April 21, 2024

Empowering students with disabilities in a digitised world

3 min read

Many schools in South Africa lack the facilities, technology and equipment to provide students with the kind of quality education that leads to such benefits as employment, social access and a better standard of living. These students therefore find themselves at a disadvantage, and this is exacerbated in the case of those living with disabilities.

The solution lies in combining the efforts of those who can assist to provide what is needed so that these children can have access to the opportunities needed to thrive.

Creating shared value (CSV) projects have proven to be highly effective in providing solutions to challenges such as these. Thabo Ngwenya, head of Africa Digital Solutions at Enel Green Power, says the company sees it as a privilege to use its expertise to uplift communities in need and capacitate leaders of tomorrow.

Based on various needs assessments, as part of Enel Green Power’s participation in the Valuable 500 initiative (which aims to improve the lives of people living with disabilities), and its desire to make meaningful contributions to the Valuable 500 target to innovate for disability inclusion, the Philip Kushlick School for children with disabilities was the selected beneficiary for this project. The school supports many children who come from different disadvantaged backgrounds, and is located within the Baragwanath Hospital, in the heart of Soweto.

With a dire need for their computer lab to be upgraded, an in-depth needs assessment was conducted by an ICT engineer from Enel Green Power to determine specific upgrade requirements. The school’s existing lab had very old computers that were no longer operational.

The lab had also been broken into and equipment had been stolen. The students had no computers of their own and had to share one computer that belonged to the teacher. This was a time-consuming and inefficient way of teaching and learning. There was also no Internet connectivity, so students were unable to carry out research online.

Enel Green Power set about equipping the lab for students by installing 20 Dell all-in-one desktop computers, as well as a smart TV for students to watch educational videos. In addition, for one student who had a particular disability, a special device was installed on one of the computers to accommodate her specific needs. A contractor was commissioned to assess the potential for providing Internet connectivity via Wi-Fi, and was able to instal and test the needed equipment and services for the students to access the World Wide Web.  

After the installations, students were able to sit at their own workstations and complete activities based on the teacher’s instructions.

Enel Green Power staff think back with fondness on the experience, as it brought so much joy to the student beneficiaries, and the teachers were thrilled to have the required tools to enhance the students’ learning experience.

Ngwenya says, “Advancements in 4IR [the Fourth Industrial Revolution], specifically in the area of artificial intelligence, are strong indicators that technology will play an even larger role in shaping the future. This project will go a long way to providing technological access for people living with disabilities and equip them to become employees or employers of tomorrow, thereby creating a brighter future for them and our communities.”

Although the lab has limited capacity, as many as 400 students benefit from it, as will many other students after them. As part of Enel Green Power’s commitment to CSV, many more schools will be supported with digital solutions in the future, especially for students who come from disadvantaged circumstances.

For a company like Enel Green Power, which is at the cutting edge of innovation in its industry, it is imperative that it conducts business in a sustainable way – not only in terms of environmental sustainability but in terms of sustainability with regard to people. Ngwenya concludes, “This is a core value of the company, and engaging in CSV initiatives such as enabling technology in schools is important in a world that has become so digital, and where progress cannot be separated from a digitised way of living.”

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