A new era for technology in schools in the Western Cape

Saturday, October 1st, 2011 | education

In the late afternoon on Wednesday, 28 September 2011, in the school hall of Bridgeville Primary School, the responsibility for technology in education was formally transferred from the Khanya project to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).  Of course, Khanya always was part of the WCED, but it operated in project mode.  Henceforth, the WCED will assume responsibility for technology innovation in the classroom through its own internal structures.

 

The Khanya logo - the triangles symbolize darkness being overtaken by light

 

Brian Schreuder, Deputy Director-General of the WCED gave an overview of the Khanya project, reflecting on its achievements over the past ten and a half years.  He told the members of the audience, made up mainly of Khanya staff and commercial partners (sadly, only four WCED officials attended the event) that they were there to “celebrate the successes and achievements of Khanya over the years.”  He said that the project “is recognized in South Africa and overseas as one of the great innovations in the use of technology in education.”  This was possible, he said, because the project ran efficiently, free of the red tape of a government department.

Brian introduced the head of the education department, Penny Vinjevold.  The audience hardly breathed in anticipation of information about the road ahead for technology in schools in the Western Cape.  She said nice things about Khanya and mentioned that the WCED will consider the way in which technology will be taken forward in schools.  However, the audience was disappointed since the one question to which everyone wanted an answer was not addressed: how does the WCED plan to do this?

The principal of South Peninsula High School, Brian Isaacs,  got up close to the end of the proceedings and bravely expressed his strong disagreement with the premature ending of Khanya.  He described it as “a brutal act – decided upon by WCED management without consultation with the schools.”

It has been my privilege to manage this great project for more than a decade and the MC for the evening, Ingrid Graham, gave me the opportunity to thank all those who had a part in the success of the project: those education department officials who allowed the project to get started, the teachers and principals who gave their co-operation, the social and commercial partners, and the tremendous Khanya staff.

I also had the opportunity to announce my new role at Mustek as head of their e-learning division, and I could publicly thank the company for its faith in me as an individual, as well as its commitment to e-learning in South Africa.  I am thrilled at the prospect of taking all the lessons learned over the past ten years to the other provinces and hope that the Khanya light will ignite a far bigger, brighter light on the rest of the continent.

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9 Comments to A new era for technology in schools in the Western Cape

Albie
Sunday, 2 October, 2011

Kobus,

Thank you for the 10 years you have ploughed ICT Passion and Purpose into the Khanya Project. WELL DONE !!

I would like to compare the Khanya Project with the well-known movie based on the true life story of Angus Buchan. As in the movie “Faith like Potatoes”, you (Kobus) kept the ICT soil (schools) fertile and planted “potatoes” (computers and EIAWB) into the soil (i.e. schools, their LABs and classrooms). Despite what other “farmers” said about your ICT efforts, you continued even against all odds. After years of “rain” (facilitation), the potato leaves surfaced (LITNUM levels), yes, slowly, but surely and were growing in the soil (and will continue to do so) and eventually will penetrate through the “clouds” to prove that ICT is the new way of “enhancing teaching” and getting the curriculum delivered (from talk and chalk to ICT driven equipment). It will continue do so in future to the benefit of the learners and their future. The curriculum needed a new way to be applied – and technology will ensure that and that the “potatoes” will grow and grow and the harvest will be great ! Only well-spend investment re “time and rain” will determine the size of the harvest !

As the newly appointed head of MUSTEK’ e-learning division, I am looking forward to travel with you on the road ahead for ICT implementation into ALL schools in ALL provinces. I know that you will share your project skills you have gathered and learned over the past ten years and plough it into the schools in the other provinces. When I look at the e4Africa logo – I see the Khanya light already ignited into a bright flame that will eventually ignite and light up the rest of SA and Africa. Keep the ICT flame burning as technology is the KEY to unlock learers’ LITNUM levels @ schools and that ICT will “grow into full plants above the soil and well-matured vegetables under the soil”.

