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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Some smart cyber thoughts on free education

When something is exciting and good, you spread the word. I like what Szavanna had to say about "Free university education" and that in fact, she and her team are already doing great work at Potchefstroom regarding free education. I'm sharing her thoughts, verbatim, below:

Szavanna said...
Hi there, I am from Hungary so a lot of these issues are completely new to me. Issues around race and also issues around the cost of education. In Hungary education was free (I don't know the situation right now) from primary to tertiary level. I was actually given money monthly so that I could study without having to work as well in the same time.

Healthcare was also free. It's unbelievably difficult to get by here - I wonder many times how people survive with the little they have. I don't think the government will be able to fix things in the near future - even if they really really wanted to - it's all up to each person to contribute towards a solution (and I believe eveyone can contribute regardless of background ).

We have been running a small initiative called the OpenCafe (www.opencafe.co.za) here in Potchefstroom - which is based on open source principles. Open source projects are based on the fact that the Internet provides us with big databases on info, training manuals, etc. all "open licensed", all you need to do is - print it out, go through it - then do the exam or project. In other words it completely leaves out the idea of formal education. (Which is important here since a lot of people cannot afford it.)

I approached a lot of teachers (from different backgrounds) from primary to tertiary level locally and discussed possible projects that would help put lesson plans, and other material online and create big databases that could be used by smaller schools and even those that can't afford formal education. I haven't heard of the teachers again.

We started our project back in 2000 - since then we have met a lot of people - young and old - we tried to make sure we reach everyone - and told them about the projects we do (these projects are completely free - participants must agree to a specific weekly program to participate) and a few people (very very few) took the opportunity of the free lessons (computer skills, typing skills, web design, book publishing lessons, graphic design, small business skills etc.) however most others didn't see an opportunity there.

So my question is - to what extent does one depend on formal education - I think a lot can be done by the individual to learn skills, take exams (I have seen it work even with people from real difficult backgrounds) and many times it's the will that is missing to change and come up with solutions where the government doesn't provide one. The OpenCafe project has been experimenting with lots of ideas, edu-projects of all kinds (one of them specifically is providing free education)- we are still in the beginning, lots to be done - any feedback and suggestions are appreciated.
June 13, 2007 12:31 PM

"Judge of a man by his questions, rather than by his answers." - Voltaire


Szavanna said...

Thanks so much for including me here - I am very happy to be part of the storytelling process at izzonline - and very much appreciate the exposure - we have gotten so far with the project because it has been a process of sharing ideas, skills etc. so if you have suggestions please add to the mix :)

Israel Izz Mlambo said...

Collaboration is the key. The little one can do, the better. Will mention it to some of my contacts.

Israel Izz Mlambo said...

I also suggest you check the links in this page, which also have other useful links on the messages section - all regarding open source and online education.

Szavanna said...

Will do so! Thanks!