Description: Post-apartheid South Africa is faced with many challenges and nowhere is it more obvious than in the education sector. Nationally, there are a disproportionately high number of students repeating each grade. Government spends a fifth of its budget on school education and fewer than 35% of pupils who enrol for Grade 1 ever pass Grade 12. Generally, South African students are renown for their inadequate performances in science and maths. Matric exam failures cost the government more than R900 million in 1997.
To address these challenges, Liberty Life in association with Standard Bank and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), launched the Liberty Life Learning Channel on SABC in September 1990. Targeted pupils are Grades 10 to 12. The aim is to maximize their potential in the matric examination so that they are equipped for tertiary education, employment and go on to make a positive contribution to society.
The Learning Channel broadcasts live phone-in, syllabus-specific education programmes on SABC-3 for 2 hours per day, 6 days a week. This programme includes the four key subjects: English, Maths, Science and Biology, subjects needed for a country to grow and prosper. The content is driven partly by the syllabus requirements and the needs of the pupils phoning in. Written back-up material based on the syllabus and pupils questions appears in the Sowetan weekly newspaper that has 1.8 million readers. By collecting the material, all pupils have access to the most up-to-date textbook possible. Conventional textbooks that are expensive and become dated are no longer required.
Innovation: The project is a world first on open channel television. Nowhere else in the world can learners phone-in to a TV station live and get immediate help, which is, at the same time, shared with all viewers watching the channel.
Effectiveness: The SABC continuously researches their programmes and more broadcast time is being allocated to the Learning Channel, with the possibility of going on to a second SABC channel at a later date. Research also indicates that more callers attempt to get through than any other phone-in programme. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of pupils are reached at a very low cost.
Poverty Impact: By reaching out to all those who have access to television, the project addresses one of the perpetuators of poverty, namely the lack of access to quality education. Since 2003, the project is broadcast to 28 African countries.
Sustainability: Initial funding was received from Barlow Rand to obtain the necessary broadcast equipment. The SABC provides free office space and the use of any additional equipment that might be necessary.
Replication: There is no need to replicate the project as it reaches the whole country.