A RESEARCH report has painted a sorry picture of South African schools’ readiness to teach e-learning, finding most teachers are not trained in computer skills.

In its report released on Thursday, educational publisher Via Afrika said most provinces believed schools were not ready for information and communication technology (ICT).

In 2004, the then department of education, which included basic and higher education, released a white paper on the implementation of e-learning. The target was to capacitate schools to teach ICT by the end of this year.

But statistics released in Parliament last year by the Department of Basic Education showed only about 6,000 of the country’s 25,870 schools were ICT-ready. Problems included a lack of funding and staff training, and limited and expensive internet connectivity.

The Human Sciences Research Council has said South Africa’s economic growth is stifled by a severe skills shortage, especially in ICT, engineering, maths and accounting. It blamed the poor quality of teaching.

Via Afrika looked at the percentage of schools with appropriate buildings and electricity, and attitudes towards ICT in classrooms.

It found that of South Africa’s 413,067 teachers, only 132,884 had been trained in basic computer skills and ICT equipment by 2011.

At least six government policy papers on implementing e-learning were available to provinces. Each was running three concurrent strategies, with one running five.

The research was conducted using a questionnaire distributed to ICT officials across all provincial education departments and augmented with secondary sources.

Via Afrika CEO Christina Watson said this was the company’s first report, but that it planned to release them annually.

"While limited, this study marks an important starting point from which to build our knowledge base on an annual basis in this growing field," Ms Watson said.

National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa president Basil Manuel said schools were ready for ICT, but lack of hardware meant fewer teachers were prepared. Resources were in rich schools and the government needed to focus on poorer rural schools.