Archive for the ‘eastern cape’ tag
South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has brought together a number of government agencies, local groups and stakeholders for an ambitious project in Cofimvaba, near Queenstown in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Goals include improving education, creating food security and building the local economy through agriculture and related SMEs. The project is currently based at the Arthur Mfebe Educational Centre, where awareNet is being used to develop learning materials for a new agriculture curriculum.
This is an exciting first for awareNet: there is currently no internet access or desktop computers at the school. Curriculum development work is done almost entirely on Android tablets connected to a portable hotspot – a laptop running Edubuntu 12.04 and the latest version of awareNet for mobile devices. Utilizing a wireless mesh network which will be built by the Department of Science and Technology, we hope awareNet will bring localized educational content and web services to mobile users in the wider Kwa Manzi community, and schools across the St Marks circuit.
For now – eKhaya ICT, supported by the VSA, has been training teachers and project members on the ground in the use of awareNet for collaborative authorship, creating multimedia on tablets, and use of the mobile server.
We originally set out to develop software to bridge the digital divide – to bring internet services and the opportunities which come with technology literacy to those who had been left behind, particularly in rural areas, and starting in the Eastern Cape. To see awareNet being used this way, and the enthusiasm of teachers at an under-resourced rural school to use and benefit from new technologies has been a shaft of sunlight in a cloudy month.
The beginning of the year was very difficult for the governmental schools in the Eastern Cape. Again, the temporary teachers’ posts were unassured and SADTU decided that all teachers had to go ‘Go Slow’. In the end – as usual – mainly the learners suffered from all the regulations and protests. At many schools, days ended early on a regular basis and additional teacher meetings reduced classes even further. Learners started worrying that they would miss too much to make it trough exams once again.
Also the VSA had great difficulties to work at the schools as usual since we are dependent on the teachers and principals to open up computer labs for us and inform us about time changes. Many awareNet sessions were cancelled. But we also had some very good conversations with teachers and principals and listened carefully to their problems and needs. In the end, we understood the situation much better and were able to work around it.
On the contrary, learners who participate in any of our awareNet workshops seem to enjoy the practical and challenging work a lot and excitedly talk about it to their peers. As a result, more and more learners approach us independently to ask for additional awareNet sessions in the afternoons when regular school has ended. We were able to accommodate them and principals and teachers agreed to keep the computer labs open for longer – a great achievement!
Also the teachers are more and more aware of the possibilities that come with integrating awareNet into their classes. We appointed two new awareNet teachers at Mary Waters HS and CM Vellem HPS who are now able to teach awareNet independently from the VSA – another step forward in awareNet’s sustainability.
The VSA facilitates the use of awareNet in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, especially in Grahamstown. We mentioned in a previous blog post, that the VSA is offering a large number of new and repeated projects on awareNet this first term of the year 2012. These include science, fitness&health, creative writing&blogging, software development and music, which are all combined with the advancement of computer&Internet literacy.
We are happy to report that this offer has brought us a very positive feed-back from the schools and more schools than ever are going to work with awareNet on a regularly basis, some of them even integrated awareNet workshops as a compulsory subject or as an official co-curricular.
In Grahamstown joined six underprivileged school which are situated in the township, 2 former Model C schools and one private school. In Port Elizabeth, we were approached by the Masifunde Learner Development Center that works with 10 underrivileged schools in the Walmer township. We are going to train their teachers, so that they will be able to use awareNet independently and collaborate with Grahamstown learners. Three rural schools which are going to use mobile awareNet servers are situated in the Zithulele district in the Wild Coast, and the Lady Frere district is currently investigating how many schools would be able to join aside from their Rural Teacher Training Center.
Thank you every one of you for your interest and motivation to provide education beyond your class room for your learners.
