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Two rural schools will be the first in SA to join the Nepad e-schools initiative, an electronic network of African schools aimed at developing information technology (IT) infrastructure at schools on the continent.

Ipetleng Secondary School in the Free State and Thozamisa Secondary in the Eastern Cape received world class e-learning facilities last month.

The project, launched in 2003, is designed to provide hardware, software, digital content and teacher development to all schools in Africa within a decade. It will involve over 600000 schools across the continent. Schools that do not have facilities will be chosen for the project. Those that already have electronic equipment will be adapted or upgraded to become Nepad e-schools later in the process.

The two SA schools are part of an initial demonstration project to examine the feasibility of the project. It was funded by a consortium of IT companies, led by Oracle.

HP, Microsoft, AMD and Cisco Systems are also leading consortia around the continent, in effect taking responsibility to provide seven schools each with facilities in a year.

The Oracle consortium consists of Mecer, Mustek, Sentech, Xerox, Intel, MultiChoice Africa, DHL, Learnthings Africa, CompuTrainer, Cambridge-Hitachi, Markbook, Evalunet, Astra and Fujitsu Siemens Computers.

The demonstration operation will be conducted at six schools each in 16 countries that have signed up to the African peer review mechanism (23 so far). The first e-school was launched in Ghana last July, followed by schools in Lesotho, Kenya and SA. Mali, Gabon and Egypt will be next.

The initiative is co-ordinated by Nepad’s eAfrica commission. E-schools project facilitator Sandy Malpile says the project was set up to ensure that African children get access to IT, to modernise school administrative structures and to improve teaching.

The project will have an e-health component, a system of sharing information and educating communities on nutrition and hygiene.

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