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South Africa: Improving Rural Education
Source: http://www.csir.co.za/enews/2013_mar/01.html
Source Date: Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: South Africa
Created: Apr 09, 2013

Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, has taken a personal interest in the project and says that it is important for the project to focus on technology interventions including, but not limited to, information and communications technology (ICT), provision of water, sanitation, energy and transport either at the school or where learners live, as these unfavourable environmental factors impact negatively on learner performance.
The DST tasked the CSIR to assist with managing the project, which has been piloted at Arthur Mfebe Secondary School in Cofimvaba and is set to be rolled out in the Nciba Schools Circuit. The CSIR has also been able to supply appropriate technologies because of the organisation’s multidisciplinary competencies.
Johan le Roux: General Manager, CSIR Strategic Initiatives Implementation Unit, says, “This project is aimed at demonstrating the role of technology in enhancing education and for the learning to inform future policy and strategies.”
With this aim in mind, Le Roux explains that the first step the Cofimvaba team took was to create a project plan with the input of the community and other relevant stakeholders and partners, “then we called upon the expertise resident in various research groups across the CSIR”.
These competences include ICT with its potential to maximise eLearning. Water sanitation and infrastructure competences in turn are vital to ensure safe and healthy toilet facilities. Expertise in processing of indigenous foodstuff will help to ensure sustainable and nutritious meals for learners and the CSIR’s Enterprise Creation for Development specialists are looking into ways of creating potential local enterprises and jobs.
Outlining the ICT for education progress to date (a project that enjoys DST support in its own right), ICT senior researcher Meryl Ford says that the CSIR has been doing a lot of work on mobile learning, mostly focusing on cell phones. For instance, the Dr Math programme provides students with an affordable maths tutor in the palm of their hands via a cell phone. “We have also decided to focus on providing digital textbooks to learners,” she says.
The students at the Arthur Mfebe High School have been supplied with tablets loaded with all their textbooks and study material. Ford and her team then created a secure charging facility for the devices. “You can plug in your device and leave it to charge in a locked facility at the school.”
“The modern technology that has been brought to the school has been eye-opening for the students and the teachers here. Now, the students can effortlessly communicate with their teachers,” says David Mfebe, Cofimvaba community leader and Schools District Technology Project steering committee member.
To date, the project team has also established an experimental farm that includes the building of a chicken coop and piggery; the establishment of an orchard and a crop farming area under drip irrigation; as well as the construction of a nursery on the grounds.
Lwando Rwayi, school principal at Author Mfebe High School, is excited by the progress that has been made to date. “We were in the process of converting our school into an agricultural school. With the additional assistance of the DST and its implementation partner, the CSIR, this project will now be rolled out to the other 25 schools in the Nciba Schools Circuit in 2013. The range of technology interventions will be used to enhance the teaching and learning of maths, science and technology.”
Mfebe says that with the help of this project, the school is well-positioned to bolster the limited natural resources in the area. “Cofimvaba is the poorest municipality in the Ntsika Yethu District and the only direction we should be going is agriculture – to get something in people’s bellies.”
These interventions are not only in support of the agricultural sciences curriculum of the school, but are also intended to enhance employability and develop technical skills, entrepreneurship knowledge, and skills in agriculture and tourism.
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