Learning through gaming

first_imgJanine ErasmusThe Games and Learning Indaba, organised by the Shuttleworth Foundation and held in August 2008, explored the potential that digital game-based learning holds for formal education and informal learning in South Africa, especially in improving communication and analytical thinking skills. A number of game developers, teachers, gamers, academics and other experts attended the event.In his presentation titled Social constructivism in games-based learning in the South African context, Alan Amory, an educational ICT professor in Johannesburg University’s Faculty of Education, maintained that games are useful social construction tools, and any game has an inherent educational value that is there to be exploited.“No technology is value-free,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if a game is gender-biased because we can use it to explore gender. It doesn’t matter if it is violent because we can use it to explore violence. It is not the tool itself that is important, but what you do with it. The process of deconstruction, where the game is used as a discussion starter about violence, gender bias, male dominance, etcetera, is where the real learning with games occurs.”Amory has found that games in the learning context are most effective when players are required to work together to construct solutions. He particularly noted that tertiary students, while playing a game designed for better understanding of the biological functions of photosynthesis and respiration, achieved significant results when paired, rather than playing on their own.This was because a team situation always gives rise to discussion and collaboration, and pupils developed better visualisation, logic, mathematical, reading and writing skills as well. Solo players, meanwhile, often learned to solve problems by rote – an unfortunate learning method that is far too prevalent in South African schools, said Amory.Maths on a mobileWhile online safety especially for children is a complex and important issue, according to Steve Vosloo, communication and analytical skills fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation, the opportunities outweigh the risks although safety for pupils has to be the primary concern.One of the advances made by South African educators is the use of popular mobile communication platform Mxit for maths education. Dr Math is a pioneering educational programme developed by Laurie Butgereit of the Meraka Institute, a division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Meraka investigates the role of information and communications technology in addressing South Africa’s developmental challenges.Dr Math provides maths pupils from grade 3 to grade 12 with an instant online tutor between 2pm and 8pm on weekdays, and the occasional Sunday night. There are 20 teachers available to answer maths-related queries and to date some 3 200 pupils have used the service. Pupils will readily seek assistance because of the convenience of being able to turn to a teacher whether on the bus or the sports field, or in one case, in the bath.“If you want to reach kids you have to do it using their own medium,” says Butgeriet, “and Mxit does that.”According to a January 2008 report on Moneyweb, Mxit has over 6-million users, over 90% of them in South Africa, who send a mind-boggling estimated 200-million messages every day. While the application has been known primarily as a platform for entertainment and cheap communication, and has had its share of critics and controversy because children spend so much time using it, its new-found educational function may open up the way for a series of similar initiatives. Reports say that pupils who use Dr Math are also interested in science tutoring. The service is also far more affordable than a personal tutor, with a session costing the pupil up to R1 ($0.12).However, teachers are often not as technically proficient as their pupils in this arena, a fact agreed on by Indaba delegates. In this case teachers can learn along with their pupils, and here the gaming environment may be a useful vehicle.Vosloo, an expert in the use of communication technology for socio-economic development, says that learning through a mobile platform has huge potential for South Africa, as less than 10% of the population has internet access but a whopping 70% has access to a mobile phone.The instant messaging applications developed by MTN and Vodacom, South Africa’s two major mobile service providers, hold similar educational potential. MTN’s NokNok and Vodacom’s Meep, both of which allow users to chat in real time, share picture files, and other useful functions, are touted as competitors for Mxit.Educational gamesWhile the educational game sector in South Africa still has a way to go to catch up to the international standard, developers are not sitting back.There are several interesting locally developed applications already available, among them Mathstermind, a mobile puzzle game developed to teach maths to grade 10 pupils; Fashion Empire, a mobile game designed to teach business skills and maths to grade 10 pupils; OpenSpell, which addresses spelling skills and is available in all 11 official South African languages; and Cartesian Chaos, which helps pupils to understand the Cartesian plane.Elsewhere in the world, many games are being developed with a specific social or educational purpose in mind. America’s Army was created by the US Army, which spent R49-million ($6-million) on its development before it handed the game over to specialists for adaptation to consoles, as a recruitment tool. The game gives players a realistic taste of life in the army, but it has been widely criticised because it targets children under 17.The conclusion reached at the 2008 Games and Learning Indaba was that there is still a lot of work to be done in researching the potential of educational gaming. “Most educators need to be convinced that you can learn from playing video games,” said Vosloo. He added that the Shuttleworth Foundation supports the concept of game-based learning working alongside more conventional forms of learning – not supplanting them.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Janine Erasmus at janinee@mediaclubsouthafrica.com.Related articlesA toast to educational successMozilla funds translate.org.zaSoweto through a high-tech lensAfrican inventions site honoured Education in South AfricaUseful linksMerakaGames and Learning Google GroupSteve Vosloo’s blogShuttleworth Foundationlast_img read more