On Monday the 23rd of January, the Village Scribe Association visited the District Office of the ECDoE at Lady Frere. We met with Chulekazi Bula (District Office Director) and several other curriculum and technical staff. We wanted to find out whether awareNet, with its co-curricular and (ICT) literacy focus, would be of interest to the leadership of such a rural district. The officials at the department were very positive about the possibilities presented by awareNet. They highlighted aspects like improving motivation, energy for learning and use of the ICT labs, while preserving security and maintinging an educational focus. We were very impressed how the team of officials each brought up alternative worries or benefits and formulated their own reasons why the programme would work in the schools of the region.
The VSA has a plan to supply these schools with training, which involves hiring additional staff living nearby. Unfortunately, the funding for this programme is unclear, although there are several possible avenues, including via the Vodacom Regional Teacher Training Centre which is being opened in 2012 at Lady Frere, as well as private funding from England. The ECDoE officials voiced their impatience at having to wait and were determined to build a “nucleus of users” in advance of any other efforts, as a pilot. Possibilities for sustainability of the project include further options – more news around this area will surely follow in the next months.
We look forward to collaborating with the ECDoE in this beautiful and mountainous part of the Eastern Cape.
The VSA proudly received the following endorsement letter from the Eastern Cape Department of Education (DoE):
Endorsement of awareNet Learner Based Social Networking for Schools in the Eastern Cape
This letter certifies that the Eastern Cape DoE, as represented by the Hon. MEC for Education Mr. Mandla Makupula, supports the use of the awareNet network for collaborative learning in our schools.
The reasons for usage of said network are:
- Secure learning environment learning about social networking and online collaboration
- Inter-school collaboration
- Improved learner enthusiasm and motivation w.r.t. learning
- Lower Internet costs, in general, at school
- Support for mesh networks, which allow circuits of schools to be connected and for these to have free networking within their circuit.
We also understand that awareNet is a product of the Eastern Cape, created by eKhaya ICT in conjunction with the Village Scribe Association NPO, and is a world first as far as distributed social networking is concerned. We are proud to support a local product in our schools and are confident that a partnership with awareNet will go a long way towards skilling our youth for the future.
Please, contact us if you or your school would also like to benefit from the mentioned advantages.
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.
We had a fantastic music event at Peace Day yesterday, here in Grahamstown-South Africa! We celebrated Peace and awareNet with great HipHop music that was composed especially for this event. It took us only 2 months to get five groups together and train them to perform their own song in the contest while they learned how to use computers and the Internet in a productive and creative manner.
In the beginning, we showed Jeremy Gilley’s short movie about Peace One Day to give everyone the background about our cooperation. Then, there was a motivational message from Sakhile Moleshe, a musician who also grew up in the Eastern Cape and is now an international celebrity. We had great guest artists: Inyaniso, the Boys in Motion, Keegan Too Chilled Prince and Roddy Zipp. The judges, Erika Wertlen from Left2Write, Jared Lang and the latter two guest artists who all took their duty very seriously. And last but not least the prizes for the best song (Mary Waters High School: professional music video), best rapper (Benjamin Mahlasela SS: head phones and an Inyaniso CD) and best singers (also MWHS: Inyaniso CDs), sponsored by SonicArtStudio, the Makana Municipality, well and us. We even had to quickly hand out an additional certificate for the best group who showed us true heart and peaceful awareness: Victoria Girls High School. Thank you all for putting so much energy, money and passion into the training, songs and judging! You were fantastic!
We loved all the songs so much that we decided that they will all be recorded. We will make an awareNet Peace Day album and turn this into a new tradition here in Grahamstown. Watch out for more next year on Peace Day, 21/09/12, the Day of Global Truce!
The VSA organised a Movie Day on Youth Day screening “Alive with Possibility” by Symphonia at Mary Waters High School in Grahamstown followed by an extraordinary awareNet session. We are proud to report that the event went very well and left the awareNet users very enthusiastic and motivated.
They enjoyed the spirit and spontaneously started singing an Alive-with-Possibility-Song followed by the pop song “We are the world…”. One learner gave a short speech all of which was recorded and is currently being uploaded onto YouTube. From there we will transfer them onto awareNet, along with the original documentary, so that all awareNet users can watch and comment them.
