Archive for April, 2011
VSA submitted 5 pictures for eLearning Africa Photo Competition – help us win and vote for us! no comments
The eLearning Africa Conference Photo Competition asked for pictures with the theme Capture this! How ICTs are empowering people across Africa. The VSA submitted 5 pictures including descriptions.
M favourite description is this one: Upstarters being aware (to vote click here)
An innovative, true multimedia project that drew a lot of attention: The Village Scribe Association (international NGO) and eKhaya ICT (South African local IT business) developed a social networking software awareNet especially designed to be used largely offline, adapting to rural and peri-urban setting. Eastern Cape learners benefit from free lessons and a partnership with the Zazi Foundation for educational video content about health: teachAIDS videos, provided by the Stanford University School of Education. Inspired by the World AIDS Day 2010, learners collaboratively worked on a project about HIV/AIDS in wiki style. Certain parts of this projects were selected online by the Management of Grocott’s Mail, Grahamstown’s independent newspaper, to be included in the November 2010 Upstart supplement (The Paper for Youth by Youth). Here you can see the learners proudly reading their articles in the Upstart Paper. The photograph was taken by Rhodes University Community Engagement volunteers who work with the learners on several projects on awareNet. Together they started an awareNet photo project in which photos for the ‘eLearning Africa Photo Competition 2011′ were taken, uploaded, described, and chosen for submission.
The other pictures are called:
- Curiosity, awareness and motivation (to vote click here)
- Solar Panels, Off-line Internet and awareNet (to vote click here)
- Rural SA cooperates with German University (to vote click here)
- When power is more of a problem than owning a cell (to vote click here)
Please, help us to win the competition and vote for us! Thank you.
Dietrich von Richthofen, a German journalist, visited Grahamstown and the rural Eastern Cape in January 2011. After a series of long interviews with Ron Wertlen (eKhaya ICT and Reed House Systems CTO) and Anna Wertlen (Village Scribe Association), Sibukele Gumbo (Siyakhula Living Lab Management Unit) and Alfredo Terzoli (Rhodes University – Centre of Excellence) and a field trip to a part of the Siyakhula Living Lab, he published an article in DIE ZEIT, a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism with an estimated readership of 2m.
The article describes the difficulties of bringing technologies into rural Africa using the Siyakhula Living Lab, Reed House Systems and its software TeleWeaver as an example. The reader gains a small insight into part of the projects, implemented in Grahamstown and the Eastern Cape, and a rough overview of the ICT4D situation in general. Thank you for the publication, Ditsch!
You can read the full article including a number of comments here.
During my school days you joined a typing or Home Economics class at the risk of being called a sissy. So, although I knew I wanted to write, I did woodwork instead. We call those the good old days.
Fortunately for me, during those extended school boycotts some friends of mine and I took part in classes of an NGO called GPP (Grahamstown People’s Programme). My three friends took up karate, I took a piano class. Because I wanted to be closer to a certain girl, I joined the typing class just for the hell of it.
I remember Elvis teasing me saying he’d need a secretary in future. I did not know then that I’d need to use a computer most of my working life. In fact he (Elvis) became a policeman; and I suppose his karate comes in handy there.
I’m reminded of this as I currently work with schools. I motivate learners by saying their true potential is sometimes not discovered in the curricula classes but in the extra-mural activities they join. I tell them the story of Mcebisi Ntleki who is now a professor at Oxford University.
He comes from Grahamstown, from the same disadvantaged schoos as the rest of us. But because he cherished the challenges that came his way, some unselfish white teachers pushed him to pastures that eventually cultivated his mind.
Opportunities come and go. But the youth don’t always want to lose their spare time, do they? We have to prod them along nevertheless. That is the task that the VSA and awareNet have.
awareNet is now sending daily automated updates about certain activity to @VillageScribeSA. Please, follow us to see what’s going on in our social network for South African and other interested learners.
Insights that are posted are completely anonymous to protect the privacy of the awareNet users, e.g. you will receive a note about which project was created or edited, but not by whom.