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Fishing patrol ship makes waves

first_img27 March 2009South Africa’s environmental protection ship, the Sarah Baartman, returned to Cape Town on Thursday after a patrol in South African, Tanzanian, Mozambican and Kenyan waters during which 41 fishing vessels were inspected and six arrested – one of them forcefully.The 31-day patrol covered more than 7 200 nautical miles – roughly the distance from Cape Town to Helsinki, Finland plus a further 3 500 kilometres.The 11 inspectors on board the Sarah Baartman included two each from Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. Inspections involved examining fishing gear, catches, log books, licences and permits aboard the fishing vessels.According to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the Sarah Baartman arrested two South African hake handline vessels approximately 30 nautical miles off Mossel Bay in the Western Cape for inadequate documentation.Off Mozambique, another hake handline vessel was arrested for a lack of documentation, while a prawn fishing vessel was arrested for fishing in a restricted zone – despite hostility and resistance from the crew of the vessel.Inspectors from the Sarah Baartman forcefully boarded and took control of the vessel before escorting it to the Port of Angoche in Mozambique, the department said.In Tanzania, the Sarah Baartman found more than 290 tons of blue fin tuna on board a vessel without any permit or licence. The vessel and crew were arrested, and all the fish was confiscated by the Tanzanian authorities.The incident drew widespread recognition in Tanzania, with Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete praising the inspectors and crew of the Sarah Baartman for their work in fighting illegal fishing in Tanzanian waters.On the way back to South Africa, off the coast from Durban, a Spanish fishing vessel was arrested and fined R300 000 for being in South African waters without a valid permit. The vessel was detained and will be released upon payment of the fine.In addition to the inspections and arrests, a vigorous technical, operational and legal training programme was conducted during the patrol.Source: BuaNewslast_img read more

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Is a kiss just a kiss?

