Archive for the ‘Grahamstown’ tag
Today is Peace Day! Exactly one year ago, the awareNet Peace Day Concert happened in Grahamstown, South Africa, in partnership with Peace One Day, who will tonight give another huge Global Truce 2012 Concert in London, UK.
Subsequently, Corinne Cooper and Lunga Heleni from Sonic Art Studio recorded all 5 schools’ songs about Peace and Roderich Zipp from Sota Productions directed the music video for the winner of the best song: Mary Waters High School. Today, we release the CD and we are proud to be a Peace One Day partner again and to present such amazing young people who want to share their vision with you and the world!
Our original plan was to repeat the awareNet Song Competition Project and organise the next concert for this year’s Peace Day, but the lack of funding destroyed our plans. You can support us by buying a CD or investing in the awareNet programme, so that the project can be repeated for next year’s Peace Day – a step towards a better and more peaceful world, towards better educated and happier children.
Believe us, they are proud and happy to be part of such a project, because they experience how their voices can be heard!
Watch this, teachers of Grahamstown! More and more learners are so eager to join awareNet sessions, which are being held by our community coordinator Terri Penney, that they agree to have that session moved to their break time. Remember, these learners are pretty normal teenagers and just like all of them everywhere in the world they are mostly looking forward to the break when going to school.
But awareNet is fun, it’s communication and involves technology and features like blogging and watching educational videos. This is apparently more exciting than just hanging around the school yard. Specifically, we are talking about Nombulelo SS, CM Vellem HPS and Nyaluza PSS, sometimes also Ntsika SS. We are very proud of Terri and our programme.
Are you aware yet?
This blog provides more information to the music CD The awareNet Peace Song Collection 2011, which will be published soon.
The challenge – write a theme song for awareNet
Popular music culture is big amongst the youth worldwide – in Grahamstown East the Rap and Hip Hop music forms are particularly popular ways in which the youth express their hopes, joys, fears and frustrations of daily life. In July 2011, Anna Wertlen, with Corinne Cooper, Lunga Heleni and the local HipHop group Inyaniso, visited schools in Grahamstown East to present the VSA’s new awareNet project.
We put the idea out there that awareNet needed a theme song and invited five groups of learners to write the lyrics and develop the music in the studio. Corinne Cooper, who owns a music studio in Grahamstown, and Lunga Heleni, a professional recording artist, assisted with the project on an entirely voluntary basis. Their role was to help tap into the learner’s hidden talents and give them a good grounding in the skills required for writing, creating, performing and recording music. With a small window of eight weeks the challenge was on, and at the end of it they would perform in front of their peers and community at the awareNet Peace Day Celebrations in September 2011 in conjunction with PeaceOneDay.
The process – training the young musicians
The process was entirely voluntary with learners who had an interest in music committing themselves to the project. Every week we visited the five schools – Benjamin Mahlasela SS, Nombulelo SS, Mary Waters HS, Nathanial Nyaluza PSS and Victoria Girls HS – and helped the learners with their choice of words, rhyming and scansion, as well as educated them about the important difference between underground and commercial forms of rap, the former of which tends to be more subversive and the latter which is rap in its more popular form and which sells. They were also taught performance techniques for their debut on the music stage. They grand prize the young musicians were aiming for was to have their song recorded.
The broad aim of the project was to demonstrate not only how literacy skills are important for self-expression, but also how opinions and feelings can be shared through popular culture, performance, and later through a variety of social networking applications. At first meeting we discovered learners who knew little more about the process of transferring knowledge other than to be passive receivers of the information being shared with them. Slowly, over the two months there was a noticeable shift in attitude and they began to actively participate and gain the confidence to begin sharing their own ideas. And so the awareNet theme song project came to life. The learner’s confidence grew to such an extent that they began to start up their own things and at Nyaluza PSS, where the school system literally fails the children, the learners even started their own band and began writing their own lyrics.
Many of the learners who attend the awareNet social networking workshops have very little idea of what to do on a social network. An important focus of our workshops is to combine real-life issues experienced by these learners with their computer work in order to demonstrate how technology is of relevance in the real world and not just a skill to be acquired. This approach enhances their passion for the computer and its abilities and it begins to makes sense to them to know how to read and write, which is the basic skill underpinning the necessary tools for operating a computer.
