Engagement in learner outreach: Paterson rural school project & ICT projects

My outreach project grew from humble beginnings in 2008. This included the Paterson project in 2016 and the 2012 ICT outreach enabling project in 2012. These are elaborated upon below.

Paterson rural school aspirations project 2016 to 2017
In 2016 we were awarded an NRF grant. Myself and three academics engaged with the rural community and school in Paterson. My part of the project was to engage with isiXhosa speaking secondary school rural youth pertaining to their future aspirations. During 2016 and 2017 I worked closely with eight grade 10 and 11 learners and we explored their aspirations, challenges and ways to overcome their challenges by means of Photo Voice, Digital PowerPoint Story Telling and exploring online. The learners were brought to the university too, to co-explore it under my supervision. These learners were also taught how to use ICT and started to design their own presentations and videos. They were also taught how to use the internet and how to speak in public. One learner, Luzuko, became a real star leadership wise. The opportunities provided to him and our communication resulted in him becoming a leader that started to self-organise our project. He co-presented their stories with his participating peers to the staff and learners. In 2018 he started at Nelson Mandela University and until now in 2019, we are constantly meeting and engaging via WhatsApp, as he openly states that I am his mentor. I assisted him to plan a video that he mae and screened to the community. This lead to te forming of action committees which he steers. Education has led that he became an active citizen that mobilises for social change. I am so proud of this gentleman. As part of our project, we also published collectievly (click here for the article) and I also have a Masters' student who is analysing the data currently. We will be writing an article which focuses on the participants' aspirations: their aspirations, challenges and ways of enabling them to achieve their aspirations.

ICT, Mathemetics & Science project since 2012 and continuing
In 2012 my outreach project received the BEST NMMU Emerging Engagement Project Award. An image of the website is presented below. Click here to view our project website that was developed by myself and served as application for this engagement award.

Engagement website

Below are links to our engagement activities and our reports for 2012, 2013 and for January to April 2014. Our engagement is sponsored by the Herman Ohlthaver Trust. Our thanks to Mr Alan Appel, the trustee for his loyal support:

Below is an extract from an interview with a teacher, expressing his appreciation, at one of the five schools.

“I don’t think justice is done in terms of us acknowledging and appreciating your efforts. We didn’t do much.  I can’t recall we even wrote you a letter saying thank you.  I think you just pitched up here and said ok [I will help you], and even from that day there was hope for us and I knew you would come through for us.  You didn’t leave us with nothing.  Whatever you say is different and that means a lot especially when I have to report to staff.  I told them we going to get computers and internet.  I just knew it was going to happen.  You deliver.  You are hands on and practical and personality you try and understand and you are not difficult to work with and I enjoy working with you. Even the people you send. Helpful, informative. You don’t demand what we can’t deliver. You inform us early about the visitation so we can’t have an excuse.”

I am also involved in the development of learners in under privileged township schools. I have started to assist them with developing email accounts and the use of email. I also introduced the Internet to them.

Internet project

Prof Webb alerted Renita Affat of the NMMU Trust and Mr Alan Apple of the Hermann Ohlthaver Trust to show that we are making a difference. Below are some of the learners' responses that they emailed to Prof Paul Webb regarding this project:

Learner Responses


The ICT project also received coverage in the local media, as indicated below:

Herald ICT Project 1


Helping LEGO Teams

I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email an phone call after the NMMU Teaching and Learning Breakaway of 5 June by Natasha Saunders based on my presentation at the Breakaway. Someone else has informed her about my presentation and she is of the opinion that I can be of value to their team by sharing ideas with the (see email below). We have set up an appointment with her and her team for Friday, 13 June 2014. This just shows that our creativity and enthusiasm goes beyond the NMMU campus. We can help to make a difference in some people's lives and in society, helping with learning and social change.

From:natashasaunders@telkomsa.net [mailto:natashasaunders@telkomsa.net]
Sent: Monday, June 09, 2014 8:46 AM
To: Du Plessis, Andre (Dr) (Summerstrand South Campus)
Subject: A First Lego League Team would like to interview you.

 Morning Andre

Ronald gave me your e-mail details and said you may be willing to be interviewed by one of the FLL teams.  Would you perhaps be available this Friday after 11?  I have approached the school to see if I can get the team released earlier.

I would also like to chat to you about a new mechatronic high school I am developing.  It will run on an open plan layout and combine elements of home schooling with the traditional classroom approach.  I was chatting to Ronald about it and he suggested you and I may enjoy each other's out of the box approach to education.


Natasha Saunders


Team Techno Splat


041 3673398

Sent from Windows Mail