Tshwane North FET College collaboration with Department of Communications yields positive results
A decision by the Tshwane North College for Further Education and Training (TNC) to join forces with the Department of Communications in order to provide internet connectivity to the college and its campuses has helped to bring about extremely positive results for both teachers and students at the institution.
Acting Principal at the college, Charles Pule, said that the partnership between the TNC Broadband Project and the Department of Communications was formed out of frustrations experienced by the TNC following its lack of ability to connect all its 6 campuses (Rosslyn Campus, Mamelodi Campus, Soshanguve North and South Campuses, Pretoria Campus, Temba Campus) to head office, and to each other as well as to the internet. The contract for the installation of 8Mbps WAN to connect the campuses and the head office was awarded to iBurst which provides one of the fastest wireless internet connections available in South Africa. Owing to the fact that the Ministry of Higher Education has always encouraged higher education institutions to utilize ICT infrastructure in order to bring about more efficiency to help educators and students access a wider range of teaching and learning material, the college then approached the Department of Communications for assistance.
Pule said “the lack of resources at the college, especially the availability of an advanced communication and information infrastructure (internet connectivity), had been hampering both the students’ and teachers’ performances. According to Pule, “internet connectivity is a necessity for colleges wishing to excel as it forms the heart and soul of teaching and learning”. Pule added that “internet connectivity has added great value towards improving the college’s operations through access to information by all”.
Already one of the major achievements has been access to examination papers when the papers where not delivered as expected. The interconnectivity has also enhanced the college’s ability to establish direct access and reach to one of the remote campuses in Hamanskraal which for many years could not be connected by any other Network Operator. In addition administrative processes have become seamless, more efficient and user-friendly for current and prospective students in all parts of the country.
iBurst CEO, Thami Mtshali says he was very pleased to provide a solution to the TNC connectivity problem. He says iBurst has been able to provide the college with an end to end broadband solution, thus alleviating some of its major challenges. One of iBurst’s corporate social investment objectives is to provide internet access in areas that have previously not been afforded such access. In this partnership and project, the company has succeeded in connecting the TNC campuses in areas where no other telecommunications operator was willing to rollout infrastructure.
Mtshali, who is a firm believer that wireless connectivity plays an important role in the development of the youth stated that “one of the key benefits of this project is that teachers at the colleges are now able to access a wider variety of teaching tools and methods, while the students are able to empower themselves with the necessary information to succeed in their studies”.
“Effective communications tools also serve to make any operation or organisation much more efficient”, said Mtshali.
The links installed by iBurst at the campuses have enabled high speed internet connectivity as well as a voice solution that includes up to 10 telephone lines per site. Some of the key benefits that the TNA has enjoyed as a result of this offering and partnership include free calls between the sites, high speed data transfers between campuses, a highly reliable network and reduced telecoms costs to the college and its campuses.
This project comes at a time when FET colleges are at the centre of the higher education debates with some voices questioning their viability and relevance as options for further development and education. Pule says that in such a climate it becomes even more important for the TNC in particular and other colleges in general, to have the vital tools like internet connectivity at their disposal to meet the demands and needs of prospective and current students to enable them to become globally aware and competitive. Every student has the right to access of information and the partnership between the TNC, the Department of Communication and iBurst, will go a long way towards ensuring that students at these campuses have access to decent education.
This indeed demonstrates that government cannot do it alone and highlights the importance of Private Public Partnerships.
“We plan to take advantage of the broadband connectivity as we have already seen a marked improvement in student performance as a result of the project. We anticipate that the TNA will continue to see an improvement in its academic results during the first quarter of 2012,” said Pule.