This new exciting feature keeps all awareNet users up to date, e.g. our Community Engagement volunteers receive a note about the learners’ activity while they are not on site and can go online to react faster which in turn is very appreciated by the learners.
We also hope to attract more users to our social network. If you are interested in joining, please contact us! Every learner or teacher is welcome!
It’s been an exciting few months here at eKhaya ICT as we prepare to release awareNet-in-a-box. This is a social networking product for education, the goal of which is to turn any ordinary Windows computer into a social media hub, giving schools and communities access to communication, publishing and collaboration tools similar to those so widely used in the developed world, but designed to operate in the unreliable and bandwidth-poor telecommunications environment of rural South Africa.
These hubs can then be linked together into a peer-to-peer network – to allow chat, messaging and document sharing between different local networks – making very frugal use bandwidth while allowing near-real-time collaboration where a connection exists.
Most importantly, awareNet-in-a-box acts as a content manager – hosting local copies of much of the amazing free content available on the internet, bringing the Schools Wikipedia, Gutenberg Books, Kahn Academy video lessons and much more into this integrated social environment, into disadvantaged schools, and exporting it to student’s mobile phones.
To make all of this happen we’ve had to make a lot of changes to awareNet – getting it to work on Windows (awareNet was first built for Linux), simplifying management and installation, and making the P2P protocol simpler, more reliable and able to operate behind firewalls. Many features have been expanded, and development and administrative features added to the awareNet core. The main thrust of this effort is to allow volunteers and educators to be able to set these hubs up with a minimum of training and technical knowledge and have them work reliably.
We’ve also had a lot of content to import, reformat and package for distribution on DVD. We’re very grateful to WikiHow for providing us with access to their enormous collection of how-to manuals, The Village Scribe Association for arranging gigabytes of remedial video lessons from the excellent Khan Academy, SOS Children’s Villages for curating the Schools Wikipedia, and all the other sources of libre, gratis and copyleft resources that we’re making available via our software.
Thank you to them.
There is this sad, recurring trend of Grahamstown township schools being threatened with closure. This is even more unfortunate when you consider that the town holds a very important role in South African Black education. Nathaniel Nyaluza High School and Andrew Moyakhe Primary School are among the oldest schools in the Eastern Cape.
It is also interesting to note that, with the exception of Nombulelo Secondary School, township schools are named after someone who must have been very important in the community at some point. Makana Primary School, for example, is named after a very influencial Xhosa seer of the 19th century.
Andrew Moyakhe Primary School, Benjamin Mahlasela Secondary School and Makana Primary School might close down in the not so distant future because they fail to attract learners. Perhaps it’s just normal evolution, but the schools have important sentimental value.
Mary Waters Hoerskool was dependent on temporary teachers and now those teachers have moved on. Although the school is not threatened with closure, it is sad to note that it is struggling just because of the negligance of the DoE (Department of Education).
Many of us, including me, do not know the history behind the names these schools are named after. The first time I took an interest in these names was when I started working for the VSA and had to go to the schools regularly. Maybe if we knew, we would play a more active role in helping with their upkeep.
What is the point of all this? Just that these are not just our childrens’ schools but most of us – those who grew up in the town – studied in these schools too. How about working together towards documenting their history and that of their namesakes?
The VSA started a great collaboration with Rhodes’ Community Engagement. CE organised 10 volunteers who are going to work with us for the year 2011. We are very happy to welcome such a large group of motivated, young and active students. Thank you very much for your interest!
The volunteers are going to join Thozi, Rhini’s community coordinator, into the awareNet classes at the various schools in Rhini to work together with the learners and assist Thozi in his work, ie. teaching. All of them are experienced Internet users and professional social networkers who cannot wait to get into contact – personally and electronically – with all those learners who have very little experience in this field.
We believe that they will be a great inspiration for them (eg. by blogging about their own experiences and personal views on awareNet) and that they will motivate them to become more innovative and self-confident in the awareNet network. We hope that, together, they can work on important projects that will be published in Upstart for a greater audience, and that the learners will start discussing their opinions, issues and concerns more openly with increasing trust in the young volunteers – something that is usually missing in the South African traditional way of teaching.