The Paperless Education System and its constraints for learners in Mitchell’s Plain

By: Tatum-Lee

Disclaimer*: This is an opinion piece, which is primarily based on my perspective.

In 2017, it is an obvious fact that the world has never been more technologically advanced than in our present day.  The most complex of problems is being solved in ‘Microwave time’, as I call it. At a touch of a button our whole world can change and what is even more intriguing to some and an evil to others is the fact that daily, more and more people are coming up with new innovations, different ways of thinking and ground-breaking ways of ‘learning’. No wonder Albert Einstein boldly stated:

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

This year thousands of South African grade 7 students, entered into their first year of high school.  For most of them, this is an exciting experience. Especially, for those who were fortunate to enter the E-learning environment. As Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa states, “The paperless education system will give pupils access to learning material, workbooks, and other subject matter through the use of information communications technology (ICT)”.

These words may be very exciting for most of us, as we become aware of the fact that it is necessary for us ‘to get with the times’ or else, but for a large group of learners in Mitchell’s Plain, ‘getting with the times’ is a risky experience.

Parents were in uproar at a recent school meeting held in Mitchell’s Plain, where it was explained that each child needed a Tablet, which needed to be purchased for a more ‘quality learning experience’.  It was not, however, a compulsory demand, but learners who do not have the equipment are at a definite disadvantage, which will be explained. Learners who do have the Tablet face a different kind of danger…Allow me to explain:


In Mitchell’s Plain 48% of households live below the poverty line and only 43% of the working age population is unemployed.  Taking these figures into account, it is obvious that learners who live in these homes will experience great difficulty in acquiring the Tablet (E-learning) equipment necessary for school.  Despite the fact that arrangements to lay-by can be made, the initial academic year will have to continue with the use textbooks.  As highlighted at the meeting, the greater student population did not have the required Tablet.  Acquiring the R3000 Tablet at such short notice is a difficult task for most parents.

“The population of Mitchell’s Plain is poor; many people are unemployed or economically inactive; and most people earn less than the household subsistence level” (Page 14, Mitchell’s Plain Modal Economic development Profile)

This is the reality of most learners…


Mitchell’s Plain is plagued with crime. In fact, it has been deemed as one of the areas to avoid in Cape Town.  If each child should have acquired the Tablet, which they must or are expected to do their homework on, they would have to walk home with their devices every day.  In the recent meeting, this was a hot topic. Children are significantly vulnerable to crime and there are people who prey on them.  Especially since ‘The tablet saga’ has been made public knowledge.  What preventative measures have been put in place for these issues?


Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had this to say about implementing paperless classrooms:

“Education is at the core of our government’s strategy for improving the lives of all our people. It is an instrument for achieving social cohesion and national unity.”

Education is vital, technology is vital, but when it is inaccessible to some and accessible to others, within the same environment, ‘social cohesion and national unity’ is only but a dream. It invites all sorts of emotions and brings up binaries and issues of othering. Students without the device will have access to textbooks, but will this compensate for the fact that ‘they still don’t have’? Will they be in separate classes? (Even worse).  To some parents the thought of this is intolerable.


At first glance, the idea of e-learning for all students is a lovely suggestion. Change is inevitable and technology is brilliant at enhancing our lives and improving our efficiency.  This, however, does not mean that the transition is not a painful and complex process. Especially for those who are not financially equipped to welcome these changes.  What am I saying?

The idea is brilliant, we are living in the digital age and we have to keep on moving, but the implementation of this initiative/program, for lack of a better word, SUCKS!  When dealing with innovation it is important to consider the good, the bad and the ugly. There has to be a way to make sure that all students have access to the right equipment and education, without putting their lives in danger or crippling their parents financially.



Tatum-Lee is a Born Again Christian, qualified Writer and Content producer who resides in Cape Town lives on Facebook and reads books for breakfast. She makes a conscious effort to remain on top of the news and is equipped to produce all kinds of content, works exceptionally well with briefs and makes people look Kwaai on Facebook.





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