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Rural Access to ICTs Crucial for DoE

On the 31st of January 2008, I met with the Eastern Cape Department of Education ICT coordinator, Nygel Jones. What I presumed would be a meeting with just Nygel, grew into a largish gathering as the DoE showed up with 9 participants. The meeting generated such great interest because it is about improving rural access to ICTs. The Eastern Cape Province has a very large number of rural schools. At the same time, they have been mandated to educate all teachers regarding ICT integration in their regular teaching within 2 years. But what use is that at a school which is in a marginalised rural area? And how can such a school operate despite all the infrastructural problems (not to mention ESKOM load shedding). These are the same problems that are being pondered by the Nelson Madela Institute at the University of Fort Hare (more about that in another post) and in fact the rest of Africa.

What came out of the DoE meeting is that all assistance, research and experimentation on the issue is most welcome. The DoE wants to fulfill its mandates by being actively involved in third party projects. This participation ranges from checking of curriculum to ensure standards compliance and relevant suggestions in this regard to feasibility assessment/evaluation of the project after the fact to determine how reproducible our model will in fact be. What the DoE does not seem to have understood though - and why third parties are necessary in such a process - is that the model is not sustainable unless the communities involved carry a major part of the costs. In fact, the ICT projects must also supply the revenues to the communities so that they themselves can pay for the infrastructure improvements. This means that although the DoE is instrumental in getting the facilities into schools, the larger value of these facilities must be realised and made available to the communities. Such models require integral support through techology, including software. These are just the kinds of models we are busy creating together with the University of Fort Hare and Rhodes University.

Currently we are intensifying efforts to get the code in place and the models out in the field. According to our project schedule (Roadmap) we are currently on time for an H2/2008 launch.

Posted: April 13th 2008 09:38

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Ron Wertlen Ron Wertlen
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