Nhlazuka Thusong Service Centre (KwaZulu-Natal)
Training reaches new heights at Nhlazuka
A high premium is placed on the introduction of information and communications technologies at Thusong Service Centres.
At Nhlazuka in the Umgungundlovu District of KwaZulu-Natal, a partnership between local decision-makers, the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Durban campus, and information technology (IT) experts, will result in increased service provision at the Thusong Service Centre, specifically in IT training.
Partnerships such as these ensure sustainability of telecentres, which are funded by the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) for the first year.
The speedy transformation of the telecentre into a training centre was spearheaded by acting centre manager, Musa Ndlovu. His proactive initiative has led USAASA to approach him about setting up similar training centres at all telecentres. Ndlovu’s competent and efficient management of the centre has led to this beneficial partnership with the Thusong Service Centre.
Quality training is no longer the privilege of networked urban dwellers. Local decision-makers in Nhlazuka, working with IT specialists from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, have tackled the challenge of inaccessibility to advanced training in the imposing mountainous area of Nhlazuka. Twenty-five Grade 12 graduates and teachers have registered for an intensive five-month computer training course, paying a nominal fee of R700 (including course materials). The course is the brain child of the Richmond Communication Academic Centre (RICAC) Alliance of Nhlazuka. The alliance is a partnership between Byepro, an IT institution affiliated to the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and the local Khulumani Support Group. The acting centre manager, Musa Ndlovu, sits on the Alliance’s Board of Directors.
An early 7 o’clock start takes the local students into an eight-hour training day led by Dr Khumalo and Dr Ngobo, volunteers from Byepro. Except for the introductory course to Internet and e-mail usage held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Durban Campus, the entire course will be held at the Nhlazuka Thusong Service Centre. The early start to the day makes up for an otherwise 200-km trip to Durban and the cost implications of accommodation and food.
The Khulumani Support Group manages the funds and provided 10 computers and a printer, housed in the telecentre. Grade 9 to 12 learners are the next target group for a six-month training course on Saturdays. Ndlovu is also keen to start Adult Basic Education and Training courses in computer literacy. His aim for Nhlazuka is to get everyone, from all age groups, to become computer literate. He reasons that anyone who knows how to use a cellphone can use a computer, including senior learners. Ndlovu points out that this must then be backed up by the supply of electricity and phone lines for Internet in Nhlazuka homes.
Ndlovu will only stop once the training centre is transformed into a fully-fledged Further Eduction and Training college equipping students with conflict management, leadership and other skills.
A serious obstacle to economic growth in this area is the lack of regular public transport. With a bus that only runs about four times a day to nearby Richmond, electronic connectivity in Nhlazuka would result in economic sustainability. Firm commitments from the private sector and parastatals must be rallied by the intersectoral steering committees and political champions.
One of the foreseen results of the Thusong Service Centre programme is that the centres are platforms where democratic processes and community projects can take place.
Meetings between committee members of the local Sanitation Project and beneficiaries of the project use the Thusong Service Centre to co-ordinate and discuss the project. The community hall was abuzz with activity at the Nhlazuka Thusong Service centre to discuss the first phase of the Sanitation Project in February 2007.
The Umvula Trust and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry are initially providing 600 toilets. The two-month training of 22 local people − 12 as plumbers and 12 as bricklayers − was part of the project and organised by the Department of Labour. Thirty three toilets are expected to be built per day to reach the target of 10 000 toilets by 2007. The 22 recently skilled workers will celebrate the end of the year with accredited training and invaluable experience to sell in the job market.