The original plan was to write once a day while here, but my gastrointestinal tract had other ideas. Now that I seem to be on the mend (had my first complete meal in three days tonight), I figured I should jump back in.
The thing that’s striking me here is how similar and dissimilar education in Cape Town seems to be compared with education back in the States, particularly Philadelphia. When talking to teachers about implementation of edtech, the obstacles they list the usual suspects:
- lack of resources
- resistant administration
- no time
- no training
- it’s one more thing
Sounds familiar, right?
Some subtle differences – The teachers we’re working with have an average of 40-50 students in each class. If they teach in schools that are lucky enough to have computer labs, those labs have only 25 stations. While many of them would like to work in the lab during their prep periods, the expectation is that they will be in the teacher break room. Burglary is a huge problem. At Liwa Primary School, where we’ve been working, the computer lab has bars on the windows, two barred gates on the door that are padlocked shut and a bank vault-style door to get in. I was tempted to consider this a bit over the top until I learned of a school with similar security that had its computers stolen when burglars blew a hole in the wall to get in. This is to say nothing of reports of many teachers that the Internet in their schools is not exactly reliable.
One teacher, Rachelle, who teaches G8 English and G9 Econ told me today that her school is currently without Internet access after thieves dug up and stole the wiring to sell the copper. When she called the service provider to come replace the cable, they refused because of how frequently they’d had to re-cable the area.
Here’s the thing, though, the thing that’s simply awesome. These 50 teachers, a few with no computer access at all in their schools yet, keep showing up each day for an entire week of their winter break without monetary compensation because they believe these tools and this connectivity can make a difference for their students.
Rachelle, who has no Internet access for her students, who told me 19 of her school’s 25 computers had been stolen, who has every reason to give up on edtech, was amazingly excited at the prospect of having her students collaborate with mine during their study of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The school’s secretary has a laptop with an Internet connection, she told me, and she’d use that to help her students connect with the world.