Loxodonta Learning Centre Launching in Mkhondo

Hybrid learning at Maranatha School

Maranatha School in Mkhondo, in Mpumalanga, will launch Loxondonta Learning Centre in 2022.

The Loxodonta Centre has been built in honour of the late pastor Leonard Weston – (Loxodonta refers to a taxonomic genus within the family Elephantidae – the African elephants). Many years ago, the leadership of the South African religious organisation Wellspring Ministries1 received a word from God: ‘The Word is schools…’ Since then several schools have been birthed out of the body, including Maranatha School.

Pastor Leonard always had in his heart that Wellspring would run a high school. The eldership of the church (under Pastor Sheldon Hallis)and the leadership of Maranatha School believe that now is the time to pursue this dream again. Our motto, Inkunzi Isematholeni speaks of the leaders of tomorrow (the bulls) being amongst the youth, (the calves) today.

We see in the crises of the last two years, an opportunity to connect our vision to the burgeoning technological innovation that has proliferated concomitantly, and the key to making it happen is collaboration.

Collaborate and overcome: Connecting with IVA Global School

Starting a learning centre like Loxodonta in rural South Africa can be challenging. The key problems are that it is difficult to source enough quality specialist teachers, and that parents in these small towns are not used to paying as much for schooling as parents in the cities. Maranatha management was also cognisant of the fact (having experienced it firsthand) that a purely online teaching and learning portal is far from ideal.

And so it became apparent that a hybrid system, in which our staff collaborate with excellent remote teachers in order to provide both subject speciality and in-person connection for our learners, would be the key.

Having researched extensively and met with many experts in online learning (as well as many new companies that had popped up during the COVID-19 crisis), we eventually met with John Luis from IVA Global School, and were instantly impressed. Luis’s demonstration of IVA’s innovative, gamified virtual school, in which teacher and learner avatars interact on a virtual campus rich with learning technology, was compelling to say the least. But it was his commitment to teaching and to the children on the platform that most impressed us.

The best of both worlds

Pupils at Maranatha SchoolNow we have a partner who shares our values and vision. Highly-experienced on-site teachers at Loxodonta, together with IVA’s handpicked online teachers, based all around the world, will provide education of the highest quality to our learners.

As a bridge towards online learning, learners at Loxodonta will spend their Grade 8 and 9 years doing mathematics and English with our excellent on-site staff, and all other subjects will be done on IVA’s online virtual platform. Thereafter, Grade 10-12 learners will be completely integrated onto IVA’s platform while still having the benefit of attending a learning centre where they can connect with other learners and get additional support from our on-site staff as needed. Collaboration is the key to getting the best of both worlds.

Why online and on-site?

The world is changing. In 2020, the World Economic Forum released its ‘Future of Jobs’ report. The report authors highlight how different the world will be in just five years’ time – roughly when children entering high school today will have to gain entrance to tertiary education or the job market. In either case, according to Vesselina Ratcheva, Guillaume Hingel and Sophie Brown (2020), the lead researchers in the project, access will depend on five key factors, which I paraphrase here:

1. New skills will be sought after, and these skills are not the ones that traditional schools are best at producing.

According to Ratcheva, Hingel and Brown:

The top skills and skill groups which employers see as rising in prominence in the lead up to 2025, include groups such as critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.

2. Automation and technology adoption will accelerate over the next decade, with particular focus on encryption, robotics, artificial intelligence, e-commerce and cloud computing.

Automation, together with the global economic recession caused by COVID-19, is creating a ‘double-disruption’ in the labour market. By 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal.This equates to far fewer jobs in the traditional skilled labour market.

The report authors put it thus:

[B]y 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.

3. Remote work is the future for nearly half of tomorrow’s workforce.

The report authors state that:

Eighty-four per cent of employers are set to rapidly digitalise working processes, including a significant expansion of remote work – with the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely. To address concerns about productivity and well-being, about one-third of all employers expect to also take steps to create a sense of community, connection and belonging among employees through digital tools, and to tackle the well-being challenges posed by the shift to remote work.

4. Jobs will become more and more scarce.

According to Ratcheva, Hingel and Brown:

In the absence of proactive efforts, inequality is likely to be exacerbated by the dual impact of technology and the pandemic recession. Jobs held by lower wage workers, women, and younger workers, were more deeply impacted in the first phase of the economic contraction. Comparing the impact of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 on individuals with lower education levels to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the impact today is far more significant and more likely to deepen existing inequalities.

5. Lifetime online learning is the future.

Physical and online learning at Maranatha School

This is due to the need for constant re-skilling with the report indicating that demand for online learning opportunities has soared: There has been a four-fold increase in the numbers of individuals seeking out opportunities for learning online through their own initiative, a five-fold increase in employer provision of online learning opportunities to their workers and a ninefold enrolment increase for learners accessing online learning through government programmes. Those in employment are placing larger emphasis on personal development courses, which have seen 88% growth among that population.

For those workers set to remain in their roles, the share of core skills that will change in the next five years is 40%, and 50% of all employees will need reskilling … On average, employers expect to offer reskilling and upskilling to just over 70% of their employees by 2025.

What does this have to do with Loxodonta? Well, our collaborative, hybrid approach to teaching and learning bridges the gap between two incontrovertible juxtaposed facts:

Online learning technology is the future and needs to be the present if we are to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and the massive backlog in learning that it has wrought.

As has been demonstrated ad-nauseum by the Finnish education system, when it comes to learning, nothing trumps quality teachers in friendly classrooms – not even technology.

Facing the future without fear Loxodonta’s hybrid approach to learning nurtures skills in self-management through remote, online learning experiences – the same experiences with which most people in the global labour force of tomorrow will need to be familiar. At the same time, the curricula we offer at Maranatha, in collaboration with IVA Global School, have been demonstrated to promote the problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity that employers of the future will be looking for.

Finally, the flexibility and people-skills practiced online that will be a requirement for many future roles in the workforce, are effectively absorbed by learning via the IVA Global School virtual school platform – but in a fun, nonthreatening environment (complete with lecture rooms, collaborative work-stations, lounge and coffee bar) where caring and engaged teachers will be there in person for the child, so that the transition into these new skills is exciting rather than bewildering. This is education today for jobs tomorrow.