Linking Up Through Solar Energy - The Story of the Gelukwaarts Farm School

Linking Up Through Solar Energy - The Story of the Gelukwaarts Farm School

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Linking Up Through Solar Energy - The Story of the Gelukwaarts Farm School Fred Wilkinson Information Technology Section Department of Education Free State Province Bloemfontein, South Africa fredw@majuba.ofs.gov.za Annette Wilkinson Department of Postgraduate Education Vista University Bloemfontein, South Africa wlksn-ac@blenny.vista.ac.za Abstract: This paper highlights the initiatives to develop farm schools in a predominantly rural area in South Africa. Of the 2500 schools in the Free State province, 63% are farm schools. The remoteness of these schools, as well as the absence of basic facilities is stumbling blocks in the delivery of sound education to communities. The lack of infrastructure is also responsible for attracting teachers with low qualifications, resulting in the offering of low quality education. The Gelukwaarts Farm School took the initiative to emerge from the typical farm school set-up by utilizing modern communication technology driven by solar power to get their computers connected to the World-Wide Web. New communication channels have opened, and teachers and learners are no longer confined to the radio and out- of-date newspapers. By utilizing lots of sunshine the school emerged from a half-forgotten farm school to a school with informed teachers, learners and parents. Orientation The Free State (FS) province, the third largest province in the Republic of South Africa (RSA), covers 129 480 square km or 10.6 % of the land. Although it is relatively large, it accommodates only 2.6 million people or 6.5% of the total population (Statistics South Africa 1998). The economic activities in the Free State mainly center around agriculture with some mining in the north/north-western areas. A recent study (Statistics South Africa 2000) indicates that the Free State is the province with the highest proportion of households in the lowest expenditure category. Thirty-nine percent of all households spend R600 ($80) or less per month on goods and services. Almost a third (31%) of the population live in the rural areas in small villages and on farms where the infrastructure is not conducive to education. Nevertheless, the Free State has the largest number of farm schools in the RSA. The existence of farm schools is a very unique characteristic of the African school system. It originated in the 1950s when Government promulgated the so-called Bantu Education Act. This led to the introduction of the category state-aided schools, which were created mainly to accommodate the children of farm workers. The establishment of such schools largely depended on the willingness of the farmer to make land available for the erection of a school building. Farmers had two options in erecting school buildings: they could either carry the entire cost or opt for a state subsidy covering 50 % of the cost with the obligation to make the facilities available for nine years and eleven months for education purposes. The state in turn provided furniture, learner support materials and the salaries of educators. In 1993 the subsidy structure was
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Linking Up Through Solar Energy - The Story of the Gelukwaarts Farm School

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