Computers for Rural Schools in South Africa – 2006 - 2007


In July 2006, TWB-SA dedicated its first computer lab at a rural school in South Africa.  This was a collaborative, cooperative venture stretching from Hawaii across the world to South Africa, with various people in the middle working to make it all happen. Al Heiman at Cornell University spearheaded the collection of donated computers, tested and packed them for shipping to South Africa. Shipping costs were covered by Punahou School faculty members, the Peer Family in SA, and TWB.  From the first shipment, 25 machines went to opening a lab at Mdlangaswa High School in Melville, Kwa-Zulu, RSA.  Ten more machines went to prison systems in Gauteng and KZN to help teenage inmates through high school while incarcerated. A few more PC’s were delivered to rural private elementary schools so student records could be compiled in an electronic database for the first time.


Thank you to the Rotary Clubs involved and especially to Mr. Dick Basday and his staff at Capital Office Automation, Port Shepstone, KZN, for their hard work in setting-up these computers at Mdlangaswa High School. The principal, Mr. Chris Cele, is also commended for his efforts in overseeing the building of a secure computer classroom and the hiring of an IT teacher so that the 800+ students at Mdlangaswa would have the opportunity to join the 21st century of technology sooner rather than later.


Yunus Peer – Director – TWB-SA


Ps: TWB-SA will open the next two computer labs at rural schools in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape in 2007.  We are currently raising shipping costs for 45 – 50 machines.


We acknowledge the efforts of long-time TWB supporter from Boston, Mr. Peter Agoos, and friends Praxedis Mayr von Baldegg and Andrzej Cieplak who helped deliver computers to Cornell University in New York.  Together with Cornell’s donation of 20 computers, the rest of this shipment was donated by Concord Academy, Ma., (Bob Koskovich, Judi Seldin, & Jake Dresden) and Harvard Law School (Eliza Brown, Elizabeth Bartholet). With three operating computer labs at 3 different rural schools, more than 3000 South African children will have access to computers for the first time.


Thank you all !   Read the testimonials of 3 members of TWB-SA 2006 who were present at the dedication of the first computer lab at Mdlangaswa High School in July 2006.



To: Mr. Al Heiman – Cornell University –

From: Heather Taylor – Punahou School, Honolulu, Hawaii – TWB-SA 2006


Dear Al
My name is Heather Taylor and I was one of the math teachers who went 
to South Africa for a month this summer with Teachers Without Borders.  
On the day we left, we attended the dedication ceremony at Mdlangaswa 
High School
 for their computer lab.  It was amazing to be there and to 

see how excited the students and teachers were.  They kept repeating 
how fortunate they were, and it was wonderful to witness their 
excitement.  I have a sister who graduated from Cornell Law School and 
I was so proud that she is affiliated with a school that is making a 
difference to kids and teachers in South Africa.  This is how we as 
Americans can make the world a better place.  Those computers have 
given a rural South African school hope.  Hope for a better education 
for their students.  It has made them feel important--it has made them 
feel special.  Although they might not have much, they are now 
privileged with a beautiful computer lab, and they are ready and 
willing to make the most of it.  Thank you for making this a reality 
for these students.  You have changed their lives.  
Aloha, Heather Taylor


To: Mr. Al Heiman – Cornell University

From: Barbara Mayer – Kamehameha School (Retired)  TWB-SA 2006


Dear Mr. Heiman,
I was lucky enough to be one of the science teachers that participated
in this year's Teachers Without Borders -- South Africa project, led
by my friend Yunus Peer.  It was an incredible personal and
professional experience; memories will remain with me for the rest of
my life!

Certainly one of the high points was to participate in a school-wide
assembly highlighting Cornell's donation of computers to Mdlangaswa
high school.  The school is in a rural area, located among a small
community of spread-out homes; sugarcane seems to be the primary
agriculture.  In my opinion, although the school is isolated, it is
run by an energetic principal who was obviously on top of things, and
also well-liked by students and staff.  The room dedicated to the

computers is quite simple, but perfectly adequate; approval has been
granted for additional security.  I had the opportunity to talk with
one of the teachers, and she said all the students of all grade levels
would get instruction on the computers.  The plans were to begin quite
logically with keyboarding skills.  There's a teacher to student ratio
of 1 to 60 or more; so a third of a classroom will be getting computer
instruction at a time, while the other students are doing work back in
the classroom.

I also want to mention the technical follow-through at this end of the
shipping of the computers.  I had an opportunity to meet Dick Basday,
the person in Port Shepstone that oversaw the transfer of the
computers from their arrival in RSA to the school.  He and his
technicians checked the computers and prepared them for use in the
school.  I spoke with one of the technicians before the school
assembly, and he was quite complimentary about the condition of the
computers and the memory & software that they came with.  I know that
everyone was most appreciative that these computers were not
broken-down, cast-off machines!

