"Introduction to bridging the digital divide"
Introduction to bridging the digital divide Computers can beneﬁt learners at all levels in the education system and, since 1995, Aberdare Cables has been donating computer hardware and software to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. With R679 211 worth of equipment donated in 2006, the total value of the project amounts to nearly R1 million. Not only does the project allow many students from disadvantaged backgrounds to conduct research, study, complete and print assignments but, in the long-term, it makes them more employable and contributes to the country’s ICT talent pool. Adding to the ICT talent pool A child sitting at a computer for the ﬁrst time unlocks the door to a world of information from which they will never look back. But millions of South African children have never enjoyed the wonder of this experience and, with every year that they go without access to computers, they fall ever further behind their peers, doomed to end up on the wrong side of the digital divide. This gap in their education can have far-reaching consequences, preventing them from taking their place in a global economy that has become increasingly driven by information technology. Recognising that information and communication technology (ICT) is a major factor in the process of global integration, South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has made bridging the digital divide a key priority in his Millennium Africa Recovery Programme. Altron welcomes the opportunity to play a meaningful part in helping the country to achieve these goals by drawing on its skills, expertise and thought leadership to unlock the ICT door for South African children. During 2006, our group companies were involved in a number of large and small initiatives that involved establishing multi-media centres and donating computers, equipment and a range of ICT skills to needy schools in disadvantaged areas. Altron Chief Executive, Robbie Venter, and Altron Chief Financial Ofﬁcer, Page 9 Diane Radley, at the opening of the Bytes multi-media centre at Langa school. E d u c a t i o n P o r t f o l i o w i t h i n C O R P O R AT E S O C I A L I N V E S T M E N T Bridging the digital divide ICT education projects Today, close to 7 000 learners across three provinces have access to state-of-the-art ICT centres and equipment, thanks to a groundbreaking project started by Altron and the Bytes Technology Group in 2004. The ﬂagship ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ initiative has provided a blueprint for sustainable ICT education interventions. All too often, secondary factors like poor security, underskilled educators and the general state of disrepair of school facilities hinder the success of ICT education projects. By adopting a Our employees holistic approach to meeting the multiple challenges faced by mirror our disadvantaged schools, this ﬂagship project ensures that we not only establish and furnish multi-media centres with computer commitment equipment and trained facilitators, but that we also upgrade and Bytes Technology Group employees improve a school’s general infrastructure. are just one group among many The success of the ﬁrst two projects at the Isikhumbuso Secondary partners who have contributed to the School in Orange Farm and Langa High School in the Western success of the ICT education projects. Cape, led to similar projects at seven schools in KwaZulu-Natal. Gladly giving up personal time to help The national Department of Education and the Department of establish the projects, they have spent Trade and Industry have praised these projects as examples many hours painting walls, laying against which similar interventions may be benchmarked. carpets, hanging curtains, making repairs and installing facilities in the new multi-media centres. The Altech NamITech and Boikanyo partnership Boikanyo Primary School is situated in Ga-Rankuwa and currently serves over 900 scholars. The improvised multi-media centre consisted of one classroom and was woefully underequipped to serve the learners’ needs; only ﬁve computers were in working condition and had to be shared among 60 learners in a class. But a partnership between Altech NamITech, SchoolNet SA and Boikanyo Primary School lead to the establishment of a new, fully equipped state-of-the-art multi-media centre. An amount of R74 000 raised by the NamITech Annual Golf Day set the ball rolling in 2004 and was followed by a further donation of R365 000.00 in 2005 that helped provide all the required hardware and software, including 50 computers, networking hard drives, mouses, keyboards, DVD ROMs, and PC domes. As many of the users are computer Altron Chairman, Dr Bill Venter (right), and novices, the deputy principal was trained on Windows troubleshooting and support and is Bytes CEO, David Redshaw, at the Altron/Bytes able to provide assistance to the learners as required. multi-media centre at Orange Farm. Page 10 Giving the gift of education The Bytes Bursary Programme follows a long-term company policy of development and placement of young, highly skilled talent. Currently, the programme has six bursary students studying at South African universities and actively supports a further 210 learnerships. Bytes has also offered the ﬁrst disabled learnership