Bridges to the Future Initiative
The Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI) was modeled on a pilot project in India, begun in 2004 in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The concept behind it, to improve literacy through interactive, computer-based lessons, was developed by the University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI), which continues to support the programme. The initiative is spearheaded in South Africa by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy, a local non-governmental organization.
The programme not only improves access to good-quality educational materials, but also, by using native African languages, provides a critical motivation to learn for communities historically marginalized in South Africa. Although the province of Limpopo is one of the poorest in South Africa, a number of its schools (approximately 10% of the total) have computer laboratories. Typically though these only offer access to materials written in English. The BFI programme helps fill the gap in available mother-tongue resources in the region. It also builds on the inherently motivating features of ICTs in contemporary Africa. Working with the South African National Department of Basic Education, the programme has provided national leadership in the use of ICTs in learning and literacy. BFI South Africa provides a self-paced learning environment with continuous evaluation and support opportunities which help expand the scope of the programme beyond the school walls, engaging parents and children in intergenerational ICT-based literacy at home. It is one of the first programmes in South Africa to do this.