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DigiTalk with DUT’s Digital Activist, Colin Thakur

DigiTalk with DUT’s Digital Activist, Colin Thakur


A FEW years ago, I was deployed into the stimulating e-skills post I currently occupy. That, according to my wife, is an affirmation of Peter’s Principle that “Employees rise to the height of their incompetence”.

A requirement of my post was a fair amount of travel. I therefore had to make an appropriate technology choice to communicate with home and the office. I consulted the resident mobile expert daughter Mikaela then 14 years old. She coaxed me into a Blackberry. I hated the keyboard size, and could not grasp the idea of BBM-ing anybody over anything. Furthermore, though in denial, I had just reached the age when I needed multi-focus lenses on my spectacles.

My unwillingness to embrace the Blackberry made me quite dependent on my daughter. We consequently had long “How do I …” type BB conversations. As readers will know, teenage girls transmogrify from boisterous young children into quiet young ladies.
The private nature of Blackberry Messenger enabled me to remain connected with my daughter. Our conversations morphed into dad-daughter chats. We had long e-conversations, some silly, others deep, and some good old-fashioned banter. These would simply stop mid-conversation and pick up days later as if there was no break.

My daughter is neither a Skype person nor a telephone personality. I am, therefore, not sure how I would have communicated (with her or family) had it not been for the power and economy of BBM. My son on the other hand is the instant kind: do it now, finish it now, or just leave it, and move on. Some kids are the voice vintage, others the text vintage.

So, parents, decide what catches your child’s attention, pick their platform, use their skills and learn from them how to use it and leverage it to communicate with them. You will bond with them and learn something that may benefit your work. Extend this bottom-up technique to your work and adopt a techno-savvy junior colleague. Re-examine your colleagues: some like to be emailed, others to be personally called while a few demand a walk to their office. It is as it is.

The matric results are out. To the parents and learners I remind you matric is done. You cannot change the marks. Plan around this reality. There are options such as Universities, Universities of Technologies (UoT) and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. Consider any one of them.

I urge all wise parents “Don’t conflate your (missed) dreams and ambitions with your children’s future.” If you cannot talk to them, use the technology I just pointed and ask them what they want to do. It’s your money on the line here.

Mikaela, as we sit up all night awaiting your matric results, all I can do is wish you good luck. Here’s your public get out of jail card: Decide what you want to do and at least tell the editor. I am sure I can get him to change your mind!

While we’re on the topic, allow me to sound off on a pet peeve. The drama around the copying at the various matrix exam centres has been the subject of much debate. I nodded when parents raged, “How dare they cheat and mess my child’s crowning glory. Typical! Not the democracy we fought for! Yet another sign of our slippery slope.” And so on.

So how, then, do we reconcile the actions of those misguided parents who use their “contacts” to obtain matric results before the release date? How sad after 12 year of education, you proudly inform your child “I have a contact for your results.” You have just trivialised 12 years of education with one misguided act of false bravado. We fought to become a democracy. This means you are exactly the same as every other parent of the 550 000 matriculants that wrote with your child. Now you unilaterally raise your child’s priority … and your child becomes more equal than others?

As the rest of us mere mortals wait patiently for the results, you on the night before the official release will have been part of a gloating minority that obtained your kid’s results via “your contact.” Great. You’re a hero. But what will you do for an encore? You will need to pull this card again and again. You’re on that slippery slope. But it’s just a minor transgression, you say. No, it isn’t. It’s the little things that matter.

Off course, we can use technology to eradicate this loophole – just release the results online or through SMS a few hours after the bright ones deservedly have had their moment in the spotlight. Please don’t make us, the people, wait all night for the children’s results.

I understand the original reasons, but after 12 years of Life Orientation and high symbols in that subject, surely your kid is equipped enough to deal with their own results? We must become a society that queues. That waits.

New York curbed its crime with its “broken windows” policy, based on aggressively tackling petty crimes on the basis that it deters bigger misdemeanours. Cape Town has adopted a variation of this. Singapore famously punishes “spitters” and “litterbugs”.

Parents, if you are among the guilty because you did not see the error of your way … I forgive you. If you think this is a serious case of sour grapes. Perhaps. I am not perfect. A rehabilitated scoundrel is perhaps more accurate. But I will be damned if my lack of respect and indiscretions cross the generation gap in my family.

There are just some things much more important than “contacts”. To my “contacts”, I say thank you but no thank you. You are well meaning but may have missed the big picture.

As a very nervous parent, I respect every matriculating family as one cohort. It is our pain, our misery and our glory as one collective. The 6th belongs to the people. You will prevail.

Now I really do need to run, the Pirate Bay website is up again and as I am going to be up all night I might as well download some movies….

To all new matriculants of 2014, my very best wishes to you and your future.

Colin Thakur is the Director of the iNeSi e-Skills CoLab at the Durban University of Technology. He is a digital activist keen on upgrading the e-skills of the nation to enhance the quality of life. He lives and subscribes to the mantra One-person-One-connected device.

Published in: Dolphin Coast Mail | 9 January 2015
Pictured: Colin Thakur, Director of the iNeSi e-Skills CoLab at the Durban University of Technology talks technology.

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