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“Africa is the second largest continent in the world, yet it is the least computerised.”

Posted on 13 April 2013 by Africa Business

Exclusive interview with Gideon van Niekerk, MaraMedia CEO.  MaraMedia is a gold sponsor at the upcoming African Education Week.

1)  What would you say the main challenges are to creating a more e-friendly learning environment in South African/African schools?
“Education in our country is suffering as the lack of suitable learning material seems to be that elephant in the room that everyone tries not to notice.” Africa is the second largest continent in the world, yet it is the least computerised.

South African / African Schools face a number of obstacles in their quest for quality education in a digital format. Certain prerequisites, such as reliable power supply to operate the computers, a well functioning telephone network to transmit data, financial ability to import the technology, and computer literate personnel, are necessary for successful use of IT remain inadequate in many African countries.

The last century has seen tremendous revolutions in all industries, except education. Learners need to be prepared for the demands that a future with new problems, opportunities and challenges will hold.

Knowledge is everywhere, available at the click of a button with Google as many educators’ first port of call. Content experts and great teachers set aside mandated learner manuals every day in favour of their own materials and those they have culled from the best resources available. Textbooks as we know them are an anachronism. However, the choosing, culling, and creation of appropriate course material is an arduous task – one that MaraMedia has taken on gladly.

2)  How will technology change the way learners are taught, do you think?
Learners are destined to evolve from passive recipients of knowledge to active participants in a life-long learning process. By taking charge of his/her own learning through a digital platform, any child can be the master of his/her learning. Exploring the global classroom is made possible through the marriage of great educational material with an intuitive technology interface in the form of mobile tablets. A migration to a more digital workspace must be effected at a pace that teachers and learners are comfortable with.  Using mobile learning devices like tablets enables learners to store assets, homework and other documents and facilitates collaborative learning through enhanced communication by forum. Using tablet computers, learners have easy access to knowledge. They use their devices as supportive educational tools. By using the MaraMedia IDMs, they now have access to embedded videos, photo galleries, diagrams, articles, essays and relevant academic information written for the South African market with reference to actual news events that can vastly improve their performance in the classroom.

Until now, most people relegated “education” to a finite time in their lives: entering school at around five years old and attending school institutions all the way to university. Education is getting increasingly interspersed with our daily activities. This necessitates an innovative new merging of e- and m-learning, and will most probably be one of the ways in which Information Communication. Not only do learners have access to their entire school curriculum on their mobile learning devices, but they now have access to industry experts too. Learners can read reviews and blogs by field experts. They can follow conferences and “webinars” and even have a chance to interact with professionals from their homes or classrooms.

3)  What is your vision for education?
High quality digital and mobile education in Africa may appear presumptive: in areas of drought or malnutrition it is hard to persuade some people that education is a venture that necessitates monetary investment. But education is about information, and information is needed to help cure illness and bring food, bolster production and build stable societies. Information is needed to allow Africa to find its own ways forward. Our vision is that digital education can put South Africa at the forefront of the African Renaissance in education. In order to create true 21st century learning environments, today’s schools will need to evolve beyond traditional methods of instruction. Digital learning allows for exactly that to happen. Using mobile tablet device technology to enhance the learning experience and to break down the school walls, paves the way for a gigantic shift of the traditional learning paradigm. In opposition to the rather rigid, culturally ‘neutral’ learning material MaraMedia’s educational solution has the flexibility to adapt to the pupil’s cultural environment and to his/her personal learning style.

Technology is to develop even further in the future. Mobile information and communication technologies are important enablers of the new social structure. One only needs to look at the growth of the social media industry (and I think here particularly of Facebook) to realise that today’s youth more often than not deal with real-time as well as virtual personas on a continuous basis.

It is therefore imperative that learners are reached through the same portals when we enter the sphere of education. Interactive activities support large-scale learning and allow learners to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. Most educators note that each learner requires different pedagogies or strategies for learning. Through using mobile learning devices with proper relevant and comprehensive content learners are able to learn in their own way. They can now personalise and enjoy learning.

