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The computer science needs of a rural school : possiblities and pitfalls for service-learning in higher education
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This research study attempted to identify the computer science needs of a rural school and then attempted to see to what extent a higher education institution could meet those needs and to what extent it could not, through a service-Ieaming project. The study also attempted to develop a framework to guide the implementation of a serviceleaming project in computer science for a rural school. The study was set against the literature on the need for higher education to transform and demonstrate greater responsibility and commitment to social and economic development of society in general, and the need for increased participation, collaboration and partnership formation through service-learning projects in particular. The literature on computer use in schools and best practice for service-learning in higher education was also reviewed. Using qualitative approaches and data production methods the school teachers, learners, students and lecturers in a higher education institution were interviewed in order to establish the computer science needs of the school and to find out how the students and lecturers could address those needs through service-learning. The research findings indicated that the rural school in De Doorns has a serious lack of essential computer-related infrastructure such as the computer laboratory, computers, and well-trained staff in using computers. Other computer science-related needs included proposal writing, technical assistance and security personnel. The research findings also revealed that students and lecturers in the departments of Information Technology, Office Management, Human Resource Management and Education could be involved in the training of staff, enhancement of computer skills and proposal writing. From the research findings, it became evident that the two school community needs, Le. the provision of computer laboratories and security services, could not be addressed through service-Ieaming, but through funding proposals and fundraising that involved the Western Cape Education Department and the private sector. The study therefore demonstrates possible partnerships between schools and higher education institutions and calls for collaborative efforts that include government departments and the private sector in order to make education beneficial to the development of school learners, students in higher education and South African communities in general.