first_imgSamson MulugetaWhen Jacob Zuma was confirmed as president of South Africa in parliament in Cape Town on May 6 2009, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela stood up to congratulate him by wrapping her left arm around his neck and planting a kiss on  his lips. For South Africans, it was as normal as a handshake. But for foreigners, it was a classically South African custom.Many world travellers say that South Africa is the only place where they have noticed that people who are not married or romantically involved give each other quick pecks on the lips as a form of greeting. Friends do it, relatives do it, little kids do it, whites do it, blacks do it, coloureds do it. In South Africa, almost everybody does it at social and family gatherings.No-one talks in public about things like this but everybody finds it interesting. And types different greeting around the world are fascinating: the fist-pump in the African-American community made famous when Michelle did it to Barack during the campaign, the complicated hand-shakes of some South Africans that end with a thumb snap, and the “I love you, man” shoulder hug of guys the world over.The lip balm company, Blistex, has a nice list of greetings customs around the world.Is it indeed only a South African thing? What is the etiquette around it? Is the right reaction to respond in kind, offer a cheek, or hold the other person at arm’s length?An email inquiry brought in a torrent of responses.Many foreigners living in South Africa have long been amazed by this bit of local colour.“I find the protocol for greeting someone in South Africa more complicated and varied than just about anywhere else I’ve been,” said Kristy, an American living in Johannesburg.  “For me, it’s basically a question of remembering which of my friends is a hugger, which a cheek kisser and which a lip kisser and responding in kind. But sometimes I forget, and go for the cheek while they’re going for the lips and there’s this awkward fumble!”Sara is a Swede who spent a month in South Africa in East Brunswick, a mostly coloured area.“I noticed these quick pecks on the lips and was a bit amazed,” she said. “But it took about two to three weeks until I received my first ones, by a female friend. I was a bit shocked at first as I didn’t expect it, but then I realized it was a sign of friendship. In Sweden we shake hands until we know each other a bit better, then we hug.”Eva has lived here for 13 years and has inherited a South African family that crosses the coloured and Xhosa spectrum, but is still not used to the custom.“Both cultural groups (the coloured and Xhosa) do the lip kissing thing and no, you don’t have to be close family, which would have made a little more sense,” said Eva, who was born in Uganda but grew up in the United States. “I will never get used to kissing 30 to 40 people at a family event, and watching my kids have to do the same. I love hugs and happy to kiss cheeks as many times as a cheek is offered, but I always feel the lip kissing thing is just a little too intimate!”Justin is a South African journalist who has travelled and lived abroad but is now back home.“I never really thought of this as being an exclusively South African thing, though now that you mention it, I realise that having spent quite a few years outside of South Africa, I have negotiated the various conventions of cheek kissing (once, twice, or thrice) or handshaking or hugging in different countries – but never encountered the lip kissing thing elsewhere,” he said.“I’d say that there is some ethnic differentiation involved – I am more likely to lip-kiss with coloured or white Afrikaans friends than others. Among my other friends, I do with some and not others – it’s hard to distinguish why. I can’t remember what was more common when I was growing up (in a white Anglophone community), cheek kissing or lip kissing. Though lip kissing was certainly not unusual, as it seems to be elsewhere in the world.”Justin lived for many years in Angola where he had to negotiate different conventions of greetings.“I remember when I’d been a long time in Angola, where every social occasion involves a lot of cheek-to-cheek kissing, twice,” he said. “Back in South Africa, without thinking, I did a double cheek-kiss with a friend whom I would normally lip-kissed and then realised she must have thought I was being very strange, or pretentious.”Justin said that cheek-to-cheek kissing is rarer in South Africa, but that it is catching on in some circles.“I’d say that cheek-to-cheek-twice is definitely foreign to South Africa – though it is catching on in some circles. Even cheek-to-cheek-once (no lip contact) is a little bit foreign. In families if it’s not lip-to-lip, it will be one person’s lips on the other person’s cheek,” he said. “But then hugging is also becoming more common, and is less complicated. It’s now fine for men to hug each other, which it definitely wasn’t when I was a kid.”Paul, who owns a guesthouse in Melville, comes from an “Anglo Saxonish” family.“A kiss on the lips as a hello (between women and men, and women and women but not men and men!) is standard fare,” he said. “The cheek kissing thing is more European and considered a bit upper-class and offish. It’s a bit like the African handshake in social occasions as you’re never quite sure when to do it or how it’ll be construed.”Laura, a newspaper editor, said she would extend the custom to southern Africa because she has noticed it in Zimbabwe and Botswana.“It’s a funny thing though, I always try to offer a cheek, but some people get offended when you don’t want to kiss them on the lips,” she said.Delicia, who is coloured and lives in Pretoria, said her American fiancé had asked her about this form of greeting and she could not give him an adequate answer.“I was brought up greeting people this way,” she said. “My dad tells me it’s an English habit.”Astrid, who grew up in Cape Town, said: “’I am coloured and it’s definitely something we do; that’s how I was brought up. We greet with a little peck, but not just to anyone, mainly family or very close friends.”Marlize, an Afrikaner, said: “To greet with a kiss is something that we grew up with. It’s something completely normal to me.  But it’s also something you do more with people that you associate with, a somebody that you like. Not everybody. Also, times have changed, and people are influenced a lot by other people they meet from other countries. “Khadeeja, a Muslim South African of Indian descent, said greeting on the lips as a greeting is rare in her community. “Indian community does not do this among themselves,” she said. “Only my white friends greet this way … the rest of the cultures in South Africa (that is, in my circle) all peck on the cheek, or hug, or shake hands. Personally, I don’t like it, as it is an intimate act.”Virginia, who is of French and Ivorian background, said that her main challenge is to remember what each friend’s preference is. Her now seven-year-old daughter quizzed her when they first moved to South Africa four years ago.“When my daughter asked me why people were kissing on lips, especially parents with their kids – while I had told her it was only a ‘lovers’ thing,” she said. “I then told her that different people from different cultures have different habits. But she was really puzzled by my answer, didn’t seem convinced for a while and eventually just had to accept it (and accept that I will not kiss her on the lips, whatever happens).”Flavia, who was born in Brazil and now lives in Johannesburg, said: “I think it’s just a continuation of what mothers and fathers do to their toddlers. I mean, I don’t have kids but I’ve seen different people kissing their toddlers on the lips. I see it as a very nice show of affection between friends and family members. From my experience it’s not isolated to any race, as I have friends from all backgrounds that do that. “Katarina, who is from Sweden and now lives in Johannesburg with her South African husband, said she still struggles to get it right.“The first time I kissed a South African friend goodbye we ended up in a face fight where – I understood much later – he was aiming for my mouth and I for his cheeks,” she said. “Since then I’ve learned to embrace this way of greeting but live in a constant fear of – without thinking – opening my mouth too much or start doing funny things with my tongue.”Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at marya@mediaclubsouthafrica.comlast_img read more

