Archive for May, 2012
We proudly announce that the VSA was invited to present the concept and outcomes of the awareNet programme at the TEDx in Berlin, Germany this year.
The event will take place in November, 23rd. There is no online description yet. Watch this space for more information about theme, venue and invitations!
The VSA was invited to attend the SAGE Net Workshop on International Volunteering last week. Most of the participants are hosts for the Weltwärts Exchange Programme and wanted to exchange their experiences with their volunteers to learn from each other and discuss benefits and challenges of working with volunteers. The VSA had volunteers (local and international) in the past and also presently. Most of our volunteers are part of the Rhodes University Community Engagement Programme who work quite differently to the international volunteers.
The main difference is that they spend less time volunteering and are usually less educated and experienced which makes it more difficult for hosts to really benefit from them. It would help if CE volunteers would be introduced to the basic ideas of volunteering in a special workshop beforehand. The more benefit is gained by the volunteers who often, for the first time in their lives, encounter real work and life situations outside school and university. So, despite the difficulties, we think it important to work with volunteers to open up horizons and show opportunities.
Most of the hosts also discussed the difficulties which arise when local staff and international volunteers have to work together, because of culture clashes (language, dress codes, personal relationships, etc.) and different expectations and goals. But all in all, everyone agreed that such differences should rather be seen as an advantage than a problem, because different tasks can be assigned to more competent people for example.
Thank you, SAGE Net, for this very helpful and informative workshop that also gave good opportunities for networking. We are looking forward to have Hobbiton as our partner for awareNet content on board.
At this year’s SciFest, the VSA presented awareNet to the public, mostly to learners, teachers and other visitors who were interested in education and science. The audience was excited and very inspired. Visitors got to try out awareNet on site and were able to upload their photos and videos, blog their experiences at SciFest and chat to one another. Our stand was all the time pretty busy! So, we were interviewed several times by newspapers, the radio and also BayTV. Watch for yourself!
BayTV provides quality viewing entertainment to all facets of demographics residing in and around the Bay area. It can be found on the UHF bandwidth at 735.25 MHz,bBy using a terrestrial aerial.
This year, the wireless link provided by the Rhodes University CoE for Ntsika Secondary’s Internet access has not been stable enough to use for awareNet classes. There has been barely enough bandwidth for the staff to do email. There are not enough resources to solve the problems with wireless link, and a fix is scheduled for later in the year.
This is a very common and very real situation in our schools. It’s also a common situation in other African schools in African centres, where Internet is becoming more and more important to education.
awareNet is designed to solve this problem — and it has successfully been doing so at Ntsika school for the last two weeks!
The results have been amazing! The following diagrammes show how the system works:
AT NTSIKA SECONDARY SCHOOL (figure 1)
1. Take a simple R2500 laptop loaded with an awareNet server (free).
2. Plug the server into the LAN.
3. Do an awareNet class on the mobile server – let the children socially network!
4. Unplug the mobile server and take it back to the office…
AT OUR VSA OFFICE (figure 2)
1. Purchase inexpensive high-speed Internet (1Mbps, uncapped data transfer) – we recently did this because prices dropped! This connection is (as so often) not available in the township where copper wire required by ADSL is commonly stolen.
2. Plug-in the mobile server at night and allow it to synchronise.
Step 2 is really simple! The process is completely automatic and there’s nothing to do except attach to our office WiFi LAN. The mobile server automatically synchronises with the rest of the awareNet network, bringing blogs, forum updates, project posts from the kids at Ntsika to the ‘Net and vice-versa.
THE TOTAL DISTANCE TRAVELLED BY THE LAPTOP PER DAY IS 20 KM (figure 3).
This month Masifunde in Port Elizabeth will start using a mobile awareNet server, so we thought we should also use one at Ntsika.
Masifunde is the first of a number of NGO partners who will start bringing awareNet to their learners to bolster technology familiarity and awareness.
