With open-access fibre to the home (FTTH) network provider, Evotel, installing a fibre network in areas of Newcastle, local schools are clear beneficiaries of the infrastructure in these areas.
“As a responsible citizen we have undertaken to add value in the towns we are implementing our fibre network infrastructure and are providing free internet connections to all the qualifying schools within our rollout,” explains Bradley Bekker, Evotel Head of Business Development.
Evotel is in the process of installing a fast and reliable fibre network in 14 suburbs in the town with nine schools currently falling under Evotel’s network coverage area. The schools comprise pre-primary, primary, secondary and high schools under both public and private systems. These include: Ferrum High School, Huttenpark Pre-Primary School, Huttenpark Primary School, Drakensberg Primary School, Lennoxton Primary School, Lincoln Heights Secondary School, Panorama Combined School, Aletheia Christian College and Amajuba School.
The idea with Evotel’s Schools Project is based on the same principle of laying fibre to build smart cities, but now to also establish ‘smart-schools’.
“The main focus of this initiative is to provide learners with the ability to be successful and seeing that they are the country’s future leaders, their success is of benefit to everyone. We completely sponsor this service and the cost of providing access to fibre internet is fully covered by Evotel. The schools don’t have to pay a cent for the fast open-access fibre infrastructure to connect them to the internet. It’s one of our ways to give back to the community,” Bekker says.
“The improved bandwidth would allow us to better utilise our digital learning channels and the faster upload and download speeds, because of fibre, will allow our educators to publish video lessons and educational content faster. The higher bandwidth and lower latency will improve the streaming experience for our students,” acknowledge Ferrum High School principal, Mrs C Myburgh.
Evotel is providing up to 1Gbps lines for schools, depending on if there is a point-of-presence (PoP) connection close by
Alleviating Covid-19 stresses
Says Huttenpark, deputy principal, Mr Llewellyn Gray: “Schooling has been hard-hit by Covid-19 and we had to almost instantly switch to eLearning for students to not be further disadvantaged by the pandemic. Data has already become a scarce resource and with Evotel’s donation, can now follow a more blended learning path of educating the youth in Newcastle. We can now more easily incorporate multimedia with networked data-projectors in our classrooms together with real-time tracking of world events as subject material for our students.”
According to principal Myburgh, the biggest challenge the school had to deal with during the Covid-19 lockdown was providing learners with data, while they were doing distance learning. “Data becomes very expensive.We have plans to continue with our online platforms in the future and launch Ferrum Online as an option for learners who cannot attend face-to-face learning every day. I am very excited that with the free WiFi connectivity this will now become a reality,” she adds
The schools will have the choice of using any internet service provider (ISPs) they want, as Evotel doesn’t supply any data services, however, says Bekker: “We have partnered with local ISPs – Fliber, WiseLink and Crazyweb, who has agreed to also install WiFi routers at the schools as an added value, if schools decide to use one of them as a service provider.
The impact on learners will be substantial, according to principal Myburgh. “Learners will experience a modern and efficient learning environment and the school will be able to provide learners with free internet access via a WiFi hotspot that will graciously be installed by our Evotel affiliated ISP as well as through our computer centres.”
Not only learners to benefit
The learners will however not be the only ones to gain from the improved network, but the teachers and schools themselves will also benefit through an update to their administrative capabilities.
“We will be able to better utilise cloud-based file-sharing systems for both academic and administrative purposes and it will enable us to scale up our cloud-based offsite backup system, not to mention the significant financial savings it will afford us,” says principal Myburgh.
“The fibre access is giving Huttenpark a solid base to work from and allows the school’s administration to all be done online. It makes all our communication easier, like making email more trusted and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephones possible, putting us right there with the rest of society, ready for a life in the future,” deputy principal Gray explains.
The cost of installation for schools would normally be in the region of R2 100 once-off and then approximately R2 000 per month for the running and leasing of the fibre line, saving schools R24 000 per year that can be invested otherwise. “We are sponsoring this initiative to ensure the success of our youth’s education and create a more advanced schooling environment where tablets and PCs can be implemented for learning,” says Bekker.