Testing and evaluation of a newly installed Agrometeorology Instrumentation Mast (AIM) web-based system in a rural school in Swayimana, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
MetadataShow full item record
Rural communities in South Africa are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and adverse weather due to their heavy reliance on natural resources. Agricultural adaptation is therefore essential. However, there is very little evidence of efforts to build the capacity of rural communities to adopt climate-smart agricultural and environmental practices. Education and public awareness on a community scale are the most important strategies for dealing with climate change and adverse weather. Climate change and adverse weather communication both present challenges because of their complexities. An Agrometeorology Instrumentation Mast (AIM) system was installed at Swayimana High School in Swayimana near Wartburg in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The AIM system is unique in South Africa and was developed to enhance teaching and learning and facilitate research. The system was installed to provide the scholars with real-time weather data and weather hazard warnings using selected information and communication technology (ICT) methods. The emphasis is placed on the use of visualisation to simplify complex elements of adverse weather by displaying measurements graphically. The aim of this study was to investigate whether using the AIM system is an effective tool to promote agrometeorological literacy and over time improve adverse weather resilience in Swayimana. It explores how the web-based system enhances scholars learning and their response to it. It also investigates scholars’ attitudes and perceptions of climate variability and climate change. The target sample was scholars of Swayimana High School in Grades 10 to 12. A combination of purposive and simple random sampling was used to select the participants. Predominantly qualitative research methods were used to obtain an understanding of opinions and perceptions. Content and descriptive analysis was employed to analyse open-ended questionnaires and group interviews. The baseline study conducted demonstrated that scholars felt adverse weather was an important issue but that they were not aware but were poorly equipped to adapt to adverse weather. A lack of computer literacy presented a challenge for scholars when using the system at the school. The alternative option of accessing the website through a web-enabled phone proved to be of advantage. The system improved their understanding of technical and scientific terms that were absent in their language. Web-based learning encouraged critical thinking, active participation in lessons ability to read and analyse visual representations of statistical data. Further, the system improved their awareness of adverse weather, global climate variability and change and adaptation strategies. The results demonstrated the attractiveness of the AIM system as an education tool. However, there is a need for a much larger and longer-term research study on the usability of the system.