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US govt contract for SA medical isotopes

first_img5 November 2010The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation and its subsidiary, NTP Radioisotopes, have won a US$25-million (about R169.4-million) United States government contract to develop technology for commercial production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 using “proliferation-resistant” low enriched uranium.Necsa will collaborate on the project with the Australian National Nuclear Research and Development Organisation (Ansto).The awarding of the contract recognised the fact that South Africa had “successfully implemented the world’s first large-scale, all-low enriched uranium production of this critical medical isotope,” Necsa said in a statement this week.Move away from highly enriched uraniumThe award, from the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), comes amid an international shortage of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), as well as US-led drive to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.“NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative works with our partners around the world to minimise the use of highly enriched uranium in civilian nuclear applications,” the NNSA’s Ken Baker said in a statement last week.Molybdenum-99 is a radio isotope produced during nuclear fission. Its “daughter radio isotope”, technetium-99m, is used in numerous medical procedures.World’s leading producer of medical radio isotopesBusiness Day writer Tamar Kahn said this week that the deal would give impetus to Necsa’s shift to industrial applications of low-enriched uranium.CEO Rob Adam told Business Day that Necsa was already the world’s leading producer of medical radio isotopes, exporting to 55 countries.Necsa’s Safari reactor is the world’s biggest producer of Mo-99, Adam said, although most of it is still derived from high-enriched uranium, while that derived from low-enriched uranium was currently about 20% more expensive to produce.The contract would enable Necsa, in partnership with Ansto, to improve the technology and lower costs, Adam told Business Day.SAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

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Denel bags R93m UK export order

first_img1 December 2010Pretoria Metal Pressings (PMP), a division of South Africa’s Denel Group, has won a R93-million order for ammunition components from Global Combat Systems Munitions, a unit of BAE Systems in the United Kingdom.Pretoria-based PMP began manufacturing brass cups and discs for BAE Systems in 2001, and has since supplied more than 2.4-billion components in more than 350 weekly shipments. Brass cups and discs are the basic components from which small and medium caliber ammunition is manufactured.“This latest follow-on order is for the deliveries in 2011. In addition to ensuring the retention of skills and jobs at PMP’s Brass plant, this export contract also increases PMP’s foreign exchange earnings”, said PMP chief executive Carel Wolhuter.Successful partnershipPMP’s successful partnership with BAE Systems is a fruit of the UK company’s activities in fulfilling its Industrial Participation offset obligation tied to South Africa’s purchase of Hawk and Gripen aircraft for the SA Air Force.The South African-manufactured brass components are shipped weekly to Global Combat Systems Munitions at Radway Green, England in 40- to 60-ton batches.Global Combat Systems munitions procurement director Mark McIntyre said: “PMP has proven to be a reliable and strategic supplier in a business where on-time deliveries and the highest quality of manufacturing standards are absolutely critical.Jobs-saving deal“BAE Systems is also excited that its offset partnership activities with the Denel Group and others have been a catalyst for positive change and development in South Africa’s defence industry”.Denel Group CEO Talib Sadik congratulated PMP and BAE Systems on finalising this follow-up contract.He said that it was a further milestone in ensuring stable financial performance by PMP, and ensured the retention of close to 200 jobs at PMP’s Brass Plant.Sapalast_img read more

