Centring development : education centres supporting rural development in KwaZulu-Natal.
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Since the 1950s, various paradigms of development have aimed to achieve improvement in the living conditions in the developing world (Africa, Asia and Latin America). Today the effects of globalisation have increased the gap between the information and technology haves and have-nots and development practice (born out of the paradigms developed over the last fifty years) now seeks to address issues such as access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) and the need for developing countries to participate in the global economy. The practice of development has and continues to raise debate, as Friberg and Hettne (1985 in Melkote and Steeves, 2001:19) note "there is no universal path to development. Each society must find its own strategy". Thus development projects have ranged in approach and focus. This research project examines the first year of the joint venture between the Media in Education Trust (MiET) and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education (KZNDE) to develop Education Centres Supporting Rural Development in KwaZulu-Natal. These education centres aim to address a number of development issues for rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal. Through these centres access is provided for schools and communities in the area to Information Communication Technology, teacher development programmes, educational materials (including textbooks), library services, skills development programmes (including Adult Basic Education and Training), youth programmes and HIV/AIDS education and support. This research examines the Education Centres project in relation to Development Communication Theory and the local and global development context. The local context focuses on the challenges faced by South Africa as a developing nation and the urban-rural divide. The global perspective is gained through examining the centres project in relation to the Millennium Development Goals. In order to examine the Education Centres, this research project examines three centres in KwaZulu-Natal and their objectives in relation to the issues of participation, access, sustainability and the economic and socio-economic impact of the development project. These issues relate not only to the local and global context for development but to the relationship between technology, education and development. This Education Centres project is still in the early stages and thus the challenges faced could still be resolved during the course of the project. The key challenges identified when examining the three centres in relation to the issues of participation, access, sustainability and the economic and socio-economic impact of the development project are the lack of physical resources currently available in the centres and the lack of Internet connectivity in two of the centres. These two factors restrict the centres from fully achieving their objectives in the context of access, participation, sustainability and the socio-economic impact of the project. The Education Centres project is scheduled to establish these Education Centres over four years. This research presents an analysis of the first year of the project, thus there is opportunity for additional research as the project progresses and this future research can more accurately examine if the Education Centres project is meeting its objectives in relation to the issues outlined in this research - those of access, participation, sustainability and the socio-economic impact of the development project.