/ 25 April 2005

Technology invades the wilderness

An unlikely place to find a technology training centre is at the top of a hill in Limpopo which is home to more monkeys than people.

But educators at Ramaano village, who had previously not even had access to a typewriter, now have a technology centre where they can plan lessons and learn improved ways to implement outcomes-based education (OBE) in the classroom – free of charge.

Ramaano Mbulaheni centre was founded in 1999 and is one of more than 15 Information Communication Centres established by MultiChoice Africa Foundation across the country. It has 24 computers connected to the Internet, a discussion room with an overhead projector where participants hold a group discussion after every lesson, and a ‘broadcast room” that has a 57cm television and a video machine.

One of the educators who feels empowered by the project is Lucas Ramango, a principal at Ndidivhali Primary School. ‘It was the first time ever in my life that I had touched a computer, let alone turned it on,” he says. Computer skills are not the only things he learned; he says the experience has also made him see OBE in a different light.

‘Before, I used to think that OBE was difficult and that it could not be implemented, especially in the rural areas. However, seeing other educators on video who are in this province implementing it in their classrooms made me realise that OBE is in fact both possible and interesting.”

Ramango has learned how to teach the notoriously difficult area of Mathematical Literacy, Mathematics and Mathematical Science (MLMMS) and Natural Science (NS) in a stimulating way. He believes the project should be compulsory to all educators, especially those who teach MLMMS and Technology. ‘Most teachers who teach Technology have never even been exposed to a computer and other technical equipment and yet they teach it,” he says.

One of the major achievements of the project is to help build an educator support structure. Discussions form part of the training, providing forums for educators to discuss their individual interpretations of lessons. ‘During the discussions, educators share ideas, advise each other and come up with solutions to their problems,” says Florence Libago, project coordinator. Educators often go on to support each other after training as well.

Since its establishment, Ramaano Mbulaheni centre has trained more than 1 000 educators from different parts of Limpopo. Teachers travel every day from as far as Polokwane to acquire the skills that will benefit them for the rest of their careers.

This project has not only inspired educators who had seen change as an obstacle to their career development, but has also created job opportunities for lecturers who might have lost their jobs when the Ramaano College of Education closed in 1998. Six lecturers retained jobs as facilitators.

As part of their assessment, facilitators visit schools to ensure educators implement what they have learned and to determine the learners’ response to the new way of teaching. The success of the project is reflected in the video recordings made of these educators – which are then broadcast on the Shoma network to other teachers – as they take their new skills into the classroom.

MultiChoice runs several other projects in partnership with the Department of Education, including the Dinaledi Project which is striving to improve maths and science results at matric level in more than 100 schools.