Striking teachers are full of shit, allowing children to suffer

When I was in high school there was a massive teachers’ strike during 1990. This was my Standard 8 or Grade 10 year and we did not have a permanent principal at Uitenhage High School. This was also a time for massive changes in the South African political landscape with Nelson Mandela being released and the ANC with other political parties being unbanned.

It is a complete disgrace: new figures show how teachers failed. Strikes hit school children hard. How can we improve the situation of South Africa and the rest of the dark continent with adults who are not good role models to learners. It’s okay to voice your grievances, however, it’s not okay to drag innocent people down with you. And as for an education department who allows this nonsense to continue, your leadership is demonstrated to be poor.

We live in a world that demands a new approach to teaching children and a new way of thinking about the shifts that happen faster and faster. So when I read this utter bullshit about teachers still striking in 20 years since I was the victim of a teachers’s “chalk down” strike, it become extremely frustrating and angers me to say the least. This behaviour is totally unacceptable and it high time teachers decide if they want to teach or be leaches of the government for the rest of their lives earning a big pay cheque every month and still get loads of holidays unlike other business people who have to work 8-12 hours a day or more 5-6 days a week with maybe 2 weeks holiday in December. Most teachers in government schools are the worst examples today of how to do the absolute minimum, still get paid and fake it till you make it.

Did You Know / Shift Happens 4.0


OpenLab Linux vs Edubuntu

AJ Venter, Silent Coder, linux hackerHere’s some very interesting background to the educational platforms based on the Linux operating system by AJ Venter,  a hacker programmer who is very passionate about open source developments. It was posted in response to the article Thin client OpenLab Linux 3.2 released on Tectonic, the biggest open source news publication in Africa. This comment is re-published with his permission…

OpenLab never finished the 4.Z release after the lead developer resigned *cough* *cough* :p

The biggest major differences back then were:
1) OpenLab was locally developed.
2) Edubuntu was based on Ubuntu which is based on Debian. OpenLab was based on Slackware.
3) OpenLab’s educational content suite had 3 times as many apps and about 400 times as much actual content included (the suite came on a DVD-set which when installed grew to nearly 35gb of content)
4) Edubuntu had big money, OpenLab relied on a few customization projects to fund development.
5) In it’s day, OpenLab had the best hardware detection of any distro on the market (as vouched for by independent reviewers), on some systems it would get resolutions of 1600×1200 on the same hardware where Ubuntu 5.10 (then current) only got 800×600.
6) OpenLab had invested a massive amount of code in a complete admin suite with powerful features for teachers, such as bulk creation/deletion of users and had very powerful admin utilities for thin-clients. It was also the first system to offer thin-client support with local-device and sound support working out of the box.

But crucially, OpenLab did not ultimately survive. The people behind it all moved on to other projects. Karl Fischer is now the OpenSource head at the DTI, Denis Brandjes runs a popular cybercafe in Benoni, Uwe Thiem passed away recently (this is not so widely known but he was a major contributor to OpenLab) and myself started my own FOSS development company that creates clustering systems and cybercafe management software. (I also have a dayjob to suplement my income but that’s less exciting).

So that is the story today. I don’t normally talk about it much but the question was asked so here it is from the horse’s mouth. OpenLab was really cool in it’s day, it was an amazing project that was really great to work with, in it’s day 95% of the schools in Namibia had OpenLab powered classrooms, but the world changes and people change and the OpenLab project ultimately did not survive.

I would say the biggest single problem that plagued OpenLab throughout was that it’s target audience was young children, it was really good at that audience, but there is a problem with targetting that: the people who use it are NGO workers, teachers and children – there is a massive shortage of technically skilled people. So while OL had grown a very devoted user-community, it never really managed to grow a developer community and when the original developers moved on, there wasn’t anybody who could take over.

Myself and Uwe had a meeting last year with SNNA to discuss the possibility of reviving it in a new form with a much more open development plan that would try to fix that, some political issues delayed the project and then Uwe passed away so I guess the last hope for an OpenLab legacy went with him because I do not feel up to doing it by myself. I did it for 6 years and I know how hard it is. I chose instead to take over his position in the KDE community and keep that part of his legacy alive.

