm effectively.

He also emphasized the importance of community engagement, putting security measures in place to safeguard digital infrastructure, and urged that policies and initiatives be crafted using an equity-centric approach that acknowledges and mitigates existing disparities.

The lecture concluded with an equally robust and insightful questions and answers session between the audience and the panel that comprised Prof Madlingozi; Dr Carter; Prof Moses Retselisitsoe Phooko, Director of the UFH UNESCO Oliver Tambo Chair of Human Rights; UFH Law Senior Lecture, Dr Ntandokayise Ndlovu and; the Deputy Dean, Dr Simphiwe Bidi.