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By Christo Davids
Introduction A Google search on the word ‘sustainability’ will be rewarded with approximately 38.2 million hits. This suggest that sustainability is a topic that people think about, people talk about and people write about. It therefore comes as no surprise to discover that sustainability is a topic that is often thought about, talked about and written about within the Khanya Project. There are many ICT projects all over the world which have been initiated in schools by aid agencies, NGO’s and mostly big business corporations. While the intentions of these initiatives are noble, unfortunately not enough attention has been given to the establishment of mechanisms to empower these schools or these communities to sustain these projects. While there is now a bigger awareness about the issue of sustainability with donors and other stakeholders involved with these types of projects, it remains a sticky topic with which we continue to battle. About Sustainability The term ‘sustainability’ came into use with the emergence of the term ‘sustainable development’ in 1987 when the World Commission on Environment and Development published their report, “Our Common Future”. The commission’s definition of sustainability is: “Sustainability is a concept which deals with mankind' impact, through development, on the environment. s Sustainable Development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Today' environmental problems, like air pollution, are largely a consequence of s the unsustainable consumption of natural resources and the mismanagement of waste products. Sustainability is about environmental protection, sustained economic growth and social equity.” (Bruntlant, 1987). When this definition is applied to ICT in schools, it means that stakeholders in these projects should only undertake them once they have considered the effects it will have on the school and the community. They should not only consider the short term effects, but also the long term effects and plan accordingly (Cisler, 2002). This is not always possible and sustainability is in most cases something that is only thought about after a project has been initiated. Within Khanya the issue of sustainability is considered as early as possible, in the Initiation Stage of our project. In this way school managements and SGB’s are forced to engage with the issue of sustainability from very early in the project.


Forms of Sustainability When we talk about sustainability, the financial aspect of it is foremost in people’s minds, followed by the technical side of it. One very important aspect of sustainability that is very often ignored is operational sustainability or curriculum sustainability as is applicable in our situation. Schools are encouraged to think about sustainability from day one – they are urged to draw up sustainability plans that are not only filed away, but are actually put to practical use and benefit to the school. We quickly realized that school managements do not always have the knowledge of how to draw up these plans. For this reason templates have been made available that will help them to finalise their sustainability plans very quickly. Facilitators are also on hand to assist schools in the drawing up of these plans. 1. Financial Sustainability The availability of the necessary funds to cover various aspects of sustainability is of utmost importance. Technical and Curriculum Sustainability will not happen without the necessary funding. Having money available for this is important. It is equally important to know where you are going to get money or support from when you need it most. Building partnerships with local businesses and the community will go a long way towards achieving financial sustainability goals. At one of our primary schools in Langa, the principal met with parents and asked them to contribute a certain amount every month for the computer lab. In return he promised that every child will have access to the computer laboratory. In our Financial Sustainability Template we suggest that schools budget for short term expenses like insurance and consumables (paper, cartridges etc). Schools must also plan for medium to long term expenses such as the training of educators, maintenance and replacement of equipment as well as the purchasing of software. 2. Technical Sustainability Teachers (with all due respect) easily fall into a comfort zone and using technology to teach has proven to be a big adjustment for many teachers to make. If a teacher is constantly confronted with technical problems (like the server being down, a monitor not working properly or software that does not want to open), it can cause many frustrations and, for some teachers, this might just be the ideal excuse to fall back into their comfort zone. Technical sustainability starts with the procurement of technology. It is no use buyinng second hand or refurbished computers. In most cases, these arrive at the site with problems or problems surface very soon. Khanya prides itself on providing schools with the best technology available at the time of procurement. In this way we can ensure minimal technical disruptions during the first 3 years of the project at a school. 2

To make sure that equipment is always in a good working condition, Local Area Network (LAN) Administrators are provided with the best training possible. After the completion of the initial training course (LAN 1), LAN’s are put on a more advanced course (LAN 2). This will equip the LAN Administrators with the basic knowledge and skills to attend to the most common technical problems. The successful training of the LAN’s is achieved through the excellent co-operation between Khanya and CEI’s Training Unit, our training partner. Where schools can afford it we suggest they contract a technician or small company for the technical maintenance of their equipment. 3. Curriculum Sustainability This is an aspect of sustainability very often overlooked. No matter how much money a school has for technical maintenance, the project is doomed to failure if the facility is not optimally used for its intended purpose of curriculum delivery. What is increasingly occurring at high schools is that a subject like mathematics is being pushed out of the computer lab in favour of CAT (Computer Applications and Technology). When drawing up a Curriculum Sustainability Plan, schools must consider the follow: The subjects or learning areas to visit the ICT facility and the time allocation per subject or learning area. From this information a timetable can be drafted which must be followed diligently by teachers. Internal Curriculum Support Structures must be established. This support can be one person or a group of people. Not all teachers are equally strong when it comes to the use of ICT to teach. New teachers starting at the school must be introduced and trained in the use of ICT. Currently, the Khanya facilitator performs this function, but the school must strive to become self-reliant in this regard. All teachers must obviously be competent in the use of educational software. It is suggested that at least one person be trained in the technical aspects of the software to do trouble shooting when necessary. Educators must make provision for ICT in their planning – Learning Programmes, Work Schedules and Lesson Plans. Who is responsible for sustainability? At this point the issue of sustainability is placed squarely on the shoulders of the schools. It should actually be a joint effort between the school, the community, business and the state.


Schools do not always have the resources or the capacity to take care of sustainability. In the same breath, schools should not accept the situation. Work is currently being done on a model that will assist schools to engage businesses and the community for assistance and funding. In this way schools will be assisted in drawing up fundraising proposals, business plans and in making professional presentations to potential funders. This model is still in its infancy. Principals often complain about how poor the community is and how they battle to collect schools fees. It is good then to remember the Zimasa example mentioned previously. The state has made a significant investment towards the provision of ICTs to schools. However, it can play a bigger role in ensuring the sustainable use of these technologies. The WCED has been petitioned to make a post available at schools for technical maintenance. If that person has an background in education, he/she can also be trained as a Curriculum facilitator for the school. In this way, curriculum sustainability is also addressed. Conclusion You might be all aware of the tragic disaster where a bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River. Thirty people died, 60 were injured and about 50 cars and trucks were lost. Serious questions were asked about the maintenance of the bridge. The most serious one was whether the American Road Agency had enough money to maintain its roads and bridges. The parallel that I draw here might be exaggerated, but the point I want to bring across is that sustainability is really a complex issue that is being grappled with across all spheres of society. Khanya does not claim to be on top of the matter of sustainability. It is an ongoing process to look for the correct model and strategy to ensure that lasting sustainability in our schools is achieved. References 1. Becta ICT Research, (2005), Managing ICT cost in schools. Accessed at 2. Bruntland, G. (ed.), (1987), Our Common Future: A Report of World Commission on Environment and Development, accessed at ml 3. Cisler, S. (2002), Schools Online Planning for Sustainability. Accessed at 4. 5. 4

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