A success story

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 | e-Learning pioneers | 3 Comments

One never knows whether the seed one sows will take root and grow into something beautiful.  Imagine my joy when, out of the blue, I received the following email from Maxwell Funo, a man whom I have never met before:

I just want to thank you for the excellent job that you’ve done. Teaching at a previously disadvantaged school in Nyanga township (Cape Town), I personally benefitted a lot especially from your Khanya Project because I never had any computer training whatsoever.

When I won the competition by Microsoft Partners In Learning on ICT Integration in Durban, I was over the moon, credit to your great efforts.  Today, I am walking with my head held up high getting ready for my presentation in Morocco by July, something that I never thought would ever happen to me.  I so wish to be able to work with you one day and learn more from you.

Maxwell Funo, an e-learning pioneer

Maxwell used the limited ICT equipment at his school to do a project with his Grade 7 learners on pollution.  The purpose of the project was to create an awareness of the effects of dumping around the school and in the community.  He was one of twenty finalists and came first in two categories of the Microsoft Partners In Learning competition: Innovation in Challenging Context and Collaboration.  He will be representing South Africa in Morocco in July 2012.

This teacher is an example of what can be done by means of technology.  Working in a school with limited resources, he used the technology available to him to create something of great value for the learners, as well as the community; and it is good to know that his efforts to master technology yielded fruit for him personally too.

The email of Maxwell means more to me than all the awards that Khanya won over the years.

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A new era for technology in schools in the Western Cape

Saturday, October 1st, 2011 | education | 9 Comments

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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On a personal note …

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 | Miscelaneous | 10 Comments

Some of you may have heard that I’ve resigned as project manager of the Khanya project of the Western Cape Education department and will leave at the end of July 2011.  This is after starting the project in April 2001 and working on building it up into one of the great success stories of the African continent.

Ten years and four months is a long time – and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!  It is sad to leave your baby in the hands of others, but it is time for me to go (and I’m comforted in the knowledge that I’m leaving the project for the last few months of its life in the hands of trusted colleagues).  I have reached the objectives that were set at the start of the project.  With the exception of the last few facilities that are in the process of being completed, all schools in the Western Cape have at least one computer facility available for learners.  Over 50 000 computers were deployed; more than 2 000 interactive whiteboards were installed in classrooms; nearly 30 000 teachers were trained in the use of technology as a teaching and learning tool; and close to a million learners have access to technology.

I was privileged to have worked with the best of the best.  The Khanya team members were hand-picked for their passion and skills and words cannot express the gratitude and admiration I have for them.  Our business partners were likewise superb.  I have long held (and expressed) the view that the state will never be able to succeed with bringing technology into education unless the private sector plays the dominant role.  I still hold that opinion.  The success of Khanya can, to a large extent, be attributed to the superb support rendered by hardware, software and other service providers.

My best wishes go to those officials of the Western Cape Education Department who will take over the task of supporting e-learning from April 2012 onwards.  I hope that they will continue to promote the use of e-learning in schools with the same enthusiasm and dedication as the Khanya team members, who are now handing the baton over to them.  May the legacy of Khanya live on!

What’s next for me?  First a long vacation.  And then … watch this space.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been pre-occupied with personal decisions and I did not give this blog sufficient attention.  I will now rectify this neglect!  And since I’ll soon no longer be accountable to a state department, I will have greater freedom to publish relevant material.  So, once again … watch this space.

I am most appreciative of the support I’ve received from my Khanya colleagues, business partners, family, friends and members of my virtual PLN over the years, and particularly over the last few rather tumultuous months.   I wish all of you only the best and I trust that we will find opportunities to continue working together in the future.  And please, let’s stay in touch through this blog.


MEC Grant on Khanya

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 | ICT in Africa, technology | 19 Comments

In his budget speech this morning, MEC Donald grant said the following, after discussing his plans for broadband connectivity for schools:

But there is no doubt in my mind that in the next 3-5 years that there is a very real prospect that we will dramatically improve the levels of information technology in our schools and in so doing enhance learner outcomes.

This comes on the back of the successful implementation of the Khanya programme, which is now only one year from completion. Just two weeks ago, I opened the 1 329th Khanya facility in the Province. Therefore we have only 195 more schools to go.

This progamme has been recognized as the most successful roll-out of technology of schools on the whole continent.

Just imagine – the most successful roll-out of technology of schools on the whole continent!  This is something of which one can indeed be proud.

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Interview with Ms Penny Vinjevold: the future of e-learning in the Western Cape

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 | education, ICT in Africa | 323 Comments

The Head of Department of the Western Cape Education Department, Ms Penny Vinjevold, has the difficult task to ensure high quality education for all learners in the province.  It is expected of her to raise literacy and numeracy levels of all learners and to maintain a healthy lead in matric passes.  All indications are that she is pulling out all the stops to achieve this.

Penny Vinjevold in her office in Cape Town

 But how does Ms Vinjevold feel about the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in her department.  She allowed me to interview her on this topic and I’m pleased to post her responses to the questions I put to her.

Kobus: What is your view of the role of e-learning in education?

Penny: All media that provide opportunities for learning are important to education. e-Learning is particularly versatile and provides a range of routes to the wealth of knowledge available to man. It also provides the skills to access this knowledge. e-Learning provides an abundance of reading, writing and calculating opportunities but also so much more. For example, it provides manipulative skills and so contributes to what cognitive psychologists call ‘fluid’ intelligence. It also has the potential to provide high level, accurate and accessible content knowledge in formats that paper texts cannot: chemistry cell structures, maps, diagrams etc.

Kobus: How do you feel about the Khanya Project?            

Penny: It has been very successful in providing access to computer and other electronic facilities to the teachers and learners of the Western Cape. As with all interventions in education, the benefit of this access is strongly influenced by the management of the school and the teachers at the school. In many schools, the Khanya project has added value to teaching and learning. In others the impact has been less obvious. The WCED needs to do more to see that e-learning is optimal.  

Kobus: Now it is rumoured you want to bring Khanya to an end?

Penny: Governments start projects to see if they will be successful and then go to scale if they are. Khanya has been very successful but it will soon complete its mandate to provide e-learning facilities to all schools in the Western Cape.  The WCED must now ensure that the project becomes part of its core function. In other words, we must make e-learning part of our mainstream activities.

 Kobus: Don’t you think you’re putting the huge investment in the schools in the province at risk?

Penny: There are always risks if one changes course but we have planned to mitigate the risks. This planning began in 2009 and is on track for a successful handover but the successful handover is the responsibility of all those involved, the schools, the districts and Head Office and Khanya staff. We must ensure that the work that is currently done by Khanya becomes embedded in the work of the WCED, the districts and the Department of the Premier. This means careful planning, retaining some of the strategic personnel, including the work Khanya has done in the job descriptions of officials and making sure that the handover is successful.

Kobus: What is your vision of ICTs in the future?

Penny: My vision is that the legacy of Khanya thrives and that all the learners of the Western Cape, now and in the future, benefit from the wonderful learning opportunities that e-learning offers.

 Kobus: Do you think the model established in the WC is replicable and will the WCED be willing to assist other provinces?

Penny: There is much that can and should be learnt from Khanya but this must be adjusted to suit other contexts. The WCED will do all it can to assist but it also has much to learn from other provinces and countries.

I thank the SG for agreeing to the interview and that she was willing for it to be published on this blog.    I trust all of you now have a much clearer view of the good intentions of the WCED, but also of the mammoth task ahead of the department.

If we can make this work – moving e-learning from project mode to being a permanent feature of the education department’s service offering – it will be an accomplishment of which we all can be proud.

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