in South Africa. All the bursary students have been placed in full-time employment with Bytes. Children blossom with Project Qhakaza These children at the Buhlebemfundo Secondary and Trenance Manor High Schools, both outside Durban, are among 3 700 who this year are able to sit in a comfortable learning environment while they explore the new world of information offered by computers and the internet. Their schools, along with ﬁve others in the Newcastle and Tugela Ferry areas of KwaZulu-Natal, have beneﬁted from Project Qhakaza (a Zulu word meaning ‘to blossom’), part of Bytes Technology Group’s ongoing initiative to bridge the digital divide in previously disadvantaged schools throughout South Africa. With trained educators on hand to offer assistance, learners now have access to ICT tools including top-of- the-range computers that are fully networked into a server; full Microsoft software support; high-speed internet connectivity; an integrated Xerox printer/telefax/copier/scanner; and a Plasma TV, DVD, PVR decoder and learning DVDs. Their classrooms have undergone signiﬁcant refurbishments, too. New furniture, reference books, subscriptions to newspapers and periodicals in the upgraded library have generated a renewed eagerness to learn. As we have done with other beneﬁciary schools in this ﬂagship project, we look forward to tracking the pass rate improvement amongst these youngsters in the years to come. Adopt-A-School Programme Bytes, predominantly through its Bytes Document Solutions division, has a long-term and holistic programme of school “adoptions” that focuses on ensuring top-quality education, facilities and pass rates. Starting with the initial adoption of a high school and a primary school in Tembisa, Bytes has now adopted six schools in total, reaching more than 7 000 learners. The Buhlebemfundo Secondary School in Kwa Dabeka and the Trenance Manor High School in Phoenix were the most recent schools to be adopted. When the rural part of this project is completed, Bytes expects to be directly involved in a similar way with 10 schools throughout South Africa, representing over 10 000 learners as direct beneﬁciaries. Page 11 E d u c a t i o n P o r t f o l i o w i t h i n C O R P O R AT E S O C I A L I N V E S T M E N T Infrastructure development and capacity building Building classes for learning Sitting at desks in freshly painted, spacious classrooms, or walking between classes in a secure environment, is a novelty for many South African school children, including these learners from the Charles Duna Primary School in the Eastern Cape and the Bertharry English Private School in Thembisa Township. These schools are just two among many that have either been adopted by Altron Group companies, or that have received upgraded facilities as part of our efforts to improve infrastructure and build capacity in needy educational institutions. Started in 1995, Aberdare Cables’ two-phase project saw the building of an administration block and the renovation and painting of the Charles Duna Primary School, where 919 children go each day to learn. Close to R1 million has been spent on these two phases thus far and the company hopes that its long-standing partnership with school administrators will enable it to establish Charles Duna as a model township school that others can emulate. In a similar long-term project started in 1994, AIMS (Aeromaritime International Management Services) has helped to upgrade facilities at the Bertharry English Private School in Tembisa. The electriﬁcation of the school has provided learners with a warm, well-lit environment in winter, while the erection of the concrete palisade fence has helped to secure the school grounds. With an average of 70 learners per classroom, one of the project’s goals was to decrease overcrowding for which AIMS built two new classrooms in 2006. Altron and Altech UEC Computer Winter School At the PROTEC (Programme for Technological Careers) Winter School held in the July school holidays and sponsored by Altron and Altech UEC Multi-media Technologies (Altech UEC) for the last three years. Here grade 11 learners from Tongaat stepped into the digital realm for the ﬁrst time when they received four days of intensive computer and internet training. PROTEC is a national technological career development programme promoting MST education for all South Africans in order to increase and improve the country’s technologically skilled human resource base. Since 2004, Altron has been covering the cost of hiring computers, transport, catering, T-shirts and book bags. Learners also enjoy a visit to the Zululand Science Centre and a prize-giving ceremony. The Altech UEC and Altron Computer Winter School plays a signiﬁcant role in empowering these young people with the knowledge and skills needed for personal growth, increased employment opportunities, productivity and success. Page 12 A lifeline to schools in trouble Looking at the Ben Sinuka or Ekurhuleni primary schools today gives one little indication of the state of disrepair they were in before Aberdare Cables and Altech Arrow Altech Distribution (AAD) became involved to upgrade the facilities in 2006. Described in the local Port Elizabeth press as “the worst school in the Metro”, the Ben Sinuka Primary School’s classrooms were virtually