Interview: Pearson SA exec discusses education innovation in Africa

March 8, 2016 • Education, Features, Top Stories


Brian Wafawarowa: Executive Director of Learning Resources at Pearson South Africa.

The 2016 Education Innovation Summit, which has been organised by IT News Africa and sponsored by Telkom and Mwabu, will see education and technology executives convene at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg on the 17th of March 2016 to discuss vital topics surrounding the impact of technology on education.

In the lead up to the 2016 Education Innovation Summit, IT News Africa interviews Brian Wafawarowa: Executive Director of Learning Resources at Pearson South Africa.

During his career, Wafawarowa has had an opportunity to work with government and different education and book sectors, giving him a comprehensive understanding of the industry through small and large operations. He is the current chair of the Publishers Association of South Africa (PASA) and serves on the board of the International Publishers Association (IPA).

Wafawarowa has taken a keen interest in the broad publishing industry and its policy environment. He has had the privilege of representing the publishing industry at UNESCO, WIPO, WTO, The World Bank, the European Chamber of Commerce and the African Union. He has also chaired the ministerial committee that developed the draft South African book policy.

Wafawarowa holds a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in English, Literature, Language and Film from the University of Zimbabwe; Master of Literature, African Literature in English from the University of Witwatersrand; and Executive Masters in Business Administration from the University of Cape Town.

The interview can be found below:

1. How do you see technology transforming the education sector in South Africa?

Wafawarowa: “Technology can harmonise the standard of national education at a much higher level than where the majority of schools are currently. With adequate infrastructure the rural/urban divide in terms of education quality can be overcome. Education outcomes can also be improved significantly through instant feedback and ongoing assessment of learner progress against the desired curve.”

2. In your opinion, are South African Education policy makers doing justice to support the digitalisation of schools in the country (both public and private)? If not, what can be done to instill a sense of urgency to policy makers to support what could be the greatest empowerment tool at their disposal?

Wafawarowa: “A lot is being done, but a lot more can be done differently through national co-ordination of programmes and standards. This would ensure that quality standards are maintained, and duplication is avoided, through systems and platforms that speak to each other effectively and that compliance with curriculum requirements and standards are met.”

3. What would schools in South Africa need to make the leap to digital?

Wafawarowa: “Initial infrastructure role out and change management training is necessary to ensure that all schools can launch e-learning effectively and that educators, learners and learning communities can embrace it.”

4. What would you highlight as one of the biggest challenges facing the education sector in South Africa?

Wafawarowa: “One of the biggest problems is poor throughput and low pass rates. This compounds itself through the low number of learners who can go further with their education and among those very few that have the requisite skills to take on the rigor of higher education.”

5. How would we overcome this challenge?

Wafawarowa: “Digital technology has the potential to solve this problem by mapping the learning curve and continuously assessing learners against this curve. It also has the potential to develop and recommend remedial interventions. This will ensure that learners who are lagging behind can be identified and helped in time.”

6. You will be speaking at the upcoming Education Innovation Summit, tell us what you will be discussing?

Wafawarowa: “I will be talking about the imperative of linking investment in digital technology in education to improved learning outcomes, as opposed to digital for digital’s sake. I will be concentrating on how e-learning can be used to solve some of the problems that have eluded us in the print environment.”

7. Why should educational and technology leaders attend the summit?

Wafawarowa: “Many critical players in e-learning come from different sectors. Some come from the traditional education sector and others from the traditional technology sector, speaking different languages and having different skills sets. It is critical that all players regularly get together and exchange knowledge to ensure that technology works to improve education outcomes.”

8. How will our future leaders, presidents, and CEOs benefit from the digitisation of schools in not just South Africa, but Africa?

Wafawarowa: “The 21st century skills set defines the competencies that learners and future leaders need to develop in order to be effective in the information age. In addition to improving learning outcomes, the digitization of schools in South Africa and the continent will immerse learners today in the world that they will operate. This is the best way to prepare them for that world.”

Topics to be discussed at the Education Innovation Summit include:
– The Role of Digital Technology in Education
– The MOOC Model: Challenging Traditional Education models
– Developing and implementing Education Policy
– How can technology drive down the cost of university education in Africa?
– Unlocking sustainable finance for education through nontraditional sources
– Best practice: Incorporating innovative tools in teaching and learning
– A vision for the school of tomorrow
– Investing in ICT for Education
– Connecting with the next generation of students through mobile and social media

For more information: visit:
Contact: Tinashe on: Tel: +27 11 026 0982 Fax: 0866130386

Interview conducted by Darryl Linington
Follow @DarrylLinington on Twitter.

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