Posts Tagged ‘ Mkhulu William Seyama ’

If I were Angie

When the teacher laptop initiative was announced by the previous Minster of Education, Naledi Pandor, in May 2009; it received wide acclaim across the board. While most of us were commending this progressive move, we forgot to ask a key question: how is it going to be implemented from the first of July 2009, the targeted roll-out date? While we should have known better, we felt Department of Education (DoE) deserved benefit of the doubt. The cliché so fitting when it comes to the government came back to haunt us.

All together now: the devil is in the detail.

Teacher Laptop Word Cloud

Teaching Word Cloud

Almost 2 years down the line, teachers are still waiting with bated breaths while DoE is battling to finalize the funding model for buying of laptops. As can be expected, the chorus of concerned media voices is growing (see “Laptops-for-teachers plan falters” in The Times of April 26, 2011). Despite these challenges, I am glad that Angie Motshekga, the Minster of Basic Education, has not once blamed the so-called previous administration for poor planning. My sense is that she is soldiering on because she believes in the initiative. I must declare that I genuinely believe Angie is one of the true action heroes of the present administration. Remember the once-famous OBE that is now in the scrap heap, thanks to her?

OK, enough rambling.

If I were Angie and I had opportunity to relaunch the project, I would start by answering the following basic questions objectively and truthfully despite possible political implications:

  • How do I digitize basic education syllabuses, to strengthen the case for use of computers in class?
  • Given the teacher population that numbers 400 000, how many of them are computer literate and how many have laptops already?
  • How do I convince teachers that using laptops in class will enhance delivery of their lessons, and thereby increase average pass marks?
  • Should I start the roll-out with senior or junior teachers?
  • Linked to the question above, and assuming that seniority is directly linked to time spent in the teaching profession, what is the chance that junior teachers are a better bet as they may be more open to experimenting with digital lessons as compared to senior teachers who may be set in their ways?
  • How do I get all key stakeholders – other government departments, student bodies, school governing bodies, teacher unions, relevant private IT service providers and other interested parties – involved to ensure this project is comprehensively planned, successfully implemented and sustainable?
  • How do I develop a mutually beneficial public-private partnership given scale of the project?
  • In line with the question above, how do I solicit active corporate participation in ensuring all boxes are ticked in relation to specifications of key elements of the project – hardware, operating systems, file management and database management systems, systems interfaces, software, Internet access, hardware and systems security, training, IT support and maintenance?
  • How is this project going to be costed and financed?
  • How are we going to know whether implementation is successful?
  • Lastly, how can we turn this project into an entrepreneurial opportunity, and how do I ensure SMME’s and BBBEE’s benefit from it?

For me, the last question would be important because it is the inverse of an admission that we as the government stuff up otherwise awesome projects due to inherent inefficiencies in the system.

If I were Angie, I would put in place the following initial SWOT based on answers to the questions above, my knowledge of department’s capacity and capabilities and my understanding of the basic education landscape:

 SWOT for Teacher Laptop Initiative

SWOT - Teacher Laptop Initiative

The SWOT analysis would be followed by putting in place a roadmap to ensuring successful implementation of the initiative. As part of developing the roadmap and relaunching the initiative, I would ensure that I stick to my knitting – and that is develop the vision, clearly define rules of the game, ensure a comprehensive plan is in place, outsource the implementation to competent service providers and use robust key performance indicators to keep them true.

Well, of course I am not Angie. But I hope she takes note of my input as a concerned citizen who, like her, believes in the teacher laptop  initiative.

ABOUT ME

I am the founder of eNitiate Integrated Solutions, a digital marketing company. I am also a co-founder of Nuffdotty and Diski4life.  I am an infopreneur, digital strategist, avid marketer, and an eternal student.

You can also check out my latest post on InMarketingSpeak, blog about Marketers’ relationship with digital marketing.

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Impact of social networks on written language is concerning

It took longer than I expected to finish this article. Not so much because I am rusted due to time lapse since the last post in this blog, but hopefully the reasons will become clear as you read on.

I learnt that the North-West University Vaal Triangle Campus got all its ±5 000 first year students to write English language assessment exam at the beginning of the first term in February this year. Apparently only 1 in every 300 students passed the exam. This is a shocking result when taken at face value. Well, we know that one of the reasons relates to the “garbage in, garbage out” principle resulting from the sub-standard education that the majority of South African pupils have been receiving for decades now. But, I would like to explore another possible reason for the poor state of written language.

