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anna kuthan
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« on: May 05 2007 »

By: Fortune Sibanda
20/04/2007
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Article summary:
The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) unleashes ICT projects to empower Africa's schools.
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Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, 18th April, 2007. The Nepad e-Africa Commission  launched the South African Nepad e-Schools Initiative Demonstration (Demo) project at Maripe Secondary School, in the Mpumalanga Province.

Speaking to journalists just before the official launch, which was presided over by South African President, Thabo Mbeki, the Executive Chairperson of the Nepad e-Africa Commission, Dr. Henry Chasia said that the Demo project was intended to provide real life lessons to inform the roll out of the e-Schools Initiative, which aims to cover more than 600 000 schools in the African continent by 2013.

Launched in March 2003 by the Nepad Heads of State and Government, the Nepad e-Schools Initiative is a project that seeks to equip at least 600 000 schools on the African continent with high-end information communication technologies (ICTs), that include computers, printers, whiteboards, scanners, satellite communication and access to broadband internet.

According to Dr. Chasia, the vision of the Initiative is to build a "critical mass" of African youth who are able to use ICTs to improve their standards of living:

"The vision is to make all learners in all African schools ICT literate by installing ICTs in these schools, connecting the schools to the internet , training pre-service and in-service educators in the use of these ICTs and equipping each school with a health point to provide health information and undertake specific health interventions as may be required. This is a long term project, in which a critical mass of ICT-savvy Africans is to be achieved in 10 to 20 years time."

A total of 16 African countries were chosen by the Commission to take part in the ?Demo? project. of the participating countries, 'Demos' have already been launched in schools in Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Lesotho, Kenya and Egypt. After South Africa, the next launch is scheduled for Mali and Mauritius in May, while the rest (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Senegal) will be launched later this year.

Besides Maripe Secondary School, the five other schools chosen to be part of the ?Demo? in South Africa are Thozamisa, Lomahasha and Ipetleng Secondary Schools, as well as Hendrik Makapan and Isiphosethu High Schools.

Dr. Chasia said the Demo project is the first step in the implementation of the Nepad e-Schools Initiative: "The 'Demo' will be used to give us a taste of what we should look forward to once we start the broader roll out."

Dr Chasia also said that the Commission is negotiating with suppliers of hardware, infrastructure and services on a continental level in order to ensure the "sharing of best practices, common standards and unified specifications which will, in turn, facilitate collective negotiations and bulk procurement of services from suppliers."

Speaking at the same press briefing, the South African Deputy Minister of Communication, Roy Padayachie, said the e-Schools Initiative comes at a time when the world is becoming globalised and when there is an ever more increasing need to prepare Africans for global interaction:

"The whole idea is to mobilise resources to make sure that Africans are part and parcel of the digital age. Thus, if we are to prepare Africans for digital citizenship, we have to start with the children because they are the future."

According to Padayachie, the schools for the Demo project were chosen by the government on a criterion that was put together by the Nepad e-Schools Commission:

"We wanted to get to get information on what will happen when we begin the broader roll out, therefore, we wanted schools that are representative of the conditions of what we will be dealing with once we start the roll out proper."

Padayachie, also, emphasised that it is important that the learners who are going to benefit from the Initiative are taught how to be producers of content in the digital age, and not just to be consumers, as this will help in developing their creative capacities.

The key implementation partners of the South African 'Demo' project are the government, through the Departments of Education and Communication, the Nepad e-Africa Commission, as well as consortia of private sector companies that include the Hewlett Packard (HP) Consortium, the Cisco Consortium and the Oracle Consortium.

These consortia have donated and installed equipment and infrastructure, as well as software and support services at their own expense. Furthermore, the consortia will operate and maintain the facilities in the Demo schools free of charge for a year, after which the participating schools are expected to come up with a sustainability plan on how they will take over the maintenance of the 'labs'.

The Managing Director of Hewlett Packard (HP) South Africa, Ms Thoko Mokgosi-Mwantebe, said that her organisation?s involvement in the project was informed by the belief that education and ICTs are a great equaliser in life, and that by merging the two, the company is working to ensure that the youth in Africa can be competitive in a knowledge-based economy.

She added that: "ICTs enable for an interactive and engaging learning process, which is much better as it enables learners to see some of the things they learn about online or on television, rather than to rely on their imagination."

Currently, the Nepad e-Schools Commission is working on a business plan which will reveal to each participating country what to anticipate in terms of costs and skills that are required to run the Initiative.

Source: http://hana.ru.ac.za/article.cfm?articleID=1372
Story provided free by the Highway Africa News Agency
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