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Travels with Bob

From the 26th of February until the 1st of March, I had the great experience of going to deep rural schools in the OR Thambo district of the Eastern Cape, South Africa, together with Bob Freling. I had planned us a tough schedule, with a lot of driving, and very little buffer time for bad weather etc. Fortunately the weather was great except on the first evening, when fortunately the rain held off until we were on the main road.

We rearranged the schedule on the fly, keeping to all the fixed appointments, but squeezing in additional meetings with local IT savvy people, educators, and even Professors at Rhodes University and the university of Fort Hare. In the four days we spent on average over 5 hours a day in the car, often driving the Transkei's (*) dangerous roads in the dark. Needless to say, we had both focused on what we feel is an extremely important project: developing a prototype solar driven computer lab, which enables scholars and communities in the most remote regions to cross the digital divide. I am not aware of any other such project going on at the moment.

On our travels we met many very enthusiastic people. While many of the schools felt let down by the Department of Education, it was the department that gave us a lot of support and encouragement in getting to just the schools that we visited, and that also took the time to explain the difficulties they faced. Managing the schools of such a densely populated and neglected region is tough. A lot of perseverance is required.

Almost everywhere we went, it seems, new and innovative schemes are being planned and tried out to address the most pressing needs of deep rural schools: clean water, adequate food, learning materials and a better education. It may take a while, but the problems do not seem to be insurmountable.

Here was where we went:
  1. Kokstad (Seven Fountains Primary School)
  2. near Umtentu (Baleni S.S. School)
  3. Khululeka
  4. Mtambalala
  5. Ntile (Ntafufu S.S. School)
  6. Port St. Johns
  7. Libode
  8. Qanqiso J.S. School
  9. Mpume J.S. School
  10. Zwelitsha
  11. Alice
  12. East London
(*) the region is often called by its former homeland name, and consists today of Alfred Nzo, OR Thambo districts and parts of Chris Hani, Ukhahlamba and Amathole districts.

Posted: March 12th 2007 10:47

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