Making music and social commentary
To start the process of writing the lyrics, the learners were given just a few ideas – such as awareness, peace and your life – and the songs that were inspired by each group were remarkably unique. The Mahlasela group portrayed their school and their lives in their community; Nombulelo wrote about the drug problem at their school; Mary Waters were visionaries and wrote about crime and war; the Nyaluza group used religion as their departure point; and the Victoria Girls group were about self-esteem in a world where social norms in terms of body image put a lot of pressure on the youth.
With the help of a young professional music artist, Gabriel Spilkin, to get the right backing for their lyrics, four out of the five school groups made their own melody while the fifth chose rap as their main musical medium. The end products were five startlingly relevant songs containing social commentary written by the learners that would convey a heartfelt message to their communities at the Peace Day celebrations.
The awareNet workshops are all about computer skills, reading and writing, and most importantly community outreach – and this was a project that spoke directly to our aim to inspire social change by encouraging communities to think about education differently. The five groups of learners had directly experienced how education can occur outside of the school too; and we had realised our aim to encourage the learners to take ownership of their own education, believe in their ability to lead their peers, and to help us create a system of champions of change in their communities.
At the awareNet Peace Day celebrations in September the crowd’s response made it clear that the Mary Water’s group of three rap artists took the prize for the music video. However, we felt that all five groups had grown in so many ways, not least in stature as leaders amongst their peers. Generous sponsorship from Makana Municipality for the hiring of the venue, music equipment, transport and recording has allowed us to record all five songs for this CD.
And, to fittingly crown the success of the awareNet theme song project, we are pleased to announce that the ECSPIRT Project made it into the second round at the 2012 Impumelelo Social Innovations Awards – watch this space to see our progress into the final rounds.
More about awareNet
awareNet allows the creation of student communities in a safe, rich environment that spans the digital divide. This is free, open source software that has the potential to bring learners all over the world together in a collaborative learning experience, thereby expanding young people’s worlds beyond the confines of their local communities. .
A unique feature of awareNet is that it allows the creation of a single social network that brings the network to its users, instead of expecting them to come to the full Internet, which is too expensive for the majority of the many potential users in Africa. awareNet can be hosted locally within a mesh, allowing a large number of servers worldwide, all of which may only have intermittent access to each other. This allows participants to use rich technologies (multimedia) in collaborative projects with other learners anywhere in the Internet. Responses may be delayed, but they are at least enabled.
Learners on a mesh network or a LAN can make use of the broadband Internet to produce strong local content (including videos, their own music, and picture galleries) and share it overnight with learners in the rest of the world.
awareNet is being developed further in close cooperation with the learners to adapt its functionality precisely to their needs while they learn basic computer skills. This method particularly motivates the learners to cooperate in a focused manner, because changes are visible immediately. New insights into the perceptions of young African users may make awareNet a highly popular tool, helping bring Africa onto the Internet and making generations of young Africans more aware of our global community.
We believe that we can make this system work through the funding we receive to employ mediators from the community who are already thinking about education differently. NGOs such as Masifunde Learner Development and IkamvaYouth already have their local champions who are willing to share their knowledge. We aim to encourage such NGOs to use awareNet to learn how to use social networking to share tools such as educational videos for learners and lesson plans for teachers.
This year at the Arts Festival, The VSA partners with ASSITEJ South Africa, a networking platform for people working with or interested in theatre for children and young people. The organisation makes a significant mark on the festival, bringing 10 high quality productions, workshops and other exciting activities to the festival.
With some shows already sold-out, families visiting the ASSITEJ Family Venue will enjoy stimulating, enriching and diverse theatre experiences from some of the most esteemed theatre-makers for young audiences, including Nicholas Ellenbogen, Jori Snell, Rob Murray, and Lynne Joffe. The venue, Oatlands Preparatory, is conveniently situated on African Street, with additional access from Luke Street, and just up Douglas Lane from the Fiddler’s Hub.
The VSA will be present at the ASSITEJ Family Venue with its mobile awareNet lab (in the coffee shop next to the show hall) to allow visitors to leave their opinions and feedback in a sociable, collaborative and child-friendly space. Show visitors will, for example, have the opportunity to blog about the show they have watched and win one of our daily prizes for the best blog. All blogs will be accumulated into a Festival Bulletin Project.