You have brought successfully into the Western Cape’ schools the technology as mentioned and acknowledge by the WCED Officials @ the above-mentioned event e.g. Mr Brian Schreuder: “… to celebrate the successes and achievements of Khanya over the years” as well as by the SG Mrs Penny Vinjefold re her view on the WCED that will consider the way in which technology will be taken forward in schools. You planted the potato crop for 10 years together with a Khanya team made up of many coordinators, project managers and educators with a variety of ICT, educational and “business” skills combined with ICT skills that ensured a bumper crop in 2012 !!

To conclude: the EIAWB (I will always refer to it as the Electronic InterActive Whiteboards !!) is the answer to get the curriculum delivered in the classroom.

Albie

Celeste Katzew
Tuesday, 4 October, 2011

Congratulations Kobus! You did a fantastic job at Khanya and millions of kids and teachers have benefitted from the technology and training that Khanya provided. You always acted with great dignity and respect for yourself and others and you are probably one of the most ethical people that I know! What a pity that the WCED did not make use of the opportunity at the function to give some direction regarding the way forward. Unfortunately only ‘nice’ words were spoken. I sincerely hope that the end of Khanya does not also mean the end of the use of technology in the schools in the Western Cape. Only time will tell….

Kobus van Wyk
Tuesday, 4 October, 2011

Thanks, Albie and Celeste, for your kind words. Of course, I played only a small part in the success of Khanya … the real work was done by the wonderful Khanya staff members who poured a lot of passion and dedication into the project. And of course our loyal partners, too! I trust that the WCED will find a way in which they can use the foundation that was laid by Khanya for making technology a permanent feature of teaching and learning in the province. And if things go pear shaped … they know where to find us!

Mark C
Wednesday, 5 October, 2011

When I started at Khanya about 8 years ago, I got the business plan and had to read through it. Not really exciting stuff, starting a new job. Yet we had to get to know what the project was all about. Off to Thinus and a few people for a talk or two. Then we started. What I am trying to say was, there was a plan and we knew about it.
I was disappointed at Ms Vinjevold’s speech. There was no clear direction. As usual I wanted the know what the plan was. I needed to orientate myself for what is about to follow in the WCED e-learning world. There was nothing. :(
As for Brian Isaacs, I told him that I admired him for being a lone voice in the wilderness. People who do not know what I our generation went through during the 70s, 80s and 90s won’t understand what our fight is about, particularly for the disadvantaged communities. I made a promise to myself and God while being at university that I should ready myself for the reconstruction/transformation of the country when the fighting was done. I have done that and will continue to do it
because there is still a moviese amount of work to be done.
Lastly, I attended a conference called Edtechconf (http://www.edtechconf.co.za) which I found on the internet trawling through some e-learning stuff. There I saw a different way how teachers integrate ICT with their teaching. It was a great experience. Yet I can also state that there is a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots. The majority of people came from well-resourced schools. How do disadvantaged schools keep up with the ICT opportunities that the well-resourced schools already have? How will the disadvantaged schools be supported when even in the well-resourced schools they are also complaining about resources. The worlds are chalk and cheese (to use a cliche’). I am amazed at the digital divide…it is growing. That is why students from the well-resourced schools going tertiary institutions do better than students from a disadvantaged background. The latter has so many obstacles to overcome to get to a place where for the first time s/he has to use a computer in their learning. Is it fair? I remember the first time I worked with a pipette and burette at UWC. I knew this stuff from school but never touched it. How do students feel who never used ICT?
You got a big job to do Ms Vinjevold and I hope you accomplish what you set out to do in e-learning. Just remember that the disadvantaged whom we (Khanya project) worked with all the time need lots of nurturing. I wish all the people who worked in the project, well. To those who are taking over, good luck.

