/ 24 May 2013

Rural community gets computer lab

Rural Community Gets Computer Lab

Deputy Minister of Communications Stella Ngobeni-Abrams recently experienced what most South Africans have been experiencing for quite a long time in rural areas. The deputy minister was at Plain Hill, iXopo, in the south-west of KwaZulu-Natal to hand over a computer lab to two schools in the area.

Before she could start the function, Minister of Communications Dina Pule called her, but they could not hear each other because the area does not have cellular network coverage, and they had to cancel the call.


Ixopo, in the Sisonke municipality, is one of the poverty nodal areas defined by the presidency. Plain Hill village is a deep rural and remote area that has no network coverage. People in the area cannot even access radio stations because of poor signal. Even the road leading to the schools had to be graveled specifically for this function.

When the deputy minister told the community about the poor signal that she experienced during the conversation with the minister, the local mayor, Zamo Nxumalo and MP Emmanuel Magubane, who comes from the area, grabbed the opportunity to ask her to put pressure on cellular companies to install network towers. They said everyone in the area experiences poor signal, which makes it hard for the community to communicate.

“The deputy minister’s call was a blessing in disguise for my community because it was something that we were going to asked from her. “Now that she experienced this difficulty for herself, we hope she is going to exert pressure on Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and 8ta,” said Magubane.

He said he wants his community to have a choice of which network to use, so all companies should install network towers. He also thanked the deputy minister for making time to come to the area to deliver services and said he hoped that the she would go back to parliament and report the needs of this area, particularly the lack of roads.

Nxumalo said it is difficult to be a mayor of a rural municipality because there is no rate revenue collection; the municipality therefore relies on national and provincial grants to provide services to the people. He said there are a lot of things that needed to be done to better the area.

Computer donations part of service delivery

The deputy minister handed over a computer lab with 30 computers at Mary Help primary school and 30 iPads at Nkomose High School. The computers and iPads came with free internet connection for five years.

The deputy minister said that, ideally, the community around the school should also be allowed to use the internet in the facility, but that it would depend on the school governing board and the principals. She was accompanied by Sentech board members, who donated the lab and computers. She took the time to teach some of the learners how to use the computers and made sure that all the equipment was working properly.

Other dignitaries who accompanied the deputy minister included the chairperson of the SABC, Ellen Shabalala, Ina Venter from IT Master and Dean Yu, deputy chief executive of Huawei, which donated the iPads to Nkomose High School.

Speaking to more than 2 000 community members and learners, the deputy minister said the government had to ensure that service delivery reached all corners of South Africa. She said people voted for change in their lives and that must happen.

“Education is a right, not a privilege, so schools in the rural areas must get the same resources as urban areas and government must ensure that happens. Kids, you must be grateful that you have a president like Jacob Zuma, who said education should be made a priority number one in the five years that he committed himself to when he took over the presidency in 2009.

“He has ordered all of us, ministers and deputy ministers, in our departments to ensure that we have educational programs and bursaries so that we bridge the gap between the poor and the rich through education.  “He did not have better education during his youth days but he wants every South African child to have a better education,” said the deputy minister.

She also touched on the long awaited digital migration. Although she couldn’t commit herself to a date, she promised that it will happen soon and that the digital migration will result in more youth programmes.

Excellence in key subjects is white-dominated

She warned learners not to use the computers for pornography and dating sites and said the iPads would help the learners to improve and have a better understanding of maths and science. She also encouraged learners to make maths and science their first priority, as it is a white-dominated field in South Africa.

“I appeal to all the teachers to do their work and teach these learners on how to use iPads and computers. As much as we want these iPads and computers to stay a long time, but also we want them to be used [and] not to be locked in boxes.

“Teachers must learn to understand their students so that it will be easy for them to teach especially with iPads. “If a child doesn’t understand, a teacher should be there to help, not to criticise. It you tell a child that she or he won’t make it in life, you must know that you have killed the confidence of that child for ever. “I am talking from experience; never tell a child something is not profitable because you killing that child and remember that bad things stays forever on the minds,” said the deputy minister.

Deeper commitment to rural communities

Shabalala said she noted that in this area the community could access other radio stations and that some stations are not clear because of poor signals. She said she was going to meet with Sentech to sort out the problem. She also challenged the schools to write and request some assistance from the SABC, as their doors were always opened.

“We are not a charity institution, but we have stakeholders from which we can source some funding for your schools. “Young people must learn to put education first and parent must always encourage them in any way. “As you see, the deputy minister of communication is a young and very wise woman. “That means you can also do like her even if you come from this area. Many people have made it in life in spite of the conditions they were coming from,” said Shabalala to a loud applause from the community.

One elderly community member said: “It the first time seeing computer in my life, because in our times there was none. So we thank the government for making this possible for our children in such a rural area like ours. “I would like to touch it and feel which it feels like. Even if I can go to my grave now, I will be happy because I know that my children from now on will have a better education. “Now we fully understand that this government is ours too in the rural areas. Because a minister can come from Cape Town to see us here in this area. I never thought I would see the minister with my naked eyes in this area.”

Neither of the principals, Somandla Majola of Mary Help Primary and Ndumiso Dlamini of Nkomose High School, could contain their excitement over the donations. Both said they previously struggled to use computers as they had to travel to a town more than 10km away.

“We want to thank the department of communication, you, deputy minister in particular and all the sponsors for this magnificent gifts you’ve given us,” said Dlamini on behalf of both schools.

Ina Venter of IT Masters and Dean Yu from Huawei committed their companies to help more poor communities to access digital world.

“We happy to see that we can help young people to reach their dreams of having I-pads. As the company this is what we do all the times and this is not the end of it. We understand that education is the key to any society that why we committed our selves to help schools,” said Yu.