Disclaimer: The results above were not verified with the University, but suffice to say a sizable amount of the first years failed the exam.

Written Business Communications

Written Business Communications

After spending large amounts of time posting and commenting on Facebook and Twitter in the last 6 months, I am battling to use “proper” written language. While I don’t mind social networking-type shorthand with words such as Tx, K, LMao, lol, OMG, gr8 or L8er when I write to family and friends; most of my written language applies in business communications where an innocent spelling mistake can lead to undesirable perceptions being formed about one’s level of intelligence by prospective partners and clients. Consider that set standards in business communications came into effect long before the advent of social networking, and the likelihood of them changing to accommodate this new tsunami is muddled by the debate in the academic circles that it is a “flavor of the month”.

Given my battle with what I call the social networking language creep, the question that has increasingly been bugging me is: what about the generation who were born from the mid 1980’s, and who are ardent users of Facebook, MXit and Twitter? Can they string a paragraph together using “proper” written language in line with Business Communications 101? While this post is  from a South African perspective, I am certain that written language as we used to know it is under threat across the world due to the pervasive impact of social networking on how we construct sentences.

I hear you asking what is the relevance of being born after 1980? Well, this generation still has a few more years to bed down business communication writing skills due to limited working experience (that is, for those who are lucky to have work). Thus, unlike me, their battle with the social networking language creep is even harder.

Is this another stark reminder that new technologies are de facto changing the way written language should be taught in all academic institutions and applied in the business world? Is this a bad thing? What do you think?

ABOUT ME

I am the founder of eNitiate Integrated Solutions, a digital marketing company. I am also a co-founder of Nuffdotty and Diski4life.  I am an infopreneur, digital strategist, avid marketer, and an eternal student.

You can also check out my latest post on InMarketingSpeak, blog about Marketers’ relationship with digital marketing.

South Africa: Institutions of higher learning are in a quagmire

The big question faced by higher education institutions in our young democracy is how to increase Black student numbers and maintain higher pass and graduation rates, which currently seems like having a cake and eating too.

Student Participation in Higher Education

Participation by SA Black Students

On one hand, the participation of Black students in higher education has increased from 49% in 1994 to 64% in 2008. While this has been good progress, a 2005 study by HSRC indicated that 40% of  first year students drop out of university, with the bulk of them being Black. Clearly this shows that the legacy of apartheid continues to haunt the country’s education system.

The challenge faced by higher education institutions is illustrated by the following 2 cases:

  • About 3 weeks ago certain political parties and their formations, the national student body and interested civil organisations were up in arms when several universities indicated that they have raised admission requirements in a bid to attract cream of the crop and thereby stem the current high failure rate that is said to have the potential of adversely affecting the institutions’ global competitiveness.
  • This week the University of Cape town’s Medical Faculty was in the spotlight for its admissions policy which requires Black students to meet more modest admission requirements, while White students’ admission requirements are the most stringent. This policy, it is hoped, will naturally lead to more Black students being accepted into this faculty than would normally be the case. The university asserts that Black students come from an inferior educational background and thus deserve special dispensation. Interestingly, this policy is decried by both sides as discriminating. Voices representing Black students say it is demeaning to those it is trying to help, and White interest groups say it is disadvantaging to White students.

With education being at the core of SA government’s attempts to improve in the main living conditions of its poverty-stricken Black citizens, the Department of Education has been focusing on increasing participation of Black students at higher education institutions as guided by the country’s population strata. As a result, higher education institutions are being incentivised for achieving higher enrolment targets that will naturally benefit Black student intake through allocated government subsidies (included in the higher education budget of R15.3 billion for 2009).

The quagmire comes in when higher education institutions have to make a choice of chasing numbers (which favours Black students) versus attracting high calibre of students (who are mainly White). What tends to be the case here is that institutions that depend mainly on government funds for survival will do the former, while institutions that are able to source private funding or which are competing for global recognition tend to do the latter.

Whichever way one looks at it, the challenge of making higher education accessible to the majority of students and achieving the desired pass and qualification rates is still a long way for South Africa.

Mkhulu William Seyama is an avid marketer, digital strategist, infopreneur and founder and CEO of eNitiate Integrated Solutions, a digital marketing agency that uses a robust and holistic approach in ensuring that clients achieve their online objectives effectively, from developing comprehensive online strategies, to ensuring hassle-free online purchase of products.

Mkhulu is also currently working on an exciting project aimed at connecting the dots between choice of higher education studies and eventual employment opportunities. Check out http://nuffdotty.co.za for more on the project