Richard Varha Technical High School in South Africa has officially opened its doors to a new era of education technology with the unveiling of the first South African Extended Reality (XR) public school classroom.
Fitted with world-class, cutting-edge education technology, the classroom was donated by XR EdTech company Nudle and Chinese VR Tech education giant KMAX, as part of their mission to revolutionise the way students in Africa learn.
The initiative came to be as a result of a partnership with the Eastern Cape’s Department of Education which sought to integrate 4th industrial revolution technologies into the current education system. Seeing the opportunity, Nudle pitched the idea of an extended reality smart school as a way to empower students with technology.
“So once we started the engagement with the department, we then went around and saw a few schools, after which we eventually decided on Richard Vihar Technical High School because we saw how committed the teachers and the learners were,” said Duren Munsami, founder and CEO of Nudle.
Extended Reality technology, according to Munsami, can transform education by offering immersive, interactive, and engaging learning experiences. Through XR experiences, learners can live the subject matter, which leads to memorable and engaging learning experiences.
Richard Varha Technical High School, located in Dimbaza, near King William’s Town, Eastern Cape, is one of the best-performing high schools in the Dimbaza area. The co-educational school currently has about 480 girls and 440 boys and holds the status of being a “Dinaledi school”—a recognition of its academic excellence in Mathematics and Science.
In 2012, the school started a process to accommodate the introduction of Electrical Technology, Mechanical Technology, Civil Technology and Engineering Graphics and Design to its curriculum.
The facility donated to the school is equipped with virtual reality headsets, AR/VR holographic displays, and AIO PCs, paired with software that utilises artificial intelligence, interactive 3D models and animations with special effects. Together, they create an immersive learning experience that simulates technical training in subjects such as automotive, robotics, electronics, and biology.
Preparing students for the future of learning
Munsami further stated that the extended reality classroom was built to prepare the students for the future of learning and to explore the boundless possibilities of education in the metaverse.
“The technology will help with practical workshop exercises without the need for actual equipment, providing a safe and engaging learning environment,” said Munsami. “Together with KMAX, Nudle aims to revolutionise how students in Africa learn by providing immersive and engaging learning experiences powered by cutting-edge XR technology. By integrating Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, and Augmented Reality into education, they aim to make learning more interactive, fun, and practical.”
Despite the success of launching the project, it has also faced its fair share of challenges. One of those was the need for internet connectivity and power to run the classroom, which many schools in rural South Africa do not have. To address this, the classroom was equipped with satellite internet donated by Morclick.
“We got sponsorships from Morclick and Multiseat to provide reliable internet. Additionally, to address the power issues, Nudle actually set up solar energy for the classroom which we remodelled to make it look really cool and futuristic.”
More to come
According to Munsami, Nudle will continue to work with Richard Varha High School to integrate the extended reality hardware and software in the South African school curriculum to boost knowledge transfer and improve the matric pass rate.
The edtech startup has also announced that they would be donating more classrooms throughout the year with KMAX and its strategic partnership with UNESCO-ICHEI (a secondary centre of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to support digital transformation in Africa.
In addition, Nudle spoke about its upcoming XR application platform in development, which will enable teachers and trainers to build education programs in AR/VR with no code experience, and the integration of GPT’s natural language processing to enable real-time, conversational interactions between students and virtual teachers.
“The launch of the first South African Extended Reality Classroom in the public school system marks a significant milestone in Africa’s education technology evolution. The facility is poised to change the way students learn, offering them a safe, immersive, and engaging learning environment that is sure to inspire and motivate them for years to come,” Munsami concluded.
According to the statistics, in 2021, only 3.5% of South African matric students achieved a 60% or more pass rate in mathematics whilst in physical science, this figure stood at 3.1%. Initiatives like Nudle’s have the possibility to contribute a lot in improving these perfomances by engaging technologies such as extended reality in classrooms to aid and facilitate more engaging learning.