Community development project gets off the ground in South Africa
A teacher-training course, based on UNESCO's ICT Competency Standards for Teachers, will take place in Tugela Ferry, South Africa, from 29 June to 12 July 2009. This course, which is aimed at introducing school teachers in rural communities to computing and information literacy, is part of the Tugela Ferry project launched by the Department of Informatics of the University of Pretoria.
Tugela Ferry is the administrative and business centre of the Msinga District in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This small rural village, situated roughly midway between the Indian Ocean and the Drakensberg, has been identified as second on the list of most economically disadvantaged communities in South Africa. It is, therefore, in dire need of various forms of support.
The Tugela Ferry training course is financed by UNESCO in the framework of its strategy "ICT in support of knowledge creation, acquisition and sharing in the field of education".
"According to UNESCO's policy, both professional development programmes for teachers currently in the classroom and programmes for future teachers should provide technology-rich experiences," says Jaco du Toit, from the UNESCO Windhoek Office. "UNESCO's project on ICT Competency Standards for Teachers provides guidelines to all teachers for planning educational programmes that will help them play an essential role in producing technology-capable students."
The Tugela Ferry course will be led by an instructor using a hands-on practical approach. It will be supplemented by Virtual Expert (an interactive computer-based training programme in isiZulu and English donated by Intoweb), which allows the re-use of training materials for the community's greater benefit.
The key strategy of the course consists in highlighting the positive and significant impact that computing can have on the way the participants carry out their particular work, teaching or administrative tasks. The course can easily be tailored for other community members, such as nurses.
At the end of the course, participants will go through an examination. A certificate from the University of Pretoria will be awarded to each participant on successful completion of the training.
According to Deon Herbst, from the Continuing Education Department of the University of Pretoria, "continuous education is the key to enhancing productivity and empowering communities, thereby addressing the ongoing skills shortages".
Kirstin Krauss, from the Department of Informatics, believes in a holistic approach to ICT in developing context. "We place a strong emphasis on creating relationships, empowering community workers, facilitating social development, addressing poverty and creating ownership, motivation, hope and liberty in people," he says. "The project initiated at Tugela Ferry is done in close collaboration with community members. Creating a culture for sustainability is an important consideration in this outreach initiative. Our aim is to primarily empower teachers so that more people may be empowered and the community as a whole may be reached in the long run."
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