South Africa's Department of Basic Education has launched a COVID-19 digital pre-screening, risk assessment, and mapping tool. Known as HealthCheck, the tool is developed in partnership with and it will be available on the newly launched platform TeacherConnect.

The TeacherConnect platform is being developed as a way to empower and support teachers in South Africa by providing access to the best learning content in WhatsApp.

“The TeacherConnect platform has come at just the right time, as we work to get schooling safely back on track. The new normal can be stressful, but with good quality information we can make good decisions that help us beat COVID-19 and get back to normal as swiftly as possible. It is abundantly clear that additional support is needed for teachers, non-teaching staff, and indeed our learners. The TeacherConnect platform will help the basic education sector in providing much-needed information for schools. There are a few months left before the end of the school year and the HealthCheck service, in particular, will help us to keep going and eliminate the need to close schools again due to health fears," said Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education in South Africa.

South Africa's Minister o Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, talking about TeacherConnect.

Phased re-opening of South African schools

As South African public shools have been re-opening in phases, there have been cases where some schools have ha to close due to some learners or teachers testing positive for COVID-19. It is hoped that the TeacherConnect platform will assist with the phased-in re-opening of public schools in South Africa as the country tries to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

According to the Department of Basic Education, TeacherConnect is a one-stop digital solution for teachers and learners.

HealthCheck will be the first tool to be available on the TeacherConnect platform and it is expected to play a crucial role in helping to protect teachers and learners as schools re-open. HealthCheck is aimed at helping school communities to do a daily symptom-check and as a result it will provide an early-warning system to help keep schools open.

The HealthCheck tool will also issue receipts after users complete their pre-screening self-assessment, providing educators, support staff, and parents, an endorsed declaration of their risk level with a validity period of 24 hours.

The tool is developed by Praekelt.org on behalf of the Department of Basic Education. It has already been used very successfully at tertiary institutions across South Africa, with almost 3.5  million checks already completed to date. It has also garnered international interest from  the likes of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNESCO, who want to help this critical intervention reach as many of WhatsApp’s 2 Billion Monthly Active Users as possible.

Education resources via WhatsApp

It's expected that as the TeacherConnect platform continues its roll-out, it will have a comprehensive collection of information and resources that allow for engagement and feedback opportunities for teachers via WhatsApp.

“The E3 team is extremely grateful to have built with the leadership of the DBE, nationally and in all the provinces, a technology tool that will allow, on a moment by moment basis, for Health outbreaks to be quickly and proactively identified. In this way, in any school, community, district, or province, teachers can be better protected, millions of lives can hopefully be kept safer, and those with higher health risks can be alerted timeously, and get the care they need to get well. Through working to create a proactive, daily, early-warning system, this tool can assist to keep schools open, and thereby keep learning alive across the country, allowing every young person to keep working towards their own educational, employment, and entrepreneurial dreams," said Taddy Blecher, E3 ‘s National Chairperson.

The content featured will include Training and Development modules for teachers, a weekly video and text-based Resources, guidance on how to develop critical 21st Century Competencies in our learners, and even access to digital Professional Learning Communities and support from highly skilled teacher development coaches.

Teachers, parents, and learners can access HealthCheck on TeacherConnect 24/7 by saving the number +27 60 060 3333 to their contacts and then messaging the word ‘hi’ to start a conversation or do a HealthCheck.

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