So far, so good
This article appeared in Issue 14 of Khanya – Education through Technology – 2009
When we look back over the past seven years of Khanya, it is clear that the project is a success story. The initial objectives are being met and many expectations have been exceeded. On a continent where the implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has a long track record of failures, Khanya has brought new hope to many. The greatest achievement of Khanya is that it demonstrates that a large scale implementation of ICT in African schools can indeed take place.
The past year was marked with many milestones. Teachers, principals, learners, communities, partners, departmental officials and Khanya staff members linked hands to establish firmly the use of technology in education.
We have reached the thousand school mark at last – each one of these schools has at least one computer facility. Hundreds of thousands of learners make use of these facilities and over twenty thousand teachers have been trained. Some of the first schools where technology was installed eight years ago are still using the same equipment day after day. The credit must go to school and technical staff members who take such good care of the facilities, and also to our hardware partners who supply durable goods.
During 2008 the first solar powered computer laboratory was launched. This was a necessary step – it would be irresponsible to increase the number of energy-gobbling devices, without considering the impact this has on the ecology. An additional benefit is that, if a school has a computer facility powered by clean energy, an important message is sent to learners. This pilot will now be expanded to address the challenges identified during the first implementation.
Five successful seminars for principals were conducted in different parts of the province during the past year. The sessions focused on providing school leaders with tools, tips and techniques to manage the computer facilities in their schools. Most principals expressed appreciation for these information sharing sessions. More of these seminars will be conducted during 2009.
Our strict security measures are also paying off. During the year-end holiday period many schools were burgled but only two computer facilities were affected. I believe that this is due to three factors: the meticulous way in which Khanya secures computer rooms; the conscientious efforts of staff members and communities to protect the facilities; and our involvement with ITCrimes, through which each component is recorded electronically and made available to the police. All these factors act as deterrents against crime in the computer rooms of schools.
Provisioning of equipment to schools will continue over the next few years until all schools are adequately resourced.
Some schools are using their facilities optimally – the time tables for their computer rooms are full and the facilities are available to learners after hours. Principals and teachers who are embracing the power of computing to enhance learning must be applauded.
The greatest remaining challenge for Khanya is to help all schools to use their facilities optimally. It is sad that we still find computer rooms locked for days on end as some teachers are hesitant to take the learners into the rooms and computer resources are not available to learners after hours.
What is the problem? In some cases the technology fails when it is needed it and we will continue to support schools in their efforts to become technically self-sufficient so that technical glitches do not get in the way of using computer tools for teaching and learning.
There is a problem of greater concern – sometimes the teacher is the barrier to access to the computer room. We appreciate that most teachers do not have a technical background and that it may take some time for them to adapt to the use of technology as a teaching and learning tool.
For this reason Khanya will focus in 2009 on helping all teachers to progress in their ability to use technology. The aim is that all learners should have free access to ICT to help them fill the gaps created by problems in the system.
An appeal is made to all principals and teachers to co-operate with programmes to empower them to use ICT resources in their schools optimally.
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