e-Rate for schools a joke

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The Democratic Alliance (DA) recently announced that they are deeply disappointed by the slow implementation of the schools e-rate. 'More than seven years after the Communications Ministry announced the introduction of a special 'e-rate' for schools that would halve the cost of their Internet calls, a reply to a parliamentary question shows that not a single public school, and only nine Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, have so far benefited from this promise,' the DA said. The DA further committed itself to posing further questions to the Ministers of Education and of Communications about exactly why this project has been such a dismal failure, and what plans have been put in place to ensure that the project can in future help children in poor schools to access the Internet. 'Children who do not become familiar with information technology at school will face an uphill battle in making themselves employable in the modern world,' said the DA.

'With all South Africa's resources, we have no excuses for not affording our children all the opportunities they need at school to be able to prepare themselves properly for the future.' 'In a country with one of the highest telecommunication costs in the world (as a direct result of the policies of the Ministry of Communications) a significant reduction in internet costs would have made all the difference to struggling schools. So poor schools, where children are already at a significant disadvantage, are the biggest losers in this policy failure.' The e-rate was first promised to South Africa as far back as November 2001, in a document entitled Strategy for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education. Since then a succession of unfulfilled promises has followed. Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri stated in her budget speech in June 2004 that 'From the beginning of the [2005] school year, public schools will be charged only 50% of the normal rate for their Internet calls.' But the legislation allowing this to happen was signed into law only one year later, in May 2006.

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