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Behind the scenes: eKhaya ICT and OLPC at Mndwaka

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Summary:

We chose Mndwaka JSS for a film shoot with OLPC, because they are a pro-active school, consistently winning the local singing contest despite the poor conditions there. The OLPC programme is a vital piece of the puzzle because sustainable development of infrastructure in rural African areas can only work if it happens hand in hand with development of the communities' knowledge.

An English translation of the show and link to the video

Photo gallery of the film shoot at Mndwaka.

Photo gallery of shots made by the learners themselves using the XO camera.

Background and explanation:

eKhaya ICT recently went on a field trip to demonstrate two older XOs (B-1) to a rural school. The request from the camera team was a rural school with the worst possible conditions and it should be a junior secondary school, as the XO is targetted at ages younger than 15 yrs (although it can be used by anyone, of course!).

It was quite difficult to decide whether to do the project at all. eKhaya ICT has tended to work with more senior schools, with Grades 9 - 12, and we knew if we asked our contacts at the junior schools, they would jump at the idea, although they didn't understand the details of the shoot. We were very careful to say that we could not promise any result, besides the exposure gained through the video. We explained that it was only a short video and that it would be shown overseas. That did not matter to the school principal, Mr. Gqokoza. He explained that they were interested in any cooperation at all with eKhaya ICT. If you are in a situation such as the one experienced by Mndwaka JSS, you will clutch at any opportunity. Mr. Gqokoza convinced us. We went ahead and did the demonstration.

We chose Mndwaka JSS, because despite the poor conditions there, they have consistently won the local school singing contest - they certainly showed us why!

Mndwaka JSS has 2 regular classrooms and about another 4 makeshift ones for 722 children. 18 teachers are responsible for the classes. Many classes take place out doors, which means that bad weather interrupts school. There is no running water and the solar system installed about 7 years ago was stolen in 2005.

The enthusiasm of the school's excellent choir almost put a halt to filming. Their singing accompanied all the shots in the classroom and all the interviews. Sadly, somehow their song does not appear on the final product. Then after the interviews, the school wanted to thank us for coming and put on a show of tribal and modern dancing. Their dancing showed us that these children, these teachers and this community, has no interest in being labelled as rural and archaic - they want to move with the times and are hungry for a connection to the rest of the world. I hope the camera team will have a chance to put together the great footage they got of the learners dancing up a storm, as they promised. It would be a shame to show the teachers at Mndwaka only a 6 minute clip in German for all their trouble!

I am convinced that this connection can be made by a programme such as the OLPC using minimally invasive education to support the classical education. I am sure that such a connection will greatly benefit these rural communities and the whole world in turn. Arguments that computers cannot help where there is no water, no food, no transport and no electricity miss the point. I believe that sustainable development of infrastructure in rural African areas can only work if it happens hand in hand with development of the communities' knowledge. A balanced programme is required to help the communities build their infrastructure themselves so that they become empowered. An empowered community cannot be impoverished.

Posted: November 13th 2007 03:50
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