unusable. Dilapidated buildings, broken windows and lack of doors made learning extremely difﬁcult for the school’s 908 children. Staff at Aberdare Cables gave up their time to help repair classroom roofs and ﬂoors, replace doors and windows, ﬁt new locks and paint the entire school. The Ekurhuleni Primary School Satellite Campus was in a similar state of disrepair and facing closure by the Department of Education. Realising the difﬁculties this would create for the campus’s 300 learners, most of whom come from impoverished informal settlements, AAD embarked on a two-year project to upgrade the school’s infrastructure. R84 000 has been spent on the erection of a concrete palisade wall and to repair leaking classroom roofs. With the future of their school secured, these children can look forward to ongoing support and maintenance from the group. Year Recipient Research 2000 Prof Vivian Bickford-Smith Ethnic Pride and Racial Prejudice in (University of Cape Town) Victorian Cape Town Prof Michael Chapman Southern African Literatures (University of KwaZulu-Natal) 2001 Prof Elemer E Rossinger Parametic Lie Group Actions on Global (University of Pretoria) Generalised Solutions of Nonlinear PDEs 2002 Prof George Devenish A Commentary of the SA Bill of Rights (University of KwaZulu-Natal) Prof John Higgins Raymond Williams – Literature, Marxism (University of Cape Town) and Cultural Materialism 2003 Prof Detlev Kröger Air-cooled Heat Exchanges and Cooling (University of Stellenbosch) Towers 2004 Prof Jeff Guy The view across the river: Harriette (University of KwaZulu-Natal) Colenso and the Zulu struggle against imperialism Prof Jeremy Seekings The UDF: A history of the United Democratic (University of Cape Town) Front in South Africa 2005 Prof Jeremy Seekings Change and continuity in spatial planning (University of Cape Town) – Metropolitan planning in Cape Town Supporting academic research under political transition The Bill Venter/Altron Literary Awards date back 19 years and helps to promote research in tertiary education that is published in a book form. It is presented annually to tertiary education recipients who have made an outstanding contribution to research, and alternates each year between contributions to the humanities and natural sciences. This award, prized as much for its signiﬁcant monetary value as for its prestige, went to Professor Achille Mbembe from the WISER faculty of Wits University for his work, “On the Postcolony”, in 2006. The award for 2007 was presented to Professor Norman Owen-Smith of the University of the Witwatersrand for his book “Adaptive Herbivore Ecology” which deals with elephant culling, global warming, climate change and ecological changes. Page 13 E d u c a t i o n P o r t f o l i o w i t h i n C O R P O R AT E S O C I A L I N V E S T M E N T Early childhood development Laying foundations for the future Rural children from disadvantaged areas are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Facing the challenges of poverty, unemployment and lack of education, their parents struggle to give them the start in life that will lay a foundation for future opportunities and success. Unable to pay for child- minders, most of these parents leave their children to be cared for at crèches during the day. By investing in educator training and infrastructural development at these crèches through the Early Childhood Development (ECD) approach, the group believes it can make a signiﬁcant difference in the educational start in life these children receive. The crèche that was built in the Eastern Cape by Altech The holistic approach goes beyond just education Autopage Cellular in the Candu settlement where there and takes into account the child’s health, nutrition, is no basic education. environment and psychological needs. Page 14 Candu Crèche – a partnership for the long term Templeton Mdludlu, Chief of the Candu community in the Eastern Cape, knows that the investment he made in donating land for the building of a local crèche will pay dividends to his community members for many years to come. On the land he donated, Altech Autopage Cellular, in partnership with the Community Outreach Trust, erected a brand new pre-school and after-school care centre that will serve the children of Candu and those in the surrounding areas. The R180 000 investment by Altech Autopage Cellular was used to build the facility and stock it with materials that can be used to educate the children. They now also have a safe, fenced-in play area complete with jungle gyms and outdoor equipment to encourage learning, physical development and outdoor activity. Because sustainability is so central to Altech Autopage Cellular’s involvement in this project, a portion of the funds was also used to train staff members and community volunteers who will care for the children. The company also installed solar panels and a water container to provide much- needed clean running water and electricity for the centre. Staff involvement in CSI projects at Altron is high. Altech Autopage Cellular staff raised money through an internal fundraiser that helped to provide each Candu community family with a food pack containing basic provisions for three months. It is this kind of ownership of corporate social investment initiatives that makes our interventions so successful. Page 15