Journey of a LIASA Librarian of the Year – Ina Smith

26 September 2017, 09:17

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Don’t wait for things to happen, and wait for someone else to make it happen. Go out yourself and make things happen, be that someone. This is an important wisdom I would like to carry with me for the rest of my life. I would like to once again thank the LIASA Librarian of the Year sponsors for awarding me the title, and to the Gauteng North Branch for electing me and having me representing them. Thank you to ASSAf colleagues for great support throughout!

Once one has decided to make something happen, it can only be a success if you work as part of a team and if others share the same passion. During the week of 3 to 7 July 2017, In the Cloud, SAPNet (one of the sponsors of the LIASA Librarian of the Year award), the Blue Bus Community Ministries and Hindle High School in Delft, Western Cape, put together efforts to present a digital citizenship course to Grade 11 and 12 learners from the Hindle High School. Thank you SAPNet for your valuable sponsorship – the learners enjoyed the food (breakfast, tea, lunch) served every day so much, and thank you for renting laptops so that each learner could have a hands-on experience.

The computers of the school were unfortunately stolen, and the school does not have the money to replace them at this stage. Thank you Hindle High School and staff for allowing us to present this workshop to the learners, for allowing us to use the school classroom and staff room, as well as the school Internet to do the training. Thank you Blue Bus Community Ministries for the special work you do in uplifting conditions and learners in the community, and for making this possible, together with the other stakeholders. All in all, this intervention was extremely successful, because of the work of people who were prepared to make things happen. Not only did the learners benefit, but personally I have experienced so much determination, and eagerness among the learners to learn as much as possible. They even sacrificed the first week of their school holiday to attend the workshops each day from 9:00 in the morning until 16:00 in the afternoon.

Each day started with rusks and coffee, followed with a recap of work done the previous day. This would be in the form of questions and answers, and a group quiz on Wednesday caused huge excitement! The programme covered the following, which was contextualised specifically for the needs experienced by Grade 11 and 12 learners:
• What is digital citizenship?
• The world of work and my options following school, including entrepreneurship
• Creating a business logo using Paint
• Word processing using Word, including typing my CV
• Using Excel to compile a budget and keep track of finances
• Creating a slideshow with PowerPoint
• Accessing the Internet using web addresses, and completing an online evaluation form
• Life skills, including self-confidence, presenting, self-care and more
• The power of webinars

During the week the learners worked towards coming up with a new business idea, to start their own business. A colleague from ASSAf, Tsepo Majake, conducted a webinar on Thursday, during which he shared some thoughts on science as a career, Quest magazine and challenged the learners with some exciting mathematical problems. Tsepo was assisted by Nozuko Hlwatika, another great colleague of mine! Thanks so much to both of them for being willing to participate! On the Friday the learners presented their work, and the “judges” (or “funders”) (including a few teachers and the headmaster) were all speechless because of the quality, the level at which they delivered, and the questions they asked one another. They had to convince potential “funders” to invest money in their business, following presenting their business case. They were expected to evaluate one another, and to think critically. And did they take it seriously! They also evaluated the course through responding to five questions that encouraged them to do some introspection. The questionnaire was compiled with Google Forms, and the results can be viewed at https://loy2016blog.wordpress.com/

Since I had to leave for Trieste, Italy on Friday afternoon, I could not attend on Friday, but was on edge all day and thinking of them! So sorry I had to miss out, but the rest of the team made everything such a special experience for the learners!
I am still struggling to find words to describe this experience. Maybe it can be captured in one word – proud. I am so proud of these learners for not being the victims of their circumstances. They all have dreams for a better future, and where there is a will, there is a way. And they have already made the choice …

I was sad saying goodbye to all, but thankful for being able to play a very small role in helping them to discover new talents and passions using technology as a tool. I wish them well, and think of them every day. I hope to one day learn about the positive direction their lives took because of people not keeping a blind eye, but people wanting to make a difference and understanding that these inequalities need to be addressed in a tangible way. The poster to be presented at the upcoming LIASA Conference in October will be dedicated to the learners and donated to Hindle High School, in memory of this life-changing event.
Photos at https://loy2016blog.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/my-journey-as-liasa-librarian-of-the-year-continues/