30 January 2008
Children from a rural school in South Africa’s Limpopo province have been making friends and debating global issues with pupils from the Australian outback via an internet link-up organised by one of their teachers.
This is not the first time the pupils of Rotterdam Secondary School, just outside Giyani, have used the internet to connect with other school children abroad.
Last year, Rotterdam school connected with two schools in California and Hendry in the United States, allowing their geography students to participate in a discussion on urban migration.
Rotterdam schoolteacher and project manager Victor Ngobeni said the children discovered they shared many cultural practices with Australia’s people.
Ngobeni says that rural and disadvantaged schools do not have to wait for the government to supply them with computers before their learners could enjoy the benefits of the internet.
“We know that a cellphone comes with camera, video, bluetooth and WAP services. This is enough for a learner from a village to make friends with a learner in New York. We cannot wait until schools have enough computers,” he says.
While Ngobeni acknowledges the importance of computers in the classroom, he says they are not a precondition for success.
“Teachers must be made to feel that they are doing an important job in the development of our country. They must be constantly empowered to access knowledge contained in textbooks, the internet and other sources.”
Rotterdam Secondary School is one of more than 400 schools that are benefiting from South Africa’s Dinaledi Schools Project, which aims to increase access to mathematics, science and technology subjects in underprivileged schools.
In 2002, the school received a donation of 20 computers and an internet server from Telkom. The school boasted an 89.9% matric pass rate in 2007.
Ngobeni was nominated for a 2007 Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum Award as a result of his involvement in the project.