Meeting with the Western Cape Education Department Directors

Western Cape Education Dept Emblem

On the 8th of December, Ron Wertlen met with Mr Brian Schreuder, Mr Osman Sadeck and Dr Sigamoney Naicker who are respectively: Deputy Director-General: Curriculum and Assessment Management; Chief Education Specialist: e-Learning (i.e. in charge of Khanya); Chief Director: Curriculum Development.

The WCED wanted the meeting to take place, because they want to be informed about all educational innovations and especially those originating and concerning South Africa.

The VSA wanted the meeting to take place because the WCED is arguably the best organised education ministry in the country, and is an ideal candidate for awareNet introduction with almost 50000 computers in all their schools. We were very interested to hear what the WCED thinks of awareNet.

We made an informational presentation. The meeting reacted very favourably to Anna’s Peace One Day video (which is also available on the Paece One Day website). Thank you Anna, the video really exposes very aptly the awareNet spirit!

Mr Schreuder’s technical summary of the presentation was that our criteria are: schools must have computers, they don’t need Internet and must install an awareNet server (a not particularly high powered machine that can cost as little as R2000). They also were glad that we work especially with the “poorly performing” schools.

WCED also presented information on their programmes and projects. Principally, the main outcome of the meeting was that complementary “support” programmes are welcome in WCED schools. The WCED will thus support formally (not financially) a request that VSA may make to work in WCED schools, especially the poorly performing schools. They also have contacts with 3rd parties who could fund projects.

They are especially interested in:

  1. – Engaging, empowering content that will be used to improve learning in schools and also improve teaching;
  2. – Career guidance content and activities;
  3. – Study methods and organisational activities.

The first point is in direct accordance with the VSA awareNet methodology. The second point concurs with our observations in the rural areas; and is something that we have already commented on in previous blogs over the years. Career guidance is something that we are tackling in 2012 (more about how and with whom at a later point) and is in fact an implicit aspect of the Peace Day Music project in which learners worked with professionals to produce songs and an entire event. The final point is something that we have not started considering yet. Different people have different ways of organising themselves and the methods of study required to pass exams are not necessarily beneficial to actually gaining knowledge. However general organisational skills are something we try to teach awareNet users, in terms of making it to the lab on time, competing for awards, etc.

awareNet’s peering and synchronisation functionality and ad hoc network topology are aspects that the WCED is currently implementing in their province wide educational CMS. We are confident that we will find some synergies in that department going forward (perhaps in 2013).

Some final encouraging words from the WCED were to focus on South Africa and not spend too much energy on neighbouring countries that have shown interest in using awareNet. “We have plenty of schools that need you right here in our country!”

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