The digital age has created a new relationship between teachers and learners. Research conducted by the London School of Economics found that children are typically the Internet experts in the family, and described this situation as a “lasting reversal of the generation gap”. This also leads to a “flip classroom” scenario whereby learners can research topics related to the curriculum themselves. The always-available nature of mobile learning empowers learners to take the initiative and direct their own learning activities, while teachers can guide this process, instill proper research methodologies and help learners to gauge the relevance and accuracy of e-content. The ability of teachers to understand and respond to digital learning opportunities is vital. Maragon Private Schools’ teachers are interested and able to provide Maragon learners with excellent learning content, learning management and support. To support Maragon Private Schools’ teachers, MaraMedia has arranged for a series of training sessions and workshops to assist teachers in what would otherwise be a very daunting task.

The MaraMedia IDMs fits many diverse learning styles: reading text and graphics, video, animation, working through decision trees, listening to audio tracks, contributing to discussions, researching on the internet, choosing the correct answer, interacting with the screen through swiping, tapping, panning, zooming or rating skills on a diagnostic… are all processes for offering learning on mobile learning devices. This enables differentiation between the different types of learners, engaging auditory-, visual- and tactile learners alike.  MaraMedia demonstrates the need for and the availability of technology capable of supporting the evolution towards the e-learning world of tomorrow while taking into account the richness of the past by following a blended approach to learning.

4)  What surprises you about this sector?
The last true educational revolution was with the invention of the blackboard by James Pillans in the 1800′s – mankind invests billions into countless sectors, but the educational sector that serves as the driving force for all of these has hardly seen any innovation in more than two hundred years.

The idea of tackling the same educational problems with the same ineffective solutions and expecting a different (better) outcome is the very definition of insanity.

5)  What will be your message at African Education Week?
Africa’s richest resource is not its gold, silver, diamonds or platinum, but its human resources – its children. As one of the few continents with an overall population growth, it is imperative that Africa stands up and be noticed in the educational sphere – we owe it to our children and to their future. The distinguishing feature of our society at the beginning of the 21st Century is the rapid rate of technological and social change.  Smartphones and tablet computers have become commonplace in most households. These devices are fundamentally altering how we approach our shared knowledge sources by keeping us continually connected to near-infinite volumes of raw data, knowledge resources and communication.

6)  Why did you decide to become a gold sponsor at this event?
MaraMedia is passionate about education, about our great nation and the powerful impact that education has on our youth. We emulate the meaning of ex-president Nelson Mandela’s statement: “Education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to shape our future”

7)  Anything you would like to add?
Without the help of imaginative, appreciative learners and teachers, textbooks are reduced to a jumble of words. There is no guarantee that a learner will interact with the subject content, moulding it into internalised knowledge. MaraMedia digital books provide the necessary resource to assist teachers in enlivening the content being taught.

Considering that the textbook is to the teacher what the hammer is to a carpenter or a knife to a chef, it is quite evident that the implementation of the latest possible technology as a fundamental classroom tool is essential.

The digital books allow for educators to ensure the maintenance of appropriate standards. Photo galleries, interactive mind-maps, high resolution colour images, embedded video footage, animations and sound clips take teaching and learning to a whole new level.
Content is enriched, augmented and enlivened by the integration of different media, bringing the world into the classroom.

Using a tablet device opens a legion of different teaching and learning opportunities. A scientific calculator, science lab, textbooks, workbooks and study notes for all subjects are all carried in a single device, smaller and lighter than a diary!

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New UN Report Warns of Uncertain Future for African Elephants / Elephant Poaching Doubled & Illegal Ivory Trade Tripled in Last Decade Endangering Already Fragile Populations / Enhanced Law Enforcement, International Collaboration and Reducing Demand Required to Avert Crises

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Africa Business

BANGKOK, Thailand, March 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Populations of elephants in Africa continue to be under severe threat as the illegal trade in ivory grows – with double the numbers of elephants killed and triple the amounts of ivory seized, over the last decade.

 

According to a new UN report entitled “Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis”, increasing poaching levels, as well as loss of habitat are threatening the survival of African elephant populations in Central Africa as well as previously secure populations in West, Southern and Eastern Africa.