Further the VSA will be unveiling a new social creativity booster on awareNet to enhance the children’s art experience at the venue. Development of the new Scribble-App was inspired by playDUcation. Users can upload pictures and work on them in an artistic and free manner, then save the new picture and add it to the projects. To get an idea of how that will look like, please have a look at Bea Beste’s webpage.
Visitors of the family venue can access the platform from their mobile devices (free via WiFi) or provided laptops. Festival runs from Thursday 28/6/12 – 6/7/12.
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!
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.
We not only have computers there, on which we show awareNet content and explain the functionality of awareNet. You can also chat to all sorts of different awareNet users: learners from the various schools in Grahamstown, teachers and community coordinators and obviously, the VSA staff and the developers of awareNet (eKhaya ICT).
Interested visitors can create user accounts and start using awareNet straight away: We have created new projects that can be joined, e.g. “The SciFest Experience” Project. We also collect photographs with the theme “The African Century: ICTs Inspiring Innovation”. The best ones will be submitted to the eLearning Africa Conference Photo Competition.
SciFest takes place in Grahamstown, more precisely in the Monument, from 14.-20.3.12. You will find us on the 1st floor. Free Entry.
Our latest project on awareNet has touched a lot of hearts. And moved a lot of hips!
We take opportunities as they come, and this was an extraordinary one: The VSA was approached by Impuls, the Swiss Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development, which supports The Glue, a Swiss a cappella band on world tour. The Glue is not only a young dynamic, ‘stubborn&openminded’ group of very professional voice artists, they are also interested in cultural exchange and mutual inspiration. So, they agreed to give a benefit concert for the VSA.
The VSA took the challenge to put this concert into a larger context and embedded it into an awareNet project. We involved two schools in Grahamstown, CM Vellem HPS and VGHS, and motivated them to cooperate via awareNet. For 6 weeks, learners researched, interviewed experts, wrote essays, practiced to sing, discussed all topics in the awareNet forums and presented what they had learned personally to their peers. The topics ranged from a cappella over the Science of Musical Instruments to Kaolin Mining and Plant fossils. (All of the projects will also be presented at SciFest this week.) Everyone was rewarded with a free ticket to The Glue’s concert on Sunday 11/3/12 – and was absolutely blown away by the “quality, savvy, handsomeness and humour of the artists”.
The following day, the artists visited CM Vellem HPS to get a better insight of the VSA’s work and really engage with the learners. They chatted to the learners and were shown what they had learned on awareNet followed by a presentation of their singing for which they had practiced together with Hleze Kunju. In the end, everyone sang together and the atmosphere was absolutely joyful – hard to say who was happier in the end.
The Glue and Verena Gauthier from Impuls thanked us many times for this intense experience. A lot of people had been involved; we also have to mention Denese Palm from Haricot’s Restaurant that started its theater lunch series with The Glue and provided a very special meal for them before the concert – a brilliant idea. We hope for more great collaboration in the future.
We are very happy that this event turned out to be such a good experience for everyone and also sincerely thank Verena and The Glue! We hope to meet you again one day – perhaps at the Art Festival 2013…?!
PS: Next shows will take place in Stellenbosch 13/3 and Berlin 5/5.
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.
The VSA will present awareNet and it’s content during this year’s SciFest in Grahamstown, South Africa, 14.-20.3.2012. The theme of the SciFest is “Science rocks!”, so we chose the title “Rocks and Music in Social Networking” for our exhibition.
The VSA and the learners themselves, i.e. awareNet users from Grahamstown, will present their projects about all kind of rocks and of course music during the Science Festival. All projects will be previously created collaboratively on awareNet and continued during SciFest. awareNet users will interview other SciFest presenters and speakers, and Festival visitors will be able to watch the videos and submit their comments.
Festival visitors can join awareNet for free, explore it’s multimedia content and add their comments! They can create their own personal website, access learner made content about rock science and music and connect with the awareNet community. There will be a space to discuss and rate what they have seen. They can also record their own interviews about their experience at SciFest which will be uploaded onto awareNet for other users. Once registered on awareNet they can access it from where ever they want in the world and stay connected with our community.
We want to show that
- Computer literacy and understanding the Internet is important for understanding science and accessing information about science.
- Science and the Internet are both a collaborative effort.
- Everyone can be part of science and take part in collaborative projects.