It pays off to be an awareNet user. Apart from working on exciting projects together with learners from various different schools, you often have the possibility to be rewarded with things like free theater visits, restaurant outings, scientific tours or – in this case – free tickets to the Eastern Cape Schools Festival 2012 in Grahamstown.
The Grahamstown Foundation is a continuous partner of the Village Scribe Association and has offered us for the 3rd time in a row free tickets for our learners. This year, 13 grade 11 learners from Mary Waters HS will participate together with Mrs Funeka Jacobs, our awareNet coordinator at that school. Last year, the learners came from Benjamin Mahlasela SS, Nathaniel Nyaluza PSS and Ntsika SS. Again, the learners will document what they have learned during the Festival and then write a bulletin on awareNet. Have a look at the EC Schools Fest Bulletin from last year and look out for this year’s bulletin. We will inform you once it’s out.
Everyone is very excited and would like to thank the Grahamstown Foundation for their community work!
The VSA is now listed in the SANGONeT Prodder Directory, the most comprehensive online directory about NGOs and other development organisations in South Africa.
Background about Prodder: Information and knowledge have become critical determinants of development and the driving forces behind economic progress in today’s competitive world. Access to credible information is a strategic prerequisite for the success of development projects and processes. It empowers decision-making and enables action across a wide range of development issues.
Mission of Prodder: The ultimate objective of Prodder is to highlight the activities of organisations involved in development work in South Africa. It provides a reference point for donors and other stakeholders that want to engage with the NGO sector and maps the scope and scale of NGO activities throughout South Africa.
Prodder is an integral part of SANGONeT’s NGO Pulse Portal which provides a gateway to the NGO sector in South Africa.
A dedicated group of awareNet learners at VGHS became involved in the campaign for minimum norms and standards for education under the direction of Dr Sarah Hanton (winner of the Judges Award of the Microsoft Partners in learning Forum 2012; in the picture above). The campaign is currently being waged by Equal Education, an NPO based in the Western Cape – but with the backup of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in Grahamstown. Dr Hanton explains: “The aim is to persuade the Government to adopt a set of legally binding minimum norms and standards for educational infrastructure. The idea of this is not to set impossible goals but to have accountability and a benchmark set to allow proper planning for systematic reform. Currently many schools do not have electricity, water, safe buildings let alone science and computer laboratories or libraries. We feel that a right to an education should infer a right to a decent educational infrastructure, otherwise the opportunities for learning are limited.”
awareNet is an official co-curricular at VGHS and perfectly suited to link schools for such a campaign. It already has linked learners at VGHS with learners from previously disadvantaged schools and served as a means to engage and exchange ideas and knowledge. Now, VGHS is taking it a step further after experiencing in a previous project that not all learners have equal access to resources. Today, almost all teachers at VGHS taught with no or very limited resources, eg. no text books, electricity (so no overheads, digital projectors computers, etc.) and no photocopied worksheets. The number of desks, chairs and blackboard sizes were reduced or not used at all, some classes of different grades and subjects were taught together in store rooms, some toilets were locked and there was no toilet paper. Nonetheless teaching had to be meaningful, so it was a great challenge for the learners as well as for the teachers. At the end of the teaching day all learners and teachers were asked to complete a questionnaire reflecting on their experiences of the day and their thoughts regarding the facility of learning / teaching with few or no resources. These data will be compiled and published on awareNet and sent to LRC and Equal Education so that they can be used.
The main aim of this project was to raise awareness of the equal education campaign and provide useful statistics to equal education and the LRC which can be used in their campaign. The questionnaire has also been published on awareNet to get data from schools that didn’t participate today, most of them in the Grahamstown township area.
Teachers, learners and facilitators were interview by Grocott’s Mail and the Daily Dispatch, articles will be published next week. Tweets with impressions of the day and opinions can be found under #FixOurSchools. Two Anthropology students, Kiarin Gillies and Louise Featherstone, were on site to document the social impact of the event.