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Golfing first for Soweto high school

first_imgA golf facility has opened at Soweto’s Kwadedangendlale High School – a first for South Africa’s world-famous township. The project is open to the entire community of the suburb of Zola, thanks to the help of some generous sponsors. TrustThe principal of the school, Thomas Mnisi, also gave a few words of gratitude and promised the sponsors that they had not bet on a losing horse.”This day, The Sports Trust has earned the trust of the school because trust is earned and the trust has earned it,” he said. His department intended on working with the trust to sharpen its interventions in developing sport around the country. “The lessons learned will also put us in the right position as we develop and finalise the case of sport.” “The Sports Trust has since its inception been a catalyst for meaningful change in sport and recreation,” he said. The handover at Kwadedangendlale was attended by Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula, who commended the sponsors for developing sports in townships. The school had never obtained anything less than an 80 percent matric pass rate, he added. Mosiane, who is also an administrator at the school, had countless meetings with The Sports Trust and other stakeholders in an effort to get them to consider developing golf in his community. “It is our intention and resolve to draw from The Sports Trust”s expertise and models as we shape and chart a developmental trajectory and transformation landscape for sport and recreation in South Africa and its people.” He says he has been teaching golf for over 10 years now, even though they did not have resources. In all, he teaches some 54 learners from five different schools including Kwadedangendlale High, neighbouring Sivuleleni Primary School and Pace Commercial School.center_img It is the first facility of its kind in Soweto and will be available for the whole community of Zola to use. The project comes after tireless efforts were made by Tebogo Mosiane, a local golfing coach. LeagueNow that they have the right equipment, his next desire is to set up a golfing league where the students can compete against each other. To officially launch the project, Mbalula and three learners made an opening putt, and posed for photographs. The Kwadedangendlale High School Golf Project was handed over at the school on 2 August amid much celebration. The facility, which consists of a putting green and practice nets, was donated by The Sports Trust in partnership with Nedbank and Sun International. Mnisi gave a brief history of the school and explained the meaning of the word “dedangendlale”. It is a Zulu word that loosely translates as “a huge maize field”. For the school, the name was symbolic of teachers planting seeds or feeding the ground so that one day it would produce food to feed nations, he explained. 8 August 2011 Source: City of Johannesburglast_img read more

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Easter bunny helps riverine cousin

