The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. It undertakes directed research and development for socio-economic growth.

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November 2012

Enabling technologies: Information and communications technology

Technology for rural innovation and education in the Eastern Cape

A Cofimvaba learner shows off the badge she received as part of the project

The project enables the use of technology for better learning and teaching
After 11 years, the CSIR has returned to the area where some of its first technology interventions for development were tested in the Eastern Cape. During October 2012, the CSIR’s Rensie van Rensburg and Uys du Buisson accompanied senior officials from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to Cofimvaba in the rural Eastern Cape for them to acquaint themselves with the latest developments in a range of technology for rural innovation and education activities.

The DST delegation was led by Kristin Klose, DST coordinator for the Cofimvaba project. She was joined by her colleagues, Henry Roman (Director: Environmental Services), Busisiwe Ntuli (Director: Sustainable Livelihoods) and Isaac Ramovha (Deputy Director: Science Centres).

Van Rensburg explains, “The CSIR is gearing up for greater impact in areas that have been identified as national priorities. Our activities are directed at achieving impact in support of Minister Derek Hanekom’s passion and vision to see technology making a difference in the education of rural children.”

The CSIR is working with partners in the National System of Innovation on a range of technology-intensive interventions in the rural education context. To realise his vision of ‘crowding in technology’, Hanekom has enlisted the CSIR’s experience and expertise in directed information and communications technology (ICT) to improve educational outcomes. The aim is to achieve improved academic results as well as help learners acquire 21st century and contextual skills. These activities are taking place in the Nciba school circuit, part of the Comfimvaba School District.

Basic enablers are required to create the necessary preconditions for learning, and as such, are addressed through the technology intervention mix. These enablers include adequate infrastructure (buildings, sanitation, electricity, water and access to information and communications), and learner support through health, nutrition, transportation and social activities. Complementing these enablers is the requirement for a functional school environment with competent management and leadership, competent educators and informed parents.

The Medical Research Council, the Human Sciences Research Council and a range of academic institutions, as well as other government departments and the private sector, will ultimately have a vital role to play as the scope of the project expands over time.

Van Rensburg, du Buisson and Klose took the delegation to see what potential contributions are possible beyond those made to an agricultural school at Cofimvaba. The objective is to stimulate entrepreneurship and local economic development, with the school as a catalyst.

Van Rensburg confirms, “We are learning valuable lessons through our involvement in the DST’s Cofimvaba project. It is vitally important to position our contributions to the schools within the context of the broader community with its needs and aspirations.”

Cofimvaba schools are in the vicinity of the Qamata irrigation scheme, which is in turn fed by the Lubisi Dam – the site of the CSIR’s very early testing of appropriate technologies for development. Qamata is the second largest smallholder irrigation scheme in South Africa.

Rensie van Rensburg


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