craig
Wednesday, 5 October, 2011

It is real pity that the WCED has not yet presented their take-over-and-sustain plan. Previously disadvantaged schools were advantaged by the workings of the Khanya Project, but in the years ahead, where will they obtain both curricuculum support for the Ict they have and more importantly, financial support for maintaining and sustaining the status quo. Large scale unemployment amongst parents (hence lack of School fees) is making the task almost impossible for these Schools to employ additional teachers let alone sustain a Lab which they could not have afforded in the first place. The only plan of action discernible is how to end the Khanya Project. Where is the one that will sustain and grow the work already done?

bonny
Wednesday, 5 October, 2011

Kobus you can be confidently proud of all the Khanya achievements over the past years. I wish you everything of the best.
I am still mystified and still wish to grasp the WCED future ICT business and operational plan, not officially available yet.
Statements such as WCED aspire to maintain the Khanya name, Khanya budget, Khanya methodology, but refrain instituting the pioneers and expertise of the Khanya staff. I should think that Kobus/Clinton position should be reinstated within the mainstream process.
Previous remarks from our well educated colleagues and decision makers in news articles, presentations and interviews, mostly refers to “South Africa lack of expertise persons, we have to gain knowledge from abroad”. I totally disagree with these statements; SA has enough skilled persons available and referring in this stance to technology only is that these available skills are not utilized adeptly for the next phase of ICT growth in our education department.
This is almost similar to the story I read in the Readers Digest, of the well-known farmer and his excellent workers in the Free State, with their well established crop. They were asked to take bare land and try to transform it into “something not sure at that stage” to provide food for the needy and others if possible and exporting will be a plus. After a few years they were assessed and praised for their excellence production, saying thank you, you have done well and inform them we don’t need your services anymore, you have established what we needed you to do over the past years.
For the first six months to almost a year after harvesting, the profit was good. After the six months/1 yr the well known Farm, although the name remained the same and the preceding funding was available, the new employed workers couldn’t perform, due to lack of methodology and expertise? Many funds were spend to get Outsource/subcontract expertise from abroad, to support the farm, new developing farmer and employees. Once again farming processes needed to be established, such as distinguishing between various fertilizers, products, equipment maintenance, and sustaining the once well develop farm? Unfortunately the farm could not be revived again, to much time was lost, outsource support were not knowledgeable with SA climate and most land became bare again.
I truly hope above example will not become visible after 6months/1yr in our school communities and enough thought will be logically ploughed-in to mainstream ICT successfully, with all its components and not only certain parts of the components.

Andre
Thursday, 6 October, 2011

When I attended the handover event it became apparently clear that the status quo remains the same as far as the attitudes and intentions of the WCED toward the future of the Khanya legacy. I am sure that many thinking people have asked the same question that I have repeatedly pondered in my own mind, “What causes thinking, intelligent leaders in education to deliberately close the door on a winning recipe for success?”
When one considers the developments within the Khanya Project in the last year or two it becomes really clear that the decisions and direction to which the Khanya Project is being steered has little to do with what makes sense and has even less to do with what will benefit the learners of the province. So ask yourself, what drives bureaucrats to decisions that make no practical sense at all? The answer is the age old one……politics!!!
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that there has been a very active campaign to discredit the the Khanya Project from within the WCED. Accusations, investigations and audits have become the daily occurrences within the project ordered by nameless, faceless cowards who have little regard for the greater good of education.
The Premier of this province had the foresight and political will to initiate the Khanya Project some 10 years ago. Hopefully, she has the insight and political will to uncover the driving force behind the plot to end the most successful project within the WCED. Hopefully, she will find a way to stem the tide of madness.

Aletta Crofton
Thursday, 6 October, 2011

I am very excited at the prospect of the rest of the country benefiting from lessons learned at Khanya and I will be watching this blog keenly for feedback in this regard!

Devereux
Thursday, 6 October, 2011

A Project in essence has a start and finish date, but the close-out of the Khanya Project has been mind boggling. I had the privilege and honour of working with Kobus on the Khanya Project, which he initiated and managed with awesome success, and with associates who are still going on in spite of the audits. The lives of many learners, and educators, have been influenced if not changed by this Project and its staff. Kobus I salute you, thank you for the mentorship and the awesome experience.

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