Launch of First Multimedia Learning Platform To Promote Literacy in South Africa

July 2009 - Representing a first for South Africa, The International Literacy Institute, in partnership with Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy in South Africa, and under the sponsorship of the South African Department of Education launched on July 23, 2009, the Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI-SA), a multimedia education programme for the promotion of literacy and other learning skills in South Africa.

The initiative which kicks off in the Limpopo Province - serving as a model for implementation nationwide - will assist to overcome the country’s major illiteracy challenge through the combined power of local (mother-tongue) language learning and multimedia technology.

 The easy-to-use multimedia material has been developed to date in Sepedi, Tshivenda, xiTsonga and English, aligned with ABET levels 1 through 3, and also includes computer literacy skills. The BFI-SA soon plans to develop similar materials in the remaining seven official languages which will serve as the platform to reach poor and rural provinces such as Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Northern Cape, Free State and the Northwest Province.

The International Literacy Institute (ILI) – established by UNESCO at the University of Pennsylvania – provided the research expertise behind the BFI approach to literacy and technology. According to Prof. Dan Wagner, “ILI has been privileged to collaborate with the SA Department of Education, Molteno Institute, and Trydian Interactive in this exciting and important project that has potential for millions of South Africans. Based on earlier and successful work in India, we feel that the present work in the 11 official languages of South Africa can not only help across this whole country, but has potential for being a model in other African countries that are pursuing the important goal of universal literacy.”

“The material is very easy to use and will keep learners interested and motivated.  Often it is found that learners lose interest in adult learning programmes.  Multimedia is an interactive and exciting teaching medium that will enable the learners to learn at their own pace while enjoying the overall experience.”

Says Massenya Dikotla, CEO of the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy: “The Bridges to the Future Initiative is undoubtedly the first of its kind for South Africa.  We feel extremely excited and proud and believe its benefit will be twofold: overcoming illiteracy through home language teaching while also establishing all-important computer skills.

Learners can easily identify with the various characters and scenarios. Through the use of head-sets participants become part of the overall experience which in turn supports learning in a step-by-step fashion. The BFI-SA multimedia software will be installed and implemented at established Limpopo ABET centres, secondary schools, Multi-Purpose Community Centres (MPCCs), Educational Multi-Purpose Centres (EMPCs) and other sites.

The themes utilised in the BFI multimedia platform are aligned with and complementary to both the Department of Education’s Kha Ri Gude mass literacy campaign as well as ABET. The BFI-SA has received external funding support from: Kellogg Foundation, Nedbank Foundation, Spencer Foundation, Microsoft, USAID, World Bank, and UNESCO.