Archive for July, 2011
The 6th International Conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training took place in Dar es Salaam in May 25-27 2011. Ron attended the Conference and his talk was subsequently mentioned in their press release. They gave him quite a lot of attention in the section New technologies for learning integration:
“Ronald Wertlen from eKhaya ICT, South Africa, highlighted how the open source platform ‘awareNet’ was significantly improving education in some of the poorest schools in South Africa. He said, “Many young Africans grow up in a culture where personal self-respect is squashed by gross disrespect for human life. Sub-standard services in terms of health, policing, education, etc., and subsequent high mortality rates, as well as dismantled cultural traditions, teach young people that intrinsic motivation is worthless since the self itself is worthless. awareNet teaches young people that their voice can be heard and that there is someone listening.“
We are proud of this positive feedback. Find the whole press release here.
All VSA members are invited to the second Annual General Meeting of the Village Scribe Association. The AGM takes place on Saturday, the 20th of August at 11am, South African time, at 9 Florence Street in Grahamstown, South Africa. If you live too far away from Grahamstown you have the possibility to participate using skype. In this case, please send us your skype name to be added to the conference call.
We will use the AGM to report about the VSA’s activities and answer all your questions. We encourage you to take part and tell us your opinion about future projects and goals. We are open for ideas and criticism.
We would like to take this opportunity to remind all members to pay their yearly membership fee (July 11 – June 12). You can find our banking details here and the different types of membership fees here. Thank you very much for your support.
It’s time to give you some background about Inyaniso, our new partner for awareNet. I am just going to take some information out of the Grocott’s Mail, the Grahamstown local newspaper (the 19/07/11 issue), because I couldn’t find any electronic information yet.
Inyaniso (‘the truth’) consists of the two artists Zukani Melikhaya and his nephew Melikhaya, born and bread in the Raglan Road area (I’m not going to ever call it Jacob Zuma Driva area!). Initially performing kwaito they turned to HipHop and started collaborating with sound and recording engineer Corrine Cooper to produce the first album ‘Inyaniso’ which will be released later this month. (Find them on YouTube and awareNet.)
The album is intended to spark discussions about social issues from drugs and alcohol to corruption in governmental offices. Zukani strongly believes that HipHop needs a good message and should not just entertain and motivate people to party while they live a miserable life. It is this statement that impresses the Village Scribe Association and that makes Inyaniso the perfect partner for awareNet. Together we want to fight ignorance, phlegm, bad education and unemployment which results from the former.
Are you aware Yet?
The VSA and a lot of amazing partners become serious now about the awareNet theme Song Project. You probably wonder what it’s all about. Let me explain. It’s going to be an amazing story for Peace Day, I hope.
It all started with the idea that awareNet needs a song for the learners and all partners to sing, to identify, to unify and to let everyone feel the strength. Music is an expression of life. Gabriel Spilkin kindly offered to produce a song in a style that was determined by the awareNet users: We added a poll to awareNet. At the moment it looks like HipHop, RnB and House are the favourites. Thank you for donating your professional work, Gabriel!
The local band Inyaniso (on YouTube) kindly offered to train kids from four schools (Mahlasela PSS, Nyaluza SS, Mary Waters HS and VGHS) how to sing and rap. Our first session took place yesterday at Mahlasela PSS and the artists Zukani, Melikhaya, Sivuyile and Lunga did wonders to the faces and the bodies of the learners. Thank you for your spirit! From being scared and shy they slowly took a liking in the idea and started tapping their feet and quickly trying to learn the words. Smiles! The best thing that could happen was that the equipment didn’t work, so we had to listen to a song by Inyaniso from their car’s loudspeakers. Classic! And can you believe it: One of the learners was already playing the exact song from his phone even though it’s not even published yet! How is that?! - These kids are amazingly connected and just naturally using technology as part of their life.
We are also very grateful to Corinne Cooper, owner of SonicArtStudio and lecturer of Sound Technology at Rhodes University. She offered to work with the kids on the song and to record them after they have shown their performance on stage on Peace Day. This is absolutely fantastic. The VSA is very much looking forward to having a song that can be played and sung online and offline. We will make sure that people will listen to it not only in Africa, but overseas and in connection with the aware Yet? Campaign.
