As I mentioned recently, Makana Primary school here in town, received a phonecall from a computer company informing them that the government had provided money for them to receive 5 brand new pcs. They were told that they needed to choose said computers so that they could be delivered to them. Thinking that we could help, we asked the school for a copy of the information that they had received.
So on Thursday's meeting with the district officials, one of the ladies to attend the meeting was Gwen Jumela (I think I have her surname right, but not 100% sure!). She is a teacher at Makana Primary, and is infact the IT teacher there - even though the school does not have computers. She has gone through the Rhodes Education departments Advanced Course in Education (ACE) program. She brought with her a copy of an invoice that the school had, there are apparently two of these invoices, but she only remembered just the one - Cheryl is trying to get a copy of the second one for us as well.
The copy of the invoice that I have is from "PC Trade Ins, by MindTechnology". I don't seem to be able to find anything regarding trading in computers and mindtechnology, however mindtechnology also makes "PowerEducation" which are educational software packages. There is a fair amount available on the software side of things. I am guessing that they are giving to schools old pcs from companies that don't want them anymore as they are more than likely upgrading. Guy Halse mentioned that a shipload of old computers had apparently arrived in South Africa either sometime last year or near the beginning of this year, in East London and perhaps these people had somehow gotten some of them to give to schools? I tried googling for something along those lines but didn't find anything. Anyway, I can only guess that they are getting second hand refurbished machines and giving those to schools along with the software that they produce.
From the invoice (which mainly provides information on the software and the price of everything) it would appear that the school is going to receive P3's, probably celerons. However, I would have to either see the invoice for the hardware that they received or the actual machine itself.
As for the software that they are receiving from MindTechnology, these include the following, Power-AttentionBuilder(Eng/Afr), Power-Read(Eng/Afr), Power-MathsBuilder, Power-Maths (Grades 4-12), Power-Perception (ages 3-6), Power-Science (grades 10-12), Power-Numeracy (Adults) and Power-ZuluBuilder(Eng/Zulu). According to their site they are in the process of producing a Power-AfrikaansBuilder.
According to the invoice they are being charge a little under 26 thousand rand for all of this, which the government is paying for. If you divide the full amount by the 8 software packages that they are receiving (that is not including paying for the computer, because we are assuming that the machines are trade ins that the company got for free) then they are paying R3248.75 per software package. The software appears to run on a Windows operating system, however I am not sure with which they are compatible. The only reason that I can say that is that their demo model on their site is a .exe. There is no meantion anywhere on their web pages about which OSs you need in order to run their software. I can't say with complete certainty but the prices for software seems a little expensive really. It might have to do with inflation and that they are a South African company but it does seem a little steep.
Some of the packages are also an odd bunch to be supplying a primary school in the Eastern Cape with. For instance a zulu language builder in the eastern cape where the predominant language is Xhosa. Why do that? Surely the school is just paying for something that they don't need? Also the science package is just for grades 10-12, not relevant to a primary school - is the school suppose to offer extra classes to outside people after hours? And if so, are teachers from other schools going to be trained to teach them, because the teachers at this school will not be qualified to teach high school syllabi. According to their web page, buying their software entitles the teaching staff to training to use the software as well as support for any problems that they may experiance. Assuming all of these take place then the price for the software becomes a little easier to swollow as there is more value in it for the school.
The business appears to operate from Durban, however according to the school all the correspondance and equipment is coming from East London, so maybe Guy's theory is not completely off? Their web site is awful, not to be rude or anything but you would think that a software company could produce a better site? I am not a great html coder myself, but mine is not that bad. Also their site is not terribly informative in terms of how much their software costs, or what OS you need in order to make use of the packages. They have lots of rubbish about how their packages will improve your life... in fact they reckon that people who are illiterate usually land up killing themselves due to depression and they are making products that will prevent this. Read here for all of it, the last section at the bottom of the page talks about illiteracy leading to suicide, there is so much emotive speech and "propaganda" that you want to vomit. Anyway, they seem to target children with learning disabilities, and through computers and use of their software they claim that children dramatically improve. They also site lots of testimonies to back this up.
I went and found as many things as I could on them and here are some of the sites below if you are at all interested:
Their main web page - which links to the rest of the information that they give, warning not a pretty site.
An article on kidsnews on the software
Another Article on how it will help people who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder
Lastly from one of the schools that is using their product - King's Cross Randurg http://www.kingsschoolwr.co.za/kings_ken54.html
Update: On a more careful look at this invoice it would appear they are charging for the computers, however it looks like they are charging a fair amount for those computers, in fact it appears that they are charging so much that if you multiplied the total cost for one machine, by 5 (which is the number of computers that the school is supposedly receiving) then it comes to more than the 26 thousand that they are spending. So this is very confusing. The invoice doesn't exactly make sense at all. Not sure how much the computers are costing or how much the software is and their web site is not providing many answers either. Maybe things will become a little clearer when we see the second invoice?