first_imgThis riverine kit may live to breed a new generation of the species, thanks to the efforts of the Endangered Wildlife Trust.(Image: Eric Herrmann, N Cape Dept of            Environment and Nature             Conservation) MEDIA CONTACTS • Christy Bragg  EWT riverine rabbit programme manager  +27 82 332 5447 • Nomonde Mxhalisa  EWT communications manager  +27 11 372 3600 RELATED ARTICLES • EWT making tracks in conservation • Addo’s elephant fence comes down • Raggies to help shark conservation • Big five cat moves into new reserve • Lions return to Great KarooEmily van RijswijckChocolate rabbits and Easter are synonymous, with the roots of the tradition going far back to the pagan festival of Eastre and its fertility symbol of the rabbit.This year, as was the case in 2011, the tradition gets an added twist with the famous golden Easter bunny of Lindt & Sprüngli, Swiss master chocolatiers, joining in the fight to save one of South Africa’s most endangered mammals, the riverine rabbit.Lindt will donate a percentage of all sales from their legendary Lindt gold Easter bunnies to the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) riverine rabbit programme.It is the second year that the company joins forces with EWT, a non-profit nature conservation organisation focussing most of its efforts on field research.While the golden chocolate rabbit is hard to miss in the shops – and even harder to resist – the riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis) is far less legendary. In fact, it is a rather elusive character, hiding out in thick, thorny shrubs and doing most of its foraging during night time or early dawn.The 13th most endangered mammal in the world, the riverine rabbit is South Africa’s second most threatened species after the De Winton’s golden mole. It faces an uncertain future.It is estimated that only a few hundred of these rare animals remain in the wild today. The riverine is now listed as critically endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.Saving the KarooThe rabbit’s endangered status is only a small part of the reason why the EWT embarked on its riverine rabbit programme almost a decade ago.Most of the field work takes place in the Klein and Great Karoo region, the rabbit’s natural habitat. One of the programme’s aims is to conserve the biodiversity of this region, as the loss of habitat and land use changes are the most important threats to these animals.“By saving the rabbit we are also in effect saving the Karoo,” says EWT project manager Christy Bragg.The rabbit programme is the flagship project in this ecosystem, and the animals’ status is used as a key indicator of what’s going on with the region’s river ecosystems.Its extinction in many areas where it formerly occurred indicates the degraded status of riverbanks along the perennial Karoo rivers, according to Bragg.“The riverine rabbit is an important indicator species for ecosystems. Through the programme we are saving a whole suite of other animals, plants and insects,” she says.Bragg says the money received from Lindt will be used in three areas:Firstly, the actual number of rabbits and the number of breeding pairs is still open to speculation and needs further research. According to Bragg, an estimated 250 breeding pairs exist.A second aspect will focus on habitat rehabilitation, with the planting, not only of foliage for food, but also for shelter as these creatures are extremely shy. Local people are enlisted in habitat restoration projects.The last part of the programme is critical as most of the riverine rabbit populations live on private land.This third aspect focuses on getting private landowners to become partners in the programme. Farmers are encouraged to promote integrated land management practices that can sustain the riverine rabbit, its habitat and many other species while ensuring socio-economic benefits to landowners and communities.So far, about 350 000 hectares of riverine rabbit habitat is under informal stewardship agreements with farmers in the North and Western Cape areas. These agreements are set to be formalised in the near future.Lindt bunny and SanbonaLindt hopes to break the current record of R250 000 (US$32 600) from Easter sales in 2011, which was donated to the EWT programme.The little hollow chocolate figurine, with its trademark red ribbon and golden bell, has been around since 1952 and celebrates its 60th birthday this year. It is sold in various sizes and forms of packaging.Lindt, together with Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, is also offering a two-night getaway to the reserve, one of the rabbit’s habitats.Since 2006, when the first rabbit was sighted at the reserve, over 100 sightings of the little creature have been recorded. The reserve has instituted its own research initiative to study the rabbit.In 2003 Sanbona introduced lion and cheetah into the reserve for the first time, marking a significant milestone in the history of the Karoo.Sanbona lies in the Klein Karoo near Montagu, a mere three hours’ drive from Cape Town along the R62 and is located at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains.last_img read more

