Yesterday we had a workshop with several stakeholders for our project, both from the provincial government and the university. We explained our project and then went into a very interesting discussion on what should be the focus area for iNeSI in North-West province. It is clear that the province needs to address many issues at the same time, the point will be to find sufficient focus for the new Center of Excellence that we are setting up.
PS. thank you Aruna for taking these nice pictures!
Valentina discussing with NWU vice-rector Lalendle
Sanjay & Wouter talking to Mr. Africa from the NW province planning commision
On June 26th we were invited to the television interview that the entering Premier of the North-West province, Mr. Supra Ramoeletsi Mahumapelo, gave to talk about his plans for the legislature.
Premier Mahumapelo talking about his political agenda.
the team posing before the television stage
We were also planning to attend the actual State of the Province Address address. We all got up early and were taken to the parliament building but somehow, although we were invited, we did not have the required badges and could not get in. The speech actually mentions the work our CSC team is doing here! This is the relevant passage:
Honourable Speaker, we wish to announce that IBM (ICT Company) will be piloting a programme in partnership with both Provincial Government and the North West University (Mafikeng Campus) to roll-out E-Skilling to the young people in the Province. The project will start in Mafikeng before being rolled out to other parts of the Province.
Next to our day-job working on the iNeSI project we also reach out to the local community. Yesterday we visited the Bophelong special school, a school for children with special needs. Verbal communication was difficult since we do not speak their language and some of them cannot easily speak. However, there are other ways to make contact and we had a good time by playing games. Aruna learned them Namaste and we helped them color the map of the world, showing where we are all from. As the principal of the school remarked: ‘love and kindness are never wasted’.
Our CSC team spent the weekend in the Madikwe Game Reserve. This was the first time for all of us so we were in awe of all we could see. The rangers did an excellent job of driving us around and finding the animals. This was one of the best experiences in my life.
Today we worked on finding candidate themes for the Center of Excellence we want to shape. We had a good discussion with Lester, the executive manager of North-West university, who gave his view on the province and who helped us get into contact with the right people. Next we met dr. Karabo Mabe from the agriculture department. She passionately talked about the importance of food safety and the NWU Nguni cattle project that aims to re-introduce the indigenous Nguni cattle because they are better suited to the climate (e.g. resistant to drought). They loan 25 cattle to a farmer (24 cows & 1 bull). After five years the farmers have to return 12 cattle to the organization so that other farmers can be helped. The whole process is closely monitored by the university, also including students so they can get practical experience.
At noon we went out to have a traditional African lunch. This turned out to be at the provincial radio station SABC. After the lunch we got an unexpected tour of the facility, showing us first the archive and then one of the studio’s. There was actual live recording going on in that studio, broadcasting to one million listeners. By chance V was sitting close to a microphone and without warning the presenter started to interview her. She did amazingly well, without any preparation!
Yesterday evening we went to a local hotel-school to have a meet-and-greet with public officials from the North-West province. The whole ‘ceremony’ was animated by Charles Ndabeni, the new CEO of tourism. He started with a list of ‘did you know that…’ statements:
The runway in Mahikeng is one of the longest in Africa and was on NASA’s list for possible landing of the space shuttle.
The founder of the scouts movement, Baden-Powell, successfully defended the city of Mahikeng in 1899 during the Second Boer War.
There is a world class analog studio close to Mahikeng where the music for the Lion King was recorded (BOP studios).
Charles was very funny but also clear on the priorities he sees for the future of the province, agriculture, media and tourism.
We stayed for an excellent meal prepared by the students of the hotel school. At the end the Lion King fans in our team posed with Mr. Lebo M. , a composer and performer for the movie soundtrack.
On Tuesday 17 we went for the first time to the Mahikeng campus were we will be working. In the morning we had a workshop with iNeSI to dive deeper into our, team two’s, sub-project. It was a very good session that clarified a lot.
We got to use the very nice council/senate chambers and the university rector came to greet us.
On Monday we traveled to Mmabatho where we will be staying for the next three weeks. The 300 km trip took more than five hours.
After checking into the hotel Professor emeritus Modise Maaja gave us a short introduction to the history of the North-West university. It is actually the merger of three universities, those of Potchefstroom, Mahikeng and Vanderbijlpark. We are on the Mahikeng campus. The Mahikeng university was started in 1980 by the locals with money collected house by house. Therefore there is a strong local affinity, it is a university of the people.
In the evening we worked hard with team to get our presentation for the next day into shape.
Today we had a workshop with the two leaders of iNeSI (Ikamva National eSkills Institute), the organisation that we are working with. We all presented ourselves and our backgrounds. iNeSI stressed the importance of our mission for the future of South-Africa at a time when the country has to start making the shift to an ‘e-litterate society’, i.e. the people and businesses have to use the power of IT to make people’s lives better and to address the high youth unemployment. According to the World Economic Forum SA ranks last out of 148 countries in the ‘math and scienc’e ranking and although the score is contested everyone agrees that there is a lot of work to do. IneSI challenges us to be bold, to not limit ourselves to what already is, to ‘remove the box and think’.
After lunch we went to the local weekly arts&crafts market so V could get some African masks. She is clearly a master negotiator because she drove the price so much down that the seller had to fetch his boss for approval (although I’m pretty sure they still made a profit).
We went back to the meeting room in the hotel and worked intensively on our project plan for the next weeks. ‘We’ in this case being the four people in team two. There are four subteams, each has a different but related statement of work. Ours centers around the establishment of a new CoLab (collaborative laboratory) in the North-West province. Think of it as a center of excellence around a specific theme. We made good progress although we are still not quite ready for the big session planned for Tuesday.
Tomorrow we travel to Mafeking in the North-West province. It will be our base for the next three weeks. Tomorrow, June 16th, is also a national holiday in SA to commemorate the death of Hector Pieterson and many others who protested apartheid in 1976.