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Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use
to change the world.” While South Africa might still be trying to overcome many
of its educational challenges, organisations such as the Siyakhula Education
Foundation (SEF) have taken matters into their own hands and are working in
disadvantaged areas to raise education levels.
Amongst other initiatives, SEF runs an adult computer literacy programme as
well as an academic support programme for learners in grades ten to 12. When
Andrew Barrett, the co-ordinator, looked at how best to keep in touch with
students, learners and volunteers, SMS was the obvious choice.
“Cell phones have made such in-roads in South Africa and Africa that even the
poorest township resident has access to a cell phone, even if they don’t own
one personally, and knows how to SMS,” said Barrett. “SMS is a vital tool for
sharing information, motivating our learners, and helping them feel part of a
community, all of which contributes to the great success rates we are seeing.”
As a non-profit organisation, SEF benefits from BulkSMS.com’s special rates for
NPOs. This, combined with the ease-of-use of the mobile messaging provider’s
desktop messaging service, ensured Barrett was sold on using BulkSMS.com as a
provider when he set the service up.
“One of the major benefits of the service is the affordability of BulkSMS.com.
We are an organisation reliant on donations and therefore every cent counts. We
can stay in contact with both our core team and our beneficiaries and the
cost-effective nature of the service means we can direct our spending where it
is needed most,” said Barrett.
“Siyakhula, which means “We are growing”, is SEF’s adult education course that
provides affordable and accessible computer literacy training for previously
disadvantaged people to improve their job prospects. SMS is used to inform
students about upcoming course dates, changes to schedules, results, graduation
dates and job vacancies.
As a result of the regular SMS communication, students have expressed that they
enjoy a sense of belonging and encouragement. In the school’s programme, the
attendance records and reminders have helped build a strong work ethic that has
resulted in a 95% matric pass rate, with 60% of the learners going on to study
Barrett says he has become adept at conveying detailed information within SMS’s
160 character limit. “We’ve got pretty good at using SMS shorthand, which all
the kids understand anyway!” he said.
His plans for the SMS service include taking advantage of the two-way messaging
and having the learners SMS their matric results to SEF for their records.
SEF’s use of the BulkSMS.com service received special mention in the BulkSMS
Messaging Awards earlier this year. “SEF has been particularly clever in
pushing SMS’s communication abilities to convey the maximum amount of
information quickly, cost-effectively and with great results. This is also an
excellent example of how SMS works to communicate effectively with different
groups of people,” said Dr. Pieter Streicher, BulkSMS.com managing director.