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They come to dance…and grow

first_imgCEO Philip Boyd takes one of hisstudents through one of the school’srigorous training regimes at theAthlone studio. DFA’s Cape Town Outreach Programmetakes dance to the classrooms oftownships such as Gugulethu andKhayelitsha. CEO Philip Boyd (left, standing) fine tunesone of his student’s techniques at theschool in Athlone.(Images: Dance for All)MEDIA CONTACTS• Philip Boyd CEO, Dance for All+27 21 697 5509RELATED ARTICLES• South African Theatre • Zip Zap circus school teaches life skills • SA ballet shines in dark times • Irish flair comes to South Africa Shamin ChibbaAlbert Einstein famously referred to dancers as athletes of God, and the legendary American choreographer Martha Graham believed dance was the soul’s hidden language.And it is through these notions that Philip Boyd established Dance for All, a non-profit organisation that gets children from previously underprivileged backgrounds into dancing.Twenty-one years ago Boyd, who at the time was a principal dancer with what is now the Cape Town City Ballet, noticed that the South African ballet scene was devoid of black performers.Inspired to change this situation, he gathered 34 children in a classroom in Gugulethu township in the Western Cape and began teaching them the basics of dance, establishing what was then called Ballet for All.The name changed to Dance for All (DFA) after the organisation started incorporating other disciplines of dance such as African, jazz, contemporary dance and hip hop.Today, DFA trains almost 1 000 children and young adults, between the ages of five and 21, from the region’s underprivileged communities.The DFA differenceWhat distinguishes DFA from most dance schools is the outreach programmes it runs in various communities around Cape Town. Instructors provide free tuition in school classrooms and community halls in townships such as Gugulethu, Nyanga and Khayelitsha, as well as the further-flung areas of Barrydale, Montagu and Zolani.However, their main studio is in Athlone in the Cape Flats, where the organisation’s most talented students train.“It is where the serious training takes place,” said Boyd.Together with his late wife, the renowned prima ballerina Phyllis Spira, Boyd was able to grow the project into a school that has become a springboard for many professional dancers.Noluyanda Mqulwana, a cast member in The Lion King‘s Singapore chapter, has been invited to participate in the show for the Germany leg later this year. Another progeny of DFA is Xola Putye, a senior soloist with the Cape Town City Ballet.Siphe November, a 13-year-old who has been sponsored to continue his training at the Canadian National Ballet School in Toronto, is also one of the project’s stars.A success story of Boyd’s project is Theo Ndindwa, who danced professionally in the UK for six years before returning to South Africa to start his own professional dance company, iKapa Dance Theatre.Keeping kids off the streetsWhen speaking of the benefits DFA provides, Boyd said the students learn to become focused and disciplined and being part of the school helps to keep them away from possible exposure to destructive behaviour.“It gets the kids off the streets and with that, they receive good training,” said Boyd.Within DFA are five programmes. The Cape Town Outreach Programme takes dance to township schools. Under the tutelage of former DFA trainee Hope Nongqongqo, more than 300 children are given the opportunity to learn ballet, African and contemporary dance in the classes that are run daily.Other programmes include the Rural Outreach Programme; the InSPIRAtions Youth Company, whose members are hired for performances, corporate or private functions, and television commercials; Specialised Dance Programmes, which selects the most talented dancers from the Cape Town Outreach Programme; and the Bridging Programme, which helps fill the gap between dance student and professional.Despite DFA’s incredible success, maintaining the project still remains a struggle financially. According to Boyd, the cost of running the school can go up to R4-million (US$480 900) a year and for an NPO, such funds are hard to obtain.The efforts by Boyd and his team of instructors have culminated in what will be one of DFA’s biggest tours yet: the Mzansi Cymru Torchbearers concert in Cardiff, Wales.Collaboration with Welsh performersEleven dancers from InSPIRAtions will collaborate with Welsh performers for two shows at the Wales Millennium Centre on July 20 and 21.One of those taking part is Nathan Baartman of Eerstrivier in Cape Town. He initially started as a hip hop dancer when he was 17 but took up ballet when, just over a year ago, he felt the need to broaden his knowledge of dance.“I went to a factory that makes ballet shoes and other equipment and a lady there advised me to take up ballet with DFA,” he said.The shy 20-year-old uses dance as a medium to express himself.“It’s a way of setting myself and my audience free. It’s an international language we can all understand.” he said.Baartman feels that being a part of DFA has helped him discover just what he is capable of achieving.“The teaching [at DFA] has been phenomenal. They never break you down. They are all about building you up.”His trip to Wales will be his first major performance as a ballet dancer and he believes he is more than ready for it.Members of Zip Zap Circus, the Fezeka Choir and Amampondo, all of which hail from Cape Town, will also take part in the concert.Mzansi Cymru Torchbearers is an arts project spearheaded by Valley Kids, a community development charity based in the South Wales Valleys. it forms part of the Wales Cultural Olympiad.The dancers will be accompanied by Boyd and teacher and choreographer Christopher Kindo.Both South African and Welsh performers prepared themselves for the event when they rehearsed at the DFA studios in April, as well as at the Artscape Theatre and the Zip Zap Circus tent.A duplicate of the Cardiff performance will be staged in Cape Town towards the end of November this year.last_img read more