 

The report – produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) – says that systematic monitoring of large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia is indicative of the involvement of criminal networks, which are increasingly active and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia.

 

At sites monitored through the CITES-led Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme alone, which hold approximately 40 per cent of the total elephant population in Africa, an estimated 17,000 elephants were illegally killed in 2011. Initial 2012 data shows that the situation did not improve that year. However, overall figures may be much higher.

 

These threats compound the most important long-term threat to the species’ survival – increasing loss of habitat as a result of rapid human population growth and large-scale land conversion for agriculture, providing for international markets.

 

 

 

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said, “CITES must re-engage on illegal wildlife crime with a renewed sense of purpose, commitment, creativity, cooperation and energy involving range states and transit countries to consuming nations of products such as ivory.”

 

“The surge in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other listed species globally threatens not only wildlife populations but the livelihoods of millions who depend on tourism for a living and the lives of those wardens and wildlife staff who are attempting to stem the illegal tide,” he added.

 

John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES “This report provides clear evidence that adequate human and financial resources, the sharing of know-how, raising public awareness in consumer countries, and strong law enforcement must all be in place if we are to curb the disturbing rise in poaching and illegal trade.”

 

The report recommends critical actions, including improved law-enforcement across the entire illegal ivory supply chain and strengthened national legislative frameworks. Training of enforcement officers in the use of tracking, intelligence networks and innovative techniques, such as forensic analysis, is urgently needed.

 

“Urgent action is needed to address the growing challenges elephant populations are facing, but it will only happen if there is adequate political will to do so,” said Dr Holly Dublin, Chair of the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group.

 

Better international collaboration across range states, transit countries and consumer markets – through the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, CITES, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the World Bank and other international actors – is needed in order to enhance law enforcement – from the field to the judiciary – to deter criminal activities and combat illegal trade.

 

These efforts include the need to fight collusive corruption, identifying syndicates and reducing demand.

 

“Organized criminal networks are cashing in on the elephant poaching crisis, trafficking ivory in unprecedented volumes and operating with relative impunity and with little fear of prosecution,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s ivory trade expert.

 

Elephants are also threatened by the increasing loss of habitat in around 29 per cent of their range as a result of rapid human population growth and agricultural expansions.

 

Currently, some models suggest this figure may increase to 63 per cent by 2050, a major additional threat to the survival of the elephant in the long-term.

 

 

Other key findings from the report

 

• Large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia have more than doubled since 2009 and reached an all-time high in 2011.

 

• Large movements of ivory that comprise the tusks of hundreds of elephants in a single shipment are indicative of the increasingly active grip of highly organized criminal networks on Africa’s illicit ivory trade.

 

• These largely Asian-run, African-based criminal networks operate with relative impunity as there is almost no evidence of successful arrests, prosecutions or convictions.

 

• Globally, illegal ivory trade activity has more than doubled since 2007, and is now over three times larger than it was in 1998.

 

• The prevalence of unregulated domestic ivory markets in many African cities, coupled with the growing number of Asian nationals residing in Africa also facilitates the illegal trade in ivory out of Africa.

 

• In 2011, poaching levels were at their highest since MIKE began monitoring the trends in illegal killing in 2001, and indications suggest that the situation did not improve in 2012.

 

• Poaching is spreading primarily as a result of weak governance and rising demand for illegal ivory in the rapidly growing economies of Asia, particularly China, which is the world’s largest destination markets.

 

• The high levels of poaching are, in some cases, facilitated by conflicts that, through lawlessness and ensuing abundance of small arms, provide optimal conditions for the illegal killing of elephants.

 

 

The report – released in Bangkok, at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CITES convention – combines information from sources including the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) African Elephant Specialist Group, MIKE and the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), managed by TRAFFIC on behalf of CITES.

 

SOURCE

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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World Conference on Hospitality, Tourism and Event Research & International Convention & Expo Summit 2013 (WHTER & ICES 2013)

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Africa Business

Siam University, International program in Hospitality and Tourism Management are proud to be the first university in Thailand hosting the World Conference on Hospitality, Tourism and Event Research & International Convention & Expo Summit 2013 (WHTER & ICES 2013) on 25th – 28th May 2013 at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok Hotel. Siam University will bring in over 300 delegates from all over the world to keep up with International academics’ view and cutting-edge ideas in Hospitality, Tourism and Event Research. This 2-in-1 conference will be themed as “Academics meet industry”.

