This week I went to see Andre Basel, who is the computer science teacher at Eshowe High school and the local computer ‘fundi’.
We installed Linux on one of his classroom computers, and discussed what his goals were in computer education.
He also put me in touch with Eshowe college of education, a teacher training college here, which has a room full of computers, largely under-used, without a network. I asked them over to the High School, but only succeeded in scaring them about Linux.
Trainee teachers use the computers at the education centre for producing themsevles a nice resume - it seems not to be included in teaching at all.
I stopped down later that day by Zululand University, near Empageni, to see Soren Aaltos, an American married to a South African (He does the Universities network administration, very capably, while she teaches English there). They seem flush with computers, some storerooms stacked to the ceiling with new ones not yet unpacked. He is also a Linux / Unix fan, fighting a battle with Netware.
The entire university has a 128K link to the rest of the world, so students do not have access to Internet. Soren is busy assembling an authenticating squid cache, to allow students to have a Web ‘budget’ that they can query in real-time. When that is finalised, they will get Web and Email access to the world ..
He told me that Uninet, the South African University network is currently locked into a deal with Telkom for service provision, but that comes to an end in May. At that time, they will go with a satellite solution - a US company that will have direct satellite downlinks to Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Uninet then will cut back on their expensive national bandwidth, relying mostly on satellite and a complex cache network for WWW service.
Their community service seems to be minimal - Soren is kept very busy with the internal university network to walk local schools through setting up a dialup connection to the University, a service that does exist, but is crippled by bad quality phone lines in the area.
However, he may be able to find me network cards for the teacher training college.. Then maybe a few network games will increase the interest of all concerned in computers ..
My basic premise is that 9 year olds from Zululand will have no problem grasping how to use a browser, and the unwillingness or fear of teachers or their educators should not stand in their way.
I also have a few feelers out to SA Breweries for funding.
Cheers from Zululand ..