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.
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
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
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