Archive for March, 2011
At this point in time, it is looking very much like Ron Wertlen is going to be giving sneak previews of TeleWeaver at the World Cafe at SEWF2011. All interested persons are invited to come by to the WorldCafe gatherings at lunch time and see what this future rural access software offers!!
–> On the one hand the public is unaware of the problem, or even glad to ignore it and sweep it under the carpet.
–> On the other hand, youths are unaware of their options, their rights and the possibility to make their voice heard through team work and mass action.
** Some Statistics: unemployment in the Eastern Cape for ages 15- 64 was 27%, StatsSA 2010, where unemployment historically in the age group 15-24 is about double that.
- The most exciting technical aspect is that even schools without Internet access or very low Internet quota can use it. Nevertheless, they can connect to any other school in the network, even oversees. (How?)
- The most exciting tool of awareNet is the possibility for collaborative content creation which means that a group of learners from various schools can work together on any project that they like. (Examples)
- The most exciting collaboration is with Upstart, the Paper for the Youth be the Youth. Outstanding projects are published in the supplement of the Grocott’s Mail, Grahamstowns local newspaper. (Example)
- The most exciting community engagement is performed by Thozi Ngeju, our community coordinator who goes into various schools in Rhini-Grahamstown to teach the learners how to use a computer, the Internet and awareNet. (More about Thozi >>)
- And most exciting of everything is that awareNet is improving on a daily basis thanks to the learners and Thozi who give their feed back and Richard Strickland who enhances awareNet according to their needs. (The technical details will follow in the next blog about the technical background of awareNet.)
RLabs is a partner of the VSA. I work for the VSA and also happen to be the chairperson of the Grahamstown branch of RLabs called RLabs Rhini. RLabs is a living lab that works to rehabilitate ex-gangsters and ex-drug dealers. Here in
Grahamstown we are going to focus on peer pressure because many matriculants end up drinking themselves into a stupor at taverns just because they want to fit.
I had the privilage of representing this branch at a conference run by Living Labs in Southern Africa at the RLabs headquartes in Athlone, Cape Town on 1st & 2nd March 2011. It was a success considering that all present Living Labs shared their information freely in order to grow together.
Present at the conference were: Siyakhula Living Lab from Rhodes University; RLabs, the hosts; RLabs Rhini; North West Living Lab; ENoLL who was representing Open Living Labs and Living Labs Global and LAUREA a member of the Europian Network of Living Labs.
The first day the different Labs shared how they were established and the kind of challenges they are facing as a Lab. On the second day RLab facilitators shared Social Media information and the importance of the way forward as the LLiSA Network to get maximum publicity using the Social Media Tools.
I spent Thursday and Friday with the RLabs’ team. From that information we are starting our work in a week’s time. RLabs Rhini’s first generation of trainees will work over a period of 28 days which will be broken into fourteen weeks. That is, four months. We will introduce them on the uses of communication websites and I hope my hometown will gain from my trip to Cape Town.
To get things going one has to go out and meet people. Best if you don’t know what the goal is. Anna and Ron Wertlen went to Cape Town for three quite different and very interesting meetings.
- RLabs and Marlon Parker in Athlone: The VSA, eKhaya ICT and RLabs want to work closely together and use each others brains, facilities, softwares and applications, developing new ways of connecting communities and educating and involving different people into the various ongoing projects.
- Mr Maxwell and Mr Kilpert in Plumstead: The VSA and eKhaya ICT are planning to develop and produce a new product to enable teachers without Internet access to impart the pros and risks of the Internet. We talked to skilled and committed creative designers and concept developers and decided to go ahead as soon as we have the financial backup.
- Private investors at the Waterfront: We discussed the possibility of the VSA as a benefactor of a new multi-million Rand development project at the Wild Coast whose profit will be fed into community projects. Benefits can only be expected from the second half of 2012.
In South Africa taxi associations do not pay taxis and from what I understand, they’re not really in awe of the government. For instance, if the government tries to introduce a bus system; they kick up a storm – until the proposed system is shelved or scraped. Hence they hike up their prices at will.
It is, therefore, a strange and eye-opening experience when you are in a taxi and people find out that you are attending a conference, you are taking a plane. Suddenly they think you must be swimming in money and they hike the fare. Such was my experience when I had to get from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth. Because I don’t drive I depend on public transport, and a taxi is cheapest. It also didn’t help that I was in a hurry and the driver understood that I depended on him only to get me there on time.
Isn’t it ironic that when there’s bound to be an unwelcome experience it’s closer to home and people who don’t know you are always more hospitable. We’ve got two sayings in isiXhosa, “Imbongi inconywa ezizweni” and “Umthi omhle ukhiwa ezizweni”. Translated these mean “A poet gets apreciated elsewhere” and “You have to travel to get value”.
I got on the plane and had a little tiff with a white gentleman over my luggage which was on his side of compatment. But before five minutes were over we were talking about experiences of flying. It turned out we’d been in a plane together (although at different sections of a plane) in 2003 when the plane experience turbulance.
When I disembacked I found that I needed not to fear because somebody from RLabs – who had organised my trip – was already there to take me to meet his team. That’s efficiency.
The place I stayed was in Pinetown and is owned by a lady from here in Africa but outside of this country. It is welcoming to note that a person we would call ‘ikwarakwara’ should be so friendly. It shows that it’s not where a person comes from that is the problem but attitude. That sentence is in light of the strange stories about the people from northern African states who come to South Africa & play all sorts of crooked tricks on locals.
The conference itself – an event organised by the LLiSA Network (Living Labs in Southern Africa) was a great success.
Albert Yovu is a modern day hero. He is a quiet unassuming man, with a wide smile and a passion for teaching. He also loves working with computers. He teaches Life Sciences to grade 11 and 12 learners at Zwelenqaba SSS. He is one of the 4000 temporary teachers whose contracts were summarily cancelled in December 2010, plunging the Eastern Cape schooling system even further into chaos!
Mr. Yovu says that the Zwelenqaba school approached him to continue teaching with a little support from the community. He says, “I am sacrificing myself for these children, but I can’t do it for long. I also have a family to feed.”
Manuela Walsdorf-Maul from the Technical University Berlin and Anna Wertlen from the Village Scribe Association visited the Bulungula Incubator (BI) in Nqileni last week (2.-6.3.11). Together with Annette Champion, Rejane and Dave Martin, they discussed the possibilities for a school extension project in the area. Mrs Walsdorf suggested that German students finish outstanding work and build a few more class rooms as part of their practical assignments to receive their degree. The BI suggested that such work would best serve the Xhora Mouth School, because they have very motivated learners and teachers. The VSA and BI would facilitate the project and ensure sustainability. A fist contact to the school staff was made and measurements of buildings taken. Next steps are to write funding proposals and to draw up a construction plan. We will keep you updated about further developments.