It is the first time in the world that an as comprehensive and integrated multimedia approach is being taken to tackle these issues.
The Liberty and Standard Bank Foundations have committed R74 million to start the project. In addition, they have been instrumental in securing additional partner support.
"It is testimony to the great need for what we are doing, that Mindset Network has been put in place in a year including partnerships valued at R225 million along with support from the government departments of education, communications and health," says Mindset Network's chief executive, Ann Lamont.
Hylton Appelbaum, executive director of the Liberty Foundation who conceptualised the network adds, "Liberty Foundation has thirteen years of experience in educational television and we realised that two hours a day on tv was never going to be enough to make the necessary impact across all of schooling. The Learning Channel has played a vital role in matric support, but we need to address the earlier years as well as the last two years of schooling. For this reason, Mindset Network will be available at least twelve hours a day seven days a week."
Says Derek Cooper, Standard Bank Group chairman, "Mindset Network is a milestone in Standard Bank's long-standing programme of social investment. We strongly believe that good education is critical if South Africa is to achieve sustainable growth and development. As Standard Bank and Liberty have become one family, we decided to combine the educational efforts of our foundations."
All channels will be committed to providing content that can change lives by providing access to knowledge on a mass scale. The intention is to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
Lamont continues, "Due to the legacy of Apartheid education, our challenge in schooling is that learners' Maths and Science scores are amongst the lowest in the world.
"Whilst South Africa has many dedicated teachers, there is a desperate shortage of those that teach Maths and Science. So much so that almost 30% of learners are taught Maths by teachers with no qualifications in Maths and almost 40% of learners are taught Science by teachers with no qualifications in Science.
"Historically our teachers have not been adequately supported to acquire the skills they need to teach these subjects. Consequently only 2% of black learners write higher grade Maths and just 0.6% actually pass.
"In the area of healthcare one in nine South Africans is HIV positive and in the area of livelihood, there is a 30% unemployment rate and only 8% of matriculants get formal employment."
First channel of the Mindset Network, Activate, is currently broadcasting on channel 82 of DStv. Activate focuses on "FET" or further education and training, the South African terminology for senior high school. The channel is targeted at Grade 10, 11 and 12 learners and educators.
A time-tabled curriculum is broadcast in the mornings and late afternoons to allow for school and home viewing and in the early afternoons for educators. Broadcasts run from 08h30 to 17h30 weekdays.
The channel encompasses the innovative use of satellite broadcast television, print supplements in the largest, national weekly newspaper (The Sunday Times) and comprehensive supporting material is on the internet. Activate focuses on Maths, Science and English whilst the Multichoice Africa Foundation contributes educator content aimed at developing teaching skills for Maths and Science.
Melanie Naidoo, who manages access and effective use of technology clarifies that, "Mindset Network does not just 'dump' content into schools. We also provide the equipment, the training and the support for people to be able to access our content and use it properly. These kits include a television, satellite dish, decoder and video recorder and we even provide generators as a power source for rural schools."
The content is provided free and hardware and teacher training is being provided free to economically disadvantaged schools. Activate has been piloted in 300 schools and will be rolled out into 1000 schools and 800 000 homes by the end of 2003.
"Over the long term, we hope Activate will be available in every school in this country as well as in other countries too," Naidoo adds.
The Health Channel will be launched in October 2003 and will focus on HIV/Aids. This channel will eventually broadcast into 7000 clinics and hospitals around the country with information for patients and training for healthcare workers.
Next will be two more education channels, one for early high school and another that will focus on early childhood development and primary school content. It is also Mindset Network's vision to launch a livelihood channel teaching entrepreneurship, life skills and vocational training.
"We owe a depth of gratitude to those who have made this project a reality. Our lead partners are the Liberty and Standard Bank Foundations. Founding partners include The Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sunday Times, PanAmSat, Sentech and Multichoice Africa. SABC is a support partner," Lamont explains.
Andile Ngcaba, Director-General of the Department of Communications, says his department will partner with Mindset Network to deliver, "the most powerful learning technology that has ever been seen in Africa."
Professor Kader Asmal, Minister of Education commented that he, "Celebrates this initiative that addresses the need for high quality curriculum resource provision through the integration of ICT in our schools. We support reputable initiatives like Mindset Network supporting teaching and learning."
Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Managing Director of Human Development at The World Bank, described Mindset Network as the, "Best comprehensive programme I have seen so far, that addresses the key constraints to enhance the quality of education in South Africa. The teaching of Math, Science and English using multimedia approaches and embodying in it the social reality of the pupils in South Africa will go a long way to building the strong foundations for the futures of these young people."
Turquoise PR & Marketing Communications
Michelle K Blumenau
Tel: (011) 486 3041