“Vulindlela” = Open the path or way…
The current priority need identified by the community and the Trust’s education progamme is the establishment of an ICT and library resource centre to be used by scholars and community members.
The local high school (Charles Sojola) has a good track record with matric pass rates in the 80 – 90 percentile over the past several years. However there is a real need for access to the internet for education purposes as well as communicating with institutions and businesses when applying for places at tertiary institutions, bursaries and employment. The community is extremely concerned at the increasing number of school leavers who have no prospects of employment or access to tertiary education. This is starting to be reflected in obvious manifestations of youth delinquency, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and petty crime.
Distances between the local villages and the closest urban and peri-urban areas such as Peddie, East London and Port Alfred are long. Transport facilities are scarce and very expensive.
It is in this context that the education programme started fundraising for the establishment of a resource centre to assist youth and adults in accessing services and resources available through access to the internet, information technology and other communication facilities.
Property is extremely difficult to acquire in Hamburg due to the complicated history of local and national government in the area, including the period of designation as part of the Ciskei. Despite this, a suitable property close to the Hamburg high school was identified. The property had an incomplete new(ish) building on it and is one of the few privately owned properties with proper deeds. The owner agreed that the Trust could lease the property on a long term basis.
The construction and renovation of the house has now been completed – with the assistance of funding obtained from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI). In return for the completion of the building the Trust has a five year guaranteed rent free lease with the owner.
The planned use of the space is as follows:
- a computer training facility – primarily aimed at high school learners but also available for youth and adults in the community;
- access to the internet and in-house electronic resources in the areas of school subject materials, environment, health, entrepeneurship, career guidance and life skills;
- community access to facilities such as photocopying, faxing, scanning etc (currently members of the community need to pay R30 to travel to Ngqushwa/Peddie to pay high prices for copies etc);
- dedicated computers to be used as “internet café” facilities for locals and visiting tourists and holiday makers. Visitors will pay commercial rates for using these whilst community members will pay for these services by accumulating community service credits;
- school leaver and other community member access to information on opportunities in further education and training, bursaries, jobs etc as well as the ability to apply on line for these;
- a library with reference book resources and fiction and current events reading materials;
- a base centre for various youth “clubs” and social resource centre for youth to access voluntary HIV counselling and testing services, condoms and information on HIV/AIDS and other sexual and general health issues such as TB, substance abuse etc.
Through our work with youth in the area it has become clear that young people are reluctant to go to the local primary health clinic for advice or condoms as they have confidentiality and stigma concerns about attending the facility. Providing these services in a centre which is designated for purposes other than specifically health services will assist in ensuring that the services are better utilised. including HIV/AIDS prevention activities
The Trust is now attempting to secure funding / support for the acquisition of IT equipment, furniture for the centre and employment of appropriate staff to run the centre.
The youth centre is intended to address the needs of older children and young adults and is planned to be able to accommodate approximately 15 computer users at any given time, as well as library and other resource users. It is difficult to estimate exact numbers but the quantifiable potential beneficiaries are approximately 230 high school pupils and 70 recent school leavers (2008, 2009 & 2010). In addition, the entire primary school and adult communities will be able to use services at the centre. The planned centre is not expected to be able to meet the whole community’s requirements but to make a small start in improving access to ICT resources.
Apart from raising the required funding, the main initial challenge is internet connectivity – since all cellular service providers only provide “edge” reception on their 3G services in this area. There are no high speed Telkom facilities (even the old telephone line services are impossible to obtain as there are so few lines in Hamburg and those that there are belong to private home-owners). There is also no wireless coverage.
The issue of poor signal has been raised with both MTN and VODACOM without any success so far, although a number of interested parties are pursuing contacts to try and address the problem. A benefactor has now taken up the issue with all communications service providers including wireless operators and it is hoped that a solution will be sorted out within the next two months.
Now that the centre has been completed and the education programme staff are located in the building, there is a constant stream of people (young and old) enquiring about training and job opportunities. Matric pupils are anxious to get started with IT training and to start investigating study and career opportunities for once they have completed their schooling.