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“The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened”

Oscar Foulkes September 13, 2013 Education No comments
Our domestic worker came to me to me on Monday with a request that we ‘print’ something for her daughter’s school project (she is in Grade 12 in Nyanga). I established that she meant that the content had to be typed.

Well, we have a computer standing idle, and a domestic team with some spare time, so the +-2400 word project on water purification was typed.

I asked her how this normally gets done, because I can’t imagine many of the kids have computers available. This is how it works:

  • some of the kids have smartphones (mostly Nokia running Windows)
  • parents have to buy airtime (i.e. data)
  • kids log onto Google Docs
  • they type their projects on phones

OK, so I know people who are only able to type with two fingers anyway, but Jeez, education is a basic right, and should kids really be typing their school projects on smartphones? What about kids who don’t have smart phones? What about low-cost access to internet?

I went to see the principal of the school in question, New Eisleben High. The buildings were completed less than a year ago, so everything is pristine. I also established that the school has had two donations of computers (they have about 30), which are housed in a fabulous lab, but in the principal’s own words the entire resource is a “white elephant”.

The reason for this is that the hardware may need refurbishing, and the RAM may need upgrading. However, the bigger issue is that there is no internet connection, the computers are not networked, and there are no printers. A further requirement would be some kind of system that allocates bandwidth to the learners.

It strikes me that this must be a challenge being faced by many other schools, especially the ones servicing low-income areas.

I am actively seeking solutions to the main requirements:

  • refurbishing or upgrading of hardware that has been donated
  • low-cost internet access
  • a means of allocating bandwidth (and printer resources) to learners
  • networking the devices
  • ongoing maintenance and support

Ideally, all learners would simply have a low-cost tablet, but even that would likely be out of reach of most parents.

South Africa’s education system is going to take decades to fix, but appropriate technology has the potential to empower learners in their quest for education, to open “the doors of learning and culture”.

Please feel free to contact me if you have are able to assist with any of the above.

New Eisleben High School