Learning and doing : exploring the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in fostering learning and education amongst youth in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
Harber, Inger May.
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Information and Communication Technology (ICT) offers an abundance of opportunities for innovation and development in the ways that information is stored, transmitted and received. As such, ICT has the potential to act as the catalyst to fundamentally shift our pedagogic paradigm. As ICT adopts an increasingly pivotal role in society, questions of usage, accessibility and need of ICT become pertinent. The spread of ICT globally has not been even. This phenomenon is often referred to as the ‘digital divide’ and differentiates between those who do, and those who do not have access to or make use of ICT.The work of Roxana Barrantes and Mark Warschauer, among others, urges us to consider the divide as more than just the binary division between the physical presence and absence of ICT. They argue that accessibility of ICT is a matter of a number of intertwining and complex socio-economic factors, including supply, demand and capability. When one considers these factors in the South African context, one cannot deny that there are a multitude of barriers disenabling access to, and use of, ICT. Such barriers include illiteracy, cultural values, poor service delivery (especially electricity), the high cost of accessing ICT, widespread inequality and poverty, and a wider schism between national legislation and on-the-ground-delivery. The Community-based Learning ICT and Quality of life (CLIQ) project was established with the aim of identifying whether after a needs-based training program, access to ICT could improve the well-being of the participants. Drawing on data from the project, as well as data collected in independent research, this dissertation focuses specifically on the experience of youth living in eSicabazini, a rural community in KwaZulu-Natal. The experiences of the youth are utilised in the exploration of the role of ICT in fostering learning and education amongst youth in a rural community. The findings suggest that the ability to store, transmit and receive information is vital in today’s society. They also find that increasingly, the formal education system has been unable to meet the needs of the people living in South Africa. As such, alternative systems for knowledge building and skills development are necessary, and ICT offers a potential catalyst for such alternatives to thrive; such alternatives could support existing structures or run in parallel. In order to access and use ICT, however, a number of factors need to be in place. While this dissertation highlights some of the ways in which ICT could foster education and learning, such results are often impeded by external or peripheral circumstances or influences beyond the control of those affected.