We further took pictures that we linked to the awareNet project. The learners were rewarded with a badge on their awareNet profile page and will continue working on that project once next term has started. At the moment they are writing exams. Term will start after the Grahamstown Arts Festival in July.
awareYet? began as a guerilla marketing exercise during the Social Enterprise World Forum 2011 in Johannesburg. The campaign aimed to affix a sticker with the characteristic eyes of the campaign onto every participant at the event, in recognition of the youth unemployed in South Africa. This was a random and fun thing and reflects the position of the youth, which likes fun, and is subjected to random cruelty.
Youth unemployment is a world-wide problem and occurs for a number of reasons. In South Africa, an upper-middle earning country (World Economic Forum) — the richest country of continental Africa! – youth unemployment is a result of a complex interaction of dysfunctional social institutions, including mainly education and local government, that lead to a “no hope situation“ for the 15 – 29 year-olds. Manyof them are in fact characterised as “unemployable”. An outrageous category for any person!
Xhora Mouth JSS – bricks as benches
Toilets at Zwelenqaba SSS
These youths are legally obliged to attend sub-standard schooling, with educators who are all too willing to skip school, because of problems of lack of equipment, lack of materials, an undertone of violence, absenteeism, filthy toilets, teenage pregnancy and drugs. Educators feel unqualified to handle the disaster that unfolds before them every day and they become accepting of their dysfunctional environment as they feel powerless to change it. Such youths contribute to the terrible statistics of South African youth unemployment:
“The unemployment rate among those under the age of 25 years old is about 50 per cent, accounting for 30 per cent of total unemployment. Including those aged25 to 29 years old adds another million to the unemployed” (National Treasury 2011: 9).
Democratic revolution in Egypt
One can compare this to the unemployment rates in Northern African and Middle Eastern States: “Despite robust economic growth, youth unemployment rates in the Middle East are high, ranging from 20 to 30 percent in most countries in the region but exceeding 45 percent in some countries (e.g. Algeria and Iraq). Young people with secondary and post-secondary education face severe difficulties in securing employment mainly due to skills mismatches and long queuing for public sector jobs.” (Middle East Youth Initiative, 2011, visited 2011-04-28)
The eyes of the youth see change and are happy.
Energetic, unemployed youths turn in the best case to democratic activities, as witnessed in North Africa in early 2011. Here, fuelled by unemployment and enabled by ICTs youths went to the streets and won their rights in a humane and enabling manner. The region as a whole stands to gain much through their actions, their bravery and dignity.
On the other hand, unemployed youths can also try their hand at other things, such as violence and crime. “According to the United Nations Population Fund (1998:3), youth unemployment can drive many people into living outside the law both to survive and as a means of expressing dissatisfaction at the apparent neglect of their very existence.” (National Labour and Economic Development Institute, 2007). The co-existence of amazing wealth next to townships which lack even electricity, has quickly resulted in violence dominating the South African financial centre of Gauteng. The infamy of the violent crime in the region is second to none in the world.
WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
The Village Scribe Association was founded in 2008 to investigate ways in which ICTs could advance development in mainly rural marginalised areas and to promote projects that implemented such methods. What we have found in our years of investigation is that youth are the life and potential of such areas. Their energy and keen interest in ICTs and being connected to the rest of humanity and their peers through social networking is massive. They, like their North African brothers can lead a revolution, in rural and township areas.
This is why we developed the awareNet software and social network. Built for low-connectivity settings and mesh networks, awareNet equips learners with an appreciation for collaboration and teamwork at an early age. It harnesses their keen interest in ICTs and under the tutelage of trainers and champions, connects the youth with itself.
The world needs more socially aware enterprises to counter the imbalance in taking care of public goods that has overtaken the world in past decades. Adam Smith the original capitalist philosopher noted that market economies have little incentive to look after public goods such as clean air, or a strong vibrant environment for our youth. Only strong social values and faith in teamwork can redress the current imbalance.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?