Archive for October, 2011
The VSA published a short film about the music event on Peace Day. Have a look at the outcome of our wonderful project, in which learners from 5 schools in Grahamstown learned how to use computers and the Internet, how to write HipHop lyrics and perform them on stage in only 2 months.
Please, watch this video on YouTube.
All of this could not have been possible without our partners: eKhaya ICT, Sonic Art Studio, Inyaniso and Peace One Day. Thank you for the fantastic collaboration!
RU Community Engagement held a function for all their volunteers, in which they received awards for their special involvement in the various organisations in Grahamstown that work for or with the community. CE is committed to social and individual transformation, sustainable community development, student civic responsibility and scholarship of engagement. The VSA is one of the many host organisations within the CE network.
In the course of this year, about 8 students engaged themselves in the ICT4D work of the VSA by means of teaching computer and Internet literacy in conjunction with our community coordinators by means of awareNet. three of them received an award for their effort: Lesego Moshikaro, Philisiwe Mbogwana and Eva Zake.
The mutual benefit of this is evident: The volunteers generally enjoy the experience, gain personal growth and get an insight to life after University. They do make a difference and stand out from the rest. Thank you very much for your passion and commitment!
Lesego Moshikaro assisted us during the awareNet Theme Song Project. She was very proactive, helpful and patient with the learners. We hope that she will come back to the VSA next year.
The awareNet software now has DVD distribution for Microsoft(R) Windows(TM) – allowing anyone to set up their own social networking site and run it from an ordinary windows computer (XP, Vista or 7).
Once installed, awareNet can be run as a standalone site, or join with other awareNet installations in a peer-to-peer network. The peer-to-peer aspect allows users in to collaborate and share content while logged in to their local servers, merging smaller social networking sites into one larger one through voluntary trust relationships, and enabling remote or centralized administration. The current version of the P2P protocol works behind firewalls, over slow or intermittent connections and includes security features such as RSA signing of all transfers, without requiring any special configuration.
This is an important step for awareNet as many of the underprivileged and rural schools we hope could benefit from this software do not have access to the technical skills needed to set up a conventional web server, configure Windows or Linux networking and manage hardware, software and users. Nor do they have much time for staff to devote to the overhead this would usually require. Many, however, do have some working Windows computers, often older, donated machines, hooked up to a wired ethernet, perhaps with some limited internet connectivity.
Where schools do not have any internet connectivity awareNet can include and manage local copies of many online resources – entire wikis, video libraries, collections of books and so on, bringing learners at least part way across the digital divide.
Using this DVD, we hope that educators with only basic computer literacy can set up and manage the kinds of services that schools in the developed world take for granted – wikis, blogs, forums, instant messaging, video sharing, etc. Ideally, these networks can be owned by the schools and administered solely around their needs, not dependant support from NGOs or government programs and not compromised in their mission by the requirements of advertisers or commercial interests.
Like the Linux version, the Windows distribution runs on top of industry standard Free/Libre Open Source Software: Apache2, MySQL and PHP5, all controlled from XAMPP. Both versions offer the same set of features, and now have much better support for Internet Explorer (from version 7 on).
The windows distribution is not yet generally available as a complete, packaged product, but please do contact us if you’d like to bring awareNet to your school, help with testing, or just play with it.
Within the scope of a professionalisation drive at the VSA, we are examining our relationships with close partners and making these explicit. The organisations that have signed and will soon be signing such agreements are close partners, Village Scribe Association Belgium-South Africa, eKhaya ICT and exPressive imPressions. The reason for these agreements are manifold:
* Formal agreements explain the organisational structure more clearly to potential funders.
* Avoidance of misunderstandings and expectation management are much easier to accomplish when one has a basic understanding of use of shared resources, as well as issues of ownership, etc.
* When drafting an MoU, one gets to think a little more deeply about how the relationship should look in the future.
We are very fortunate to have the wise counsel of our trustee Craig Renaud on such matters.
These memoranda of understanding are available to all members, and they may also be amended. We welcome any interest on your behalf.
I was born in a little town called Alice on the 31 March 1977. My school career was completed in Fort Beaufort were I matriculated in 1995. At the end of 1995 my whole family moved to Grahamstown and I have been in Grahamstown ever since. I’m the youngest of four children and have three older brothers. My dad is a retired policeman and my mom is no longer with us. She past away in 2001. I met my husband in 2001 on the road while out running. Our friendship grew strongly and into a marriage proposal. We got married in 2003 and we’ve been happily married ever since. I never had the opportunity to study after school due to financial difficulties. In my late 20s I did part time Computer Studies and also then completed a course in Sport Physiology.
My passion from a young age has always been to work with people, especially young people of all ages. I call myself a people’s person and have always been passionate working with people. The reason why I decided to become a Community Coordinator Assistant for the VSA was simply because I love working with people and assisting them where I can and give back to them as well. There is such a need out there to make a difference in people’s lives: to give them the opportunity they never really had, to learn and educate them about things in and around life, to teach them different skills, to uplift them in ways they never been uplifted. I am looking forward to this new venture and opportunity of becoming a VSA Mentor. I know, this is what I’m meant to do with my life and future ahead.
The VSA was encouraged by Riana Meiring (Director of Local Economic Development) to apply for funding from the Local and Regional Economic Development (LRED) Fund of the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT).
The DEDEAT is very interested in stimulating local economic development in partnership with municipalities, so the VSA went into partnership with the Makana Local Municipality (MLM) and signed a partnership agreement. This was followed by the grant proposal, in which the VSA is the main applicant and grant beneficiary and the MLM is the assisting partner.
We applied for funding for our ECSPIRT Project, which facilitates awareNet workshops and builds partnerships with various organisations for educational content. This is very exciting and we are holding our thumbs for a positive feedback.
The VSA and three of our partners, eKhaya ICT, Left2Write and ReedHouseSystems, went together to rural Nkwalini in the Eastern Cape for several reasons. One was to hold a social networking workshop using awareNet for learners, teachers and community coordinators of the Zwelenqaba SSSchool (27.-28.09.11). Richard Strickland from eKhaya ICT updated the awareNet server and the laptops’ browsers and fixed a few of the laptops of the solar school computer lab. Anna Wertlen from the VSA brushed up the teachers’ and coordinator’s knowledge and introduced about 50 new learners to awareNet. Erika Wertlen from Left2Write chaired a session about blogging and publishing during the workshop. Then, all learners blogged about solar energy. Additionally, Mrs E Wertlen delivered a great donation of books and magazines to the school’s library on behalf of Left2Write. Further, Ronald Wertlen as director of RHS followed up on an investigation of mobile banking and most importantly was concerned with maintaining relationships with the community and the schools in advance of the TeleWeaver rollout.
The community welcomed us warmly and had prepared our visit well. The learners worked with great enthusiasm and concentration and thanked us with a self-composed song about computers and solar energy. Siphiwo Msindwana, the community coordinator, acted very professionally by consulting eKhaya ICT for mediation between the community and the school. Disagreements werecleared. The teachers were overwhelmed by the generosity of Left2Write and promised to use the new resources wisely.
We also paid a visit to Bulunbula Incubator to maintain our partnership and talk about current and future projects.A German member of the VSA came all the way to accompany us and ask a lot of questions to show oversea’s interest. All in all, it was a very successful and very busy trip. We hope that we can repeat it soon in many other rural schools in South Africa and beyond. Please, contact us if you are interested.