awareNet at Arthur Mfebe Educational Centre, Cofimvaba

South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has brought together a number of government agencies, local groups and stakeholders for an ambitious project in Cofimvaba, near Queenstown in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Goals include improving education, creating food security and building the local economy through agriculture and related SMEs.  The project is currently based at the Arthur Mfebe Educational Centre, where awareNet is being used to develop learning materials for a new agriculture curriculum.

This is an exciting first for awareNet: there is currently no internet access or desktop computers at the school.  Curriculum development work is done almost entirely on Android tablets connected to a portable hotspot – a laptop running Edubuntu 12.04 and the latest version of awareNet for mobile devices.  Utilizing a wireless mesh network which will be built by the Department of Science and Technology, we hope awareNet will bring localized educational content and web services to mobile users in the wider Kwa Manzi community, and schools across the St Marks circuit.

Educator Maggie Verster training teachers at Arthur Mfebe on the use of technology in the classroom

For now – eKhaya ICT, supported by the VSA, has been training teachers and project members on the ground in the use of awareNet for collaborative authorship, creating multimedia on tablets, and use of the mobile server.

Seedlings in the school gardens. A new agricultural college nearby, together with reinvestment in local irrigation schemes could bring jobs, food security and hope to a disadvantaged rural area.

We originally set out to develop software to bridge the digital divide – to bring internet services and the opportunities which come with technology literacy to those who had been left behind, particularly in rural areas, and starting in the Eastern Cape.  To see awareNet being used this way, and the enthusiasm of teachers at an under-resourced rural school to use and benefit from new technologies has been a shaft of sunlight in a cloudy month.

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