What I currently work on is to find a suitable hall for the music event on Peace Day and to find some form of sponsorship to pay for the rent, the music equipment, the advertising and some material. If you think this is a good project and this is worth a donation, please contact us. I will keep you updated about the project. Watch this space and follow us on facebook and twitter!
Every year I work as a theatre technician at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. This year my venue was Commemoration (Commem) Church and because this is a church productions that were performed there had to have a celestial feel about them. There were orchestras, jazz bands, marimba groups; and then there were two prison groups – and both performed free shows.
One group is from eXesi (Middledrift) and the other is local. The group from eXesi did two performances outside just below the church stairs. They were doing quasi-traditional dance to maskanda music which they apparently recorded. I fell in the habit of trying to figure out what each could be in for. Their leader seemed like a wealthy man and he joked with the prison warders a lot. I figured that he should be a loan shark or a drug dealer. There was one fellow who did not seem mentally stable – the type who could rape a five year old child. He kept saying: “Only God knows’, and when I asked what he meant by that he only stared blankly into my eyes and I almost froze.
The group from the Grahamstown prison performed in and outside. Inside because they were doing drama and outside for marimba and gospel music. One time outside while they were singing a song entitled ‘Kwanele’ meaning ‘enough’ a man came running with a plastic bag in his hands but was caught by two other men who were about to stab him when the police arrived and rescued him by arresting him.
Another time after their performance inside a boy of about nine demanded to be let through backstage. However I tried to convince him that he was not allowed to, he kept asking who I was to tell him that. Eventually the man he wanted to see came out. When I told him about the trouble the boy was giving me he looked depressed.
He later confessed that he had a reputation for being good with the knife, so much that family members had become errogant knowing he would fight their battles for them – and that’s what has kept him in the world of crime for so long. The nine year old was his sister’s child and he had already started using a pen as a knife at school.
Shame! some of these fellows did look rehabilitated. The only pity is that they will come out of prison with some unfortunate scars. In one of their drama pieces they confessed to being used as women in prison. This means that they are being raped by other men.
When you come across some of these things, you wonder what could I do to help better the cituation. If the Village Scribe Association could get permission to record and publish some of their plays (short but good plays), marimmba playing or their dancing online, maybe it would help make their plight noticed by more people who could contribute jobs for these guys when they come out.
One of the VSA’s most important assignments is networking and the provision of information. We always keep you updated about all our projects and activities. We care about transparency. You can find us on many channels: this blog, our newsletter, awareNet, facebook, twitter, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. We are always happy to receive feed back via email or to meet people personally. We think it incredibly inspiring to talk to people who have the same mission and work in the same field. We do not see rivalry, but the possibility for partnership, because the work we do is for others. We are happy when other people want to join us in that mission.
That’s why the South African National Arts Festival (30/06-10/07/11) was such a wonderful event for us, because we had the chance to listen to people to find out what they do and think, and to connect with them to make plans to work together. Firstly, of course I have to mention Upstart’s book launch at Nun’s Chapel. Shireen Badat and Harry Owen managed to organise and motivate and inspire a large group of Grahamstown’s underprivileged learners to write poetry and to publish their poems in a book called “I write who I am”. And these poems are good! Immediately, I contacted them to find out if they would write some more poetry to help us with the lyrics for our awareNet theme song - and they agreed! What an opportunity!
We also went to take part in the ThinkFest! of the Arts Festival and listened to talks by Elinor Sisulu about ‘Bridging the literacy and digital devide’ and Sisonke Msimang about ‘Leadership, Citizenship and South Africa’s political trajectory’, strong and smart women who can attract real thinkers and arouse healthy discussions that are not only full of criticism of the system or the people, but also full of ideas for solutions. We met a lot of people who do fantastic work and want to collaborate with us o make a difference.
Thank you all! For listening, reading, talking, communicating, and collaborating.
Unfortunately, my positive feelings were brought down again this week by the appearance and behaviour of South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma who visited Grahamstown to receive the Key to the City and to rename Raglan Road into Jacob Zuma Avenue for as little as R250 000. That is pure insult, conceitedness and ignorance. When a president travels, it’s expensive, right, but that is not interesting. Interesting is what you do when you meet your people. Do you listen to their needs and ask them what they hope for or do you endless chatter about your ancestors and praise the past? Do you spend the money for renaming a road after yourself which is only heard of dictators or do you talk to the local government and see how much money and support they need to improve the area?
Communication is the key to success – but talk to your children and not to your ancestors!