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Harnessing the energy of Africa

first_imgBrand South Africa’s CEO Miller MatolaThe Global African Diaspora Summit is currently in session in Johannesburg, with top-level gatherings taking place ahead of the main event on Africa Day on 25 May.The event is an initiative of the Addis Ababa-based African Union (AU) and the South African government. It takes place under the theme Towards the Realisation of a United and Integrated Africa and its Diaspora.The summit’s main aim, according to the AU, is to discuss how best to harness skills and energies within the continent and abroad to boost socio-economic development in Africa, and to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship through sustainable partnerships with the African Diaspora.At a pre-summit gathering held on 23 May to welcome delegates, South Africa’s international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said that setting up partnerships with African citizens living off the continent would be a priority outcome for the summit.The strengthening of pan-African solidarity is another important goal that will result in a better life for the continent’s people, said Nkoana-Mashabane.“This is Africa’s effort to reach out to its sons and daughters out there in other parts of the world, to affirm our collective identity and marshal our forces for a better Africa and a better world.”Brand South Africa’s CEO Miller Matola too addressed the delegates and reflected on the significance of the event.This summit should be just one of the mechanisms adopted in efforts aimed at fostering a dialogue that will create lasting and more sustainable solutions for the continent, said Jerry Matjila, director-general of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, in his closing speech.“For our part as South Africa, we recommit ourselves to working with all whose ideals and vision is part of what we espouse for the future of this continent, and its diaspora.”Harnessing the energy of AfricaAccording to official reports, 64 leaders from African countries, AU organs, and organisations working within the diaspora, will attend the Johannesburg summit. About 500 representatives of government, academia, business and civil society are expected.The date of the event was decided upon at the 18th ordinary session of the AU, held in January 2012, although the endorsement of South Africa as host happened back in 2006, at the organisation’s eighth ordinary session in 2006.AU leaders wish to mobilise African citizens within the continent and in the diaspora, to support the acceleration of the agenda of African integration and development.The decision marked the culmination of a long process of consultations and meetings between the African continent and its diaspora counterparts.In 2003, at the first extraordinary session of AU heads of state, a decision was taken to integrate the African diaspora into the policy framework of the AU.This was done by amending the Constitutive Act, to provide a new article that invites and provides full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of the continent – although this amendment has not yet come into force.last_img read more

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SA Airways awarded 4-star rating

first_img The rating recognises the airline’s improvement in onboard product and service levels and in enhancing the customer experience. “South African Airways have managed to maintain quality levels throughout the past year and are delivering a solid project and service standard to their customers, making their 4-star ranking well-deserved,” Skytrax chief executive, Edward Plaisted, said in a statement on Tuesday. “The Skytrax star ranking audit examines more than 800 areas of product and service delivery, across all areas of the airport operations and the cabin experience, and demonstrates that South African Airways passengers can look forward to a high quality of product and service.” Obtaining a 4-star rating means that the airline in question has achieved high standards across all travel categories, including staff service standards. “Accolades and rankings such as this one from Skytrax reconfirms that our dedication and focus on strategic objectives to improve our customer value proposition will ensure that we eventually become a fully sustainable business that can compete successfully in the global airline market in the near future,” said SAA customer service executive, Suretha Cruse. “This ranking, together with a number of awards from other foremost institutions as well as the prestigious Skytrax Best Airline in Africa Award for 10 years in a row and the Skytrax Excellence Award for the third consecutive year, further exemplifies our customer-focused efforts.” SAinfo reporter 14 February 2013 South African Airways has been awarded a 4-star airline rating by global independent airline rating firm Skytrax for the 11th year running.last_img read more

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