A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal

A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal, Niall’s first book, co-authored with Professor Lindy Stiebel, has just been published by UKZN Press. Read a few pages HERE and read more on the authors HERE.

KwaZulu-Natal is culturally rich, offering a wide range of writers – writing mainly in English and Zulu – who are linked through their lives and their writing to this province of South Africa. The writers include, to name just a few, Alan Paton, Roy Campbell, Lewis Nkosi, Ronnie Govender, Wilbur Smith, Daphne Rooke, Credo Mutwa and Gcina Mhlophe.

And how better to understand a writer than to know about the places they are linked to? For example, who, after reading the lyrical opening sentences of Paton’s famous book, Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) has not wanted to see this scene in reality?

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.

A Literary Guide to KwaZulu-Natal introduces you to the regions and writers through word and image, leading you imaginatively through this beautiful province. This could include following the route a fictional character charts in a novel, visiting particular settings from a story or tracking down the places linked to a writer, whether a birthplace, home, burial site or significant setting. Literary tourists are interested in how places have influenced writing and at the same time how writing has created place. This is also a way of reflecting upon and understanding historic and contemporary identities in a changing cultural and political South African landscape.

The Five Hundred Year Archive

The Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA) project is the focus of Grant’s post-doctoral research fellowship at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative. The FHYA aims to develop and promote understandings of the archival possibilities of materials located both within and outside of institutions and to facilitate their engagement.

Project Focus
The project team has selected a limited number of bodies of material pertinent to a small region (the southern Swaziland-KwaZulu-Natal region) in a limited time period (the late independent period, from about 1750 to various points in the late nineteenth century), drawn from diverse collection settings, covering a large range of disciplines (archaeology, botany, ethnology, history). In short, a small focus drawing on a vast array of “sources”. In so doing the project is attempting to deal with the maximum complexity involved in creating an archive in relation to a tightly circumscribed focus. The aim is to use this as an opportunity to think through the problems involved and, in the form of a sample project, to attempt to address them.

FHYA in Swaziland
Three generations of passionate archivists and historians, popular and professional, local and foreign, pose for an historic photograph on the occasion of the FHYA stakeholder meeting in Swaziland.

Digital Exemplar
An important output of the project is creation of an online digital archival exemplar, which is capable of bringing together, through the use of digital technologies, visual, textual and sonic materials relevant to these periods. As an exemplar it is not an archive that will exist in perpetuity in its own right, but rather a sample or prototype designed to show what is possible. The exemplar aims to be a conceptually innovative intervention geared to work across geographic and disciplinary boundaries, across multiple institutions (both in South Africa and internationally), and to incorporate a variety of media formats such as digital images, text and audio.

Project Partners
The FHYA project has a number of external partner institutions from a variety of disciplines so as to make the exemplar responsive to a wide range of institutional concerns. The project team has worked closely with many of the partner institutions to ensure mutually beneficial relationships, including the Swaziland National Archives and the KwaZulu-Natal Archives, amongst others. The institutions are Wits University Historical Papers, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, the Swaziland National Archives, the Killie Campbell Africana Library, the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Bews Herbarium at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Cambridge University Library, with relations with AMAFA KwaZulu-Natal and the Voortrekker / Msunduzi Museum in process.

Mobile Learning in Africa: How Mobile Educational Technology Benefits Leaners

Cheaper mobile devices coupled with the boom in educational app development means that many learners in developing countries can now access quality educational media outside of the classroom. An increase in mobile access (especially in Nigerian and South African markets) has enabled educational technology businesses and non-profits to broaden education, taking learning to students’ daily commutes and homes.


What is mobile learning?

Mobile learning is education that makes use of mobile devices such as cell phones, smart phones and tablets. As more people gain access to mobile devices (while quality in-classroom education remains less consistently available), learners get additional ways to access and share vital knowledge using mobile devices.

Why is mobile learning useful?

Mobile device ownership in Africa has increased rapidly in recent years. In Ghana, for example, 8% of people polled in 2002 owned cell phones whereas 83% of people (in a similar-sized survey) own cell phones today. This increased access makes mobile learning a useful way to reach a broader segment of learners who may have the capacity and desire to learn but limited, unequal access to classroom education.

In addition to providing increased access, mobile learning has multiple benefits:

  • Usability: Mobile-owning learners know how to use their devices, thus the barrier to learning how to use new mobile educational technology is low
  • Access: Learners can access lessons and learning feedback anywhere using their devices: During commutes, for example, and at home
  • Instant feedback: Learners can receive instant feedback such as grading of questions without being dependant on teachers
  • Personalized learning: Mobile lessons can be tailored to individuals’ academic strengths and weaknesses, providing educational supplementation that helps to fill any crucial gaps in learning

Why is mobile learning a good choice of educational technology in Africa?

In many African countries, landline ownership is minimal and learners do not have access to broadband internet. Mobile devices, however, provide connectivity and the possibility for online and social learning (as well as text-service learning for learners whose households do not own a smart phone).

Mobile communication in Africa enables teachers, parents and learners to share knowledge and develop stronger educational frameworks. The UN’s mobile learning specialist Steve Vosloo claims ‘mobiles are streamlining education administration and improving communication between schools, teachers and parents’.

What can educators achieve using mobile learning?

There are multiple ways to use mobile learning: Packages of educational content along with assessment can be delivered via phone. Learners can also engage socially using educational apps, sharing knowledge in a mutually beneficial, collaborative digital environment. Educators can also use ‘gamification’ –  making lessons more engaging by using gaming principles in design –  with mobile devices.

Examples of effective mobile learning ventures in Africa

ReKindle Learning, founded by ed-tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, works to improve education in Africa using mobile technology. One tool ReKindle has developed is KnowledgeFox which ReKindle describes as an ‘adaptive learning tool that ensures personalised reinforcement of learning in a wide range of academic and organisational learning areas.’ Adaptive learning makes use of data generated by the learner when using the platform. This versatile framework has been developed not only for providing assistance in academic subjects but also for process and systems training and professional skills development.

Another effective mobile learning venture is Rethink Education. The ed-tech business uses mobile platforms to improve access to education with the mission of giving learners equal access to education, anywhere. Mobile learning tools by Rethink include an app providing maths and science support for Grade 8 to 12 learners. Learners are able to work through the full high school maths and science curriculum using Rethink’s app, and educators can also customize existing app frameworks to serve their educational institutions’ needs.

First published HERE.

McNulty Consulting Theory of Change: Local Knowledge in Local Languages

McNulty Consulting has developed an exciting new theory of change that focuses on local content in local languages. It is aligned to the South African government’s National Development Plan, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ developments goals, defined in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The theory of change advances the idea that the creation of a mobile digital platform of local knowledge in local languages has the potential to support certain of the South African, African Union and UN development goals. The objectives of such a platform are to empower everyday Africans by providing opportunities to:

  • Create and access relevant information (about places, history, people, customs etc.) in their own languages.
  • Access mobile training modules in their own languages.

This type of platform has the potential to bring about long-term societal impacts in Africa such as developing digital skills and improving digital, information and reading literacy, promoting local languages and knowledge, supporting social inclusion and cohesion, as well as contributing to the development of a knowledge society and economy in Africa.

Click on the images below for an overview of the Theory of Change.

Theory of Change