“This is a very special occasion, because this is the first time the ICES will be held in Thailand. Moreover, it is a great honor for Siam University to be the first to hold such an event. WHTER and ICES 2013 will allow the exchange of  ideas and perspectives from industry and researchers in order to develop a better understanding of the MICE industry” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bongkosh  N. Rittichainuwat, Director Program Hotel & Tourism Management

This year’s conference features panel sessions and keynote speakers on a various topics from academic institutes and industries, such as academic professionals, Prof. Kaye Chon, Dean of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Asia Pacific Travel Tourism Association, Mr. Bert Van Walbeek, Chairman, PATA Thailand Chapter, as well as prominent journal, Prof. Chris Ryan, editor-in-Chief, Tourism Management.

 

At the same time, Siam University aims to meet international delegates from Europe, United States and Asia Pacific to share the qualities of hospitality, tourism and event research, research to create global connection. Researchers and academic professors are invited to present their papers and attend this conference. The winner of WHTER Best Paper Award & ICES Best Paper Award will have his/her paper published in the Tourism Management, the Journal of Convention & Event Tourism & International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.

Example journals: http://ices2013.wix.com/siamu#!best-paper-awards/c46e

 

Siam University has chosen the Millennium Hilton Bangkok Hotel as the conference venue with its impressive meeting and dining facilities able to accommodate up to 700 people. Conference dinners will be held at signature restaurants such as Blue Elephant & Royal Thai Navy Hall. These venues once welcomed royal families, presidents, and prime ministers of different countries around the world.

 

For details concerning the paper presentation and other lodging information, please click onto the official website of WHTER & ICES 2013 at http://ices2013.wix.com/siamu

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NGO Intelligence Led to Ivory Bust in China

Posted on 12 August 2012 by Africa Business

YARMOUTH PORT, Mass., Aug. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Based on information provided by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org), China‘s Forestry Police conducted a surprise inspection on at Chengtian Antique Mall on where they confiscated 107 pieces of illegal ivory and other wildlife products.  Three suspects were detained in connection with the August 6th seizure.

Located near Beijing, the wholesale mall is highlighted in the recent IFAW report, “Making a Killing—A 2011 Survey of Ivory Markets in China,” as one of the worst locations for illegal ivory trade.  Out of 22 shops that are involved in ivory trade, only one has the necessary license.

“It is very gratifying to see that the intelligence provided by IFAW resulted in the confiscation of ivory and the arrest of criminal suspects,” said Grace Gabriel, IFAW’s Asia Regional Director.  “Successful law enforcement operations like this serve as reminders to wildlife traffickers and traders that their crimes against nature will not be tolerated.”

Under China‘s regulatory system that was introduced in 2004, only government-approved ivory processing and retail outlets are allowed to trade in elephant ivory.

Of the 158 retail shops and carving factories investigated by IFAW in 2011, 101 of them did not have ivory trade licenses and were operating illegally.

The IFAW report charts how the 2008 Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) sanctioned sale of stockpiled ivory has fueled the market demand for ivory, and how the legal ivory market in China has provided cover for illegal trade of ivory from poached elephants.

Prior to publicly releasing the report, IFAW sent details of the investigation to China‘s wildlife enforcement authorities, including intelligence on the location of the illegal ivory operations and contact details for illegal traders.

“Intelligence-led enforcement, combined with severe penalties, is absolutely necessary to deter illegal ivory trade,” added Gabriel.  “This sinful trade is at the core of the elephant poaching crisis in Africa right now. Poachers gun down entire families of elephants just for their ivory tusks to supply the cruel and illegal market.”

Just a week ago, more than 40 elephants were slaughtered in Chad.  The poachers responsible were local Chadians, but Chinese nationals working in Chad were implicated in the smuggling of the ivory.

Worldwide seizures of elephant ivory amounted to 23 tons in 2011, representing the lives of thousands of elephants.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare

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