The good news is that OpenLab does survive in a way, a lot of what OpenLab pioneered have become standard features in many other distros – PCLinuxOS was one of the first, and more recent versions of Ubuntu have included many of our ideas (they may not have gotten it straight from us of course, as many other distros had it before them). None of these distro’s used our code, since the code is specific to the distro, but many of them did copy our designs and ideas (we created the first distro that shipped on a LiveCD by default and isntalled with one, and used the abilities of a livecd to ensure things like hardware worked perfectly, Ubuntu at the time had a livecd but it could not be installed and you needed another CD to install, this was the state of pretty much all other distro’s – that’s the most obvious but not the only example).

As for OpenLab code, only one project remains that is actively based on a piece of OpenLab code, that project is BW64Installer, which was based on the old OpenLab LiveCD installer. I created it for the Bluewhite64 distro and it’s now the default installer on that, it has become quite popular with other slackware like distro’s and has been added as an option on several others including darkstarlinux and blackdog64..

So that’s the whole story and then some 🙂

A.J. Venter


Leadership in a Technology Driven World

Worldwide there is a crises in education and schools and perhaps even more so in Africa. All you have to do is open any newspaper and you will read stories like this letter from a very concerned parent in the Namibian. This keynote speech was delivered to over 240 Deputy Heads of Independent Schools at St John’s College in Johannesburg. There are a number of questions that I explored in this speech for the first time.

They include:

  1. Complexity > Clarity (Paradox of Choice, etc)?
  2. Confusion > Confidence (Leadership, Wisdom, etc)?
  3. Conflict > Collaboration (Web 2.0, Open Source, etc)?

Anyway enjoy the presentation from my account here:


Gauteng Online is a failure doomed from the beginning

What where they thinking when the Gauteng department of Education promised to connect all the schools in Gauteng to the Internet within 5 years? This is a rhetorical questions about the stupidity of infrastructure projects of this nature. The government themselves are the most inefficient users of technology and with this project they were meant to install computers and Internet access for all the schools in the richest province in the country. It remind me of my time in the United Arab Emirates. These Arab people had money coming out of their ears but did not know how to use it and relied on foreign workers from South Africa, India, Pakistan, Europe, UK and America to do their thinking for them.

Anyway back to South Africa. If you think about the lack of mathematics and science teachers we have in the country, it’s certainly no surprise that Gauteng Online has been such a dismal failure. While doing research for this article most media mentions and even blog postings date back from 2005. So that means people either forgot about it in the last 2 years or have blatantly ignored this project.

The original amount set aside for this project was R500 million! Now tell wouldn’t that money could not have been better used at the schools. For example to put in telephone lines to the thousands of schools with no telephones, or better yet fix the sanitation and make sure they all have running water.

A few years ago I came across Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He basically says that our physiological needs must be met, before we move onto safety, love, self-esteem and eventually self-actualisation. Now for kids to have Internet access is a need that most likely falls between love and self-esteem because it allows them to communicate with others, as well as express themselves by publishing websites. All I would like to say is that we should put pressure on the national Government to get its priorities in order.

It’s probably safe to say that this project is costing the Gauteng Provincial Government more than R500 million with all the disappointments from the previous companies involved. It’s no surprise they have re-issued the tender once again.


Shift Happens – Did You Know 2.0

This video clip was first introduced to me through Vinny Lingham’s blog. I’ve since recommended it widely and also used it in a Social Media seminar I conducted at AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town back in May. It was a hit with the students. Anyway the back story to this presentation is now included in the new video version posted on Youtube. The presentation was created by Karl Fisch with assistance from Scott McLeod.

I really believe we have a major problem in South Africa because we are not doing enough to get ahead. What I mean is that the system is so convoluted and outdated, we will not be competitive with our peers. While if we listed to this kind of advice and learn from the best fastest growing countries in the world like India and China, we can accelerate our growth. Everything we need starts with learning and education.

So if you want to participate in this conversation head over to the Shift Happens Wiki.