I can report to you all that I have in the paragraphs above, but still
miss the point if I didn't try to convey to you the look I saw in
students' eyes.  It was a look of "I can reach to my future."  Here
are these kids in rural South Africa, and it is now within their reach
to grow up to become whatever they are motivated to be!!  There will
be doctors, teachers, astronomers, business men and
women...professions and dreams of all sorts coming out of those
classrooms.  Cornell's computers couldn't be in better hands!

Thank you so much; aloha,
Barbara Mayer, M.S.


From: Al Heiman <>
Date: Jul 26, 2006 4:14 PM
Subject: Re: computers for South Africa
To: Barbara Mayer <>


Thank you for your moving and informative letter!

I've been wondering what became of the shipment as the last I had
heard was that the ship had docked and Yunus's folks were waiting for
customs to finish doing whatever they do.

I have also been worried about the monitors as I didn't have time
to check most of them. I did check almost all the computers but I ran
out of time when the shippers decided to move the shipping date up.
As everything had to be ready at the end of Cornell's semester, and
all the students who volunteered to help were very busy, I had no
help at all refreshing the hard drives, gathering packing material
and putting the things in boxes. I also ended up putting the boxes on
the truck by myself as the truck came late and my only helper at the
farm I store the computers at had to leave. It was a learning
experience but now, thanks to your letter, a happy one!!!

  This was my fourth shipment to various places in Africa and the
second to South Africa. When I started this I wanted to help folks in
Zambia as I had the good fortune to teach there in the 80's. I now
believe that if conditions in South Africa improve the whole region
will benefit, plus it is really hard to get large shipments to
Zambia. So I am committed to sending more computers to SA and doing
all I can to help schools there. I don't want to sound sappy but I
believe that the future of the world may be in how Sub-Saharan Africa
is treated by the developing world right now...and I think you might
share that view. I'm trying to get Cornell students to take over this
project so they can raise money and get more publicity. I would still
do all the grunt work and serve as a technical consultant but if I
can get students to help they can turn this into a Cornell project
rather than one some crazy staff guy is running out of an old barn in
the country. Anyway, that's the plan...but if it doesn't work out I
can still send the machines myself.

Thank you again for writing. Please let Yunus and Dick know that
they can ask me anything about the computers and that I do have some
spare parts I can send if they need them.

All the Best,
Al Heiman
, NY

CIT Public Labs Coordinator
Student Employment Supervisor


To: Mr. Al Heiman – Cornell University

From: George Scott – Chaplain – Punahou School – TWB-SA 2006


Aloha Mr. Heiman,

I recently visited South Africa with Teachers Without Borders and had 
a tremendous experience. One such experience, as photojournalist for 
the group, involved being with Yunus and Dick Basday as we moved the 
computers your school donated from Capital Office Automation Dick's 
company, to their new home at Mdlangaswa School.

I feel I had the best seat in the house as i was able to be on the 
inside seeing the computers packed in the trucks, driven from Port 
Shepstone, taken from the trucks by appreciative teachers and excited 
students for their initial set-up in the classroom.

It's true that a picture tells one thousand words so I will send you 
several photos under seperate email to tell you what my mere words 
could never say. 

Thank you for what you have done for a worthy community of 'learners 
and teachers'. If you have not already, I hope someday you will 
experience firsthand the fruits of your labors in the sparkling eyes of 
the youth of South Africa.
George Scott



Al Heiman wrote:
Thank you so much for writing! Your pictures do indeed "speak a 
thousand words" which is a relief as I have been wondering how things 
are going in SA.

I'm glad to know that the machines arrived in working condition. I 
was pressed for time and couldn't check all the monitors before I had 
to pack them. I suspect that some of them may not function properly 
but they still may. Most of the machines came from Cornell's library 
system, which means I don't know their history, but I was told that 
they were all working when I picked them up...but I still have my 

I would LOVE to visit South Africa in the near future. I had the 
fortune to teacher 1st grade in Zambia in the 80s when it was 
suggested that as a government employee ( I worked for the Zambian 
government in a gov owned private school) it would be bad to have a 
SA stamp in my passport. So, although I traveled widely in the 
region, I never visited the country that, in my opinion, is the key 
to prosperity for the whole of southern Africa. Plus one of my 
favorite artists, Busi Mhlongo, is from the area so I imagine that 
the music is awesome!

Thank you again for writing.
All the best,

Al Heiman