South African archbishop launches e-reader project to train seminarians

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba on November 6, 2013 at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea.

The e-reader may be old hat in some countries but South Africa's Anglican leader plans to use them in training seminarians.

The Anglican archbishop of Southern Africa launched his project to "promote electronic learning in dioceses" in South Africa's Western Cape province at the local residential college for ordinands involving e-readers on January 28.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba launched the new initiative when he opened and blessed a new Centre for Reflection and Development at his official residence and offices in Cape Town.

"We're continuing a tradition of a passion for education. We [the Church] have played a pioneering role in South African education, from as far back as the 19th century," said Makgoba during the opening ceremony.

Student priests will be supplied with electronic readers or tablet computers to give them access to webcast lectures from the archdiocese headquarters at Bishopscourt in Cape Town and other venues.

They will also be able to download readings as well as log into the electronic academic library resources.

Rev. Godfrey Walton, the inaugural director of the project, said, "In the first phase of the project, students from College of the Transfiguration (COTT) and students and ordinary church members from four dioceses in the Western Cape will be covered.

"In later phases, we plan to extend the project to cover the Church in the rest of southern Africa, and then to the whole continent."

Archbishop Makgoba recounted the education history of South Africa and how the Church has been involved as a pioneer.

He said, "In the 1980s, Bishopscourt established one of the country's first electronic bulletin boards, used by Archbishop [Desmond] Tutu to circumvent hostile media reporting during the anti-apartheid struggle."

Makgoba said, "It was here too that my predecessor, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, conceptualised and started the Historic Schools Restoration Project to revitalise schools, [which] played a pioneering role in educating black pupils."

Archbishop Thabo noted, Bishopscourt has a long history as an educational pioneer. The private church school, Bishops (Diocesan College), was established here in 1849." It is now one of South Africa's most elite schools.

"A decade later the sons and daughters of 19th century [black] leaders, including Maqoma and Sandile of amaRharhabe and Moshoeshoe of the Basotho, studied here before the church launched Zonnebloem College in District Six. Their number included Princess Emma Sandile, a renowned 19th century writer of letters in English," he said.

Under apartheid black students received inferior education to those from the dominating white minority.

The archbishop said he was grateful for the support the Church in Southern Africa has received from the Compass Rose Society, the Anglican Communion Office, Trinity Church Wall Street, the Motsepe Foundation and The Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust.

Currently, most theological colleges in the African continent have under-resourced libraries and the "e-reader project will serve as a major electronic resource for students and clergy involved in academic reading and research."

The Anglican Communion News Service reported that despite having challenges like many other Africa countries, education standards in South Africa are comparatively high.

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