Apple-picking at Londolozi’s Digital Learning Centre

Nomsa Lubissi – a forty-something year old Shangaan woman from Mpumalanga  – is sitting in front of a 28-inch Apple iMac screen.

Outside it is a typical January day: hot, stuffy, still. Nomsa had been hoping for a quiet Saturday, but occupancy at Londolozi – where she works – has been high so no such luck today.

Never-the-less this Saturday, as with last, Nomsa has a long break between her two daily shifts, and so by 12 pm she and the Mac have been going strong for well over three hours in the Londolozi Digital Learning Centre.

Around her in the large, square, pink and grey room are eight other computer terminals. It’s quiet today, but in the opposite corner Robert Hlatswayo is preparing a test for eight Tracking Academy students.

A couple of the students sit at the terminals around him, quickly “googling” last-minute details like “what is the jaw-crushing power of a hyena?” and “how many minutes can a hippo remain under water?”

Robert is a Londolozi Tracker and also assists in delivering the syllabus at The Tracking Academy. Given the close call with a large herd of buffalos that the students “stumbled upon” that morning – he’s summarising some potentially life-saving tips.

“Bumping into Ngala (the Shangaan word for lion), it’s no problem. But buffalo! The trackers must know how to lift their heads towards the sky to warn the buffalo. Or else they must pick a good tree” Robert chuckles.

But back to Nomsa and “the Mac”. Nomsa is navigating through a series of high-definition multimedia programmes, each designed to guide her through internationally-accredited hospitality management modules: from the art of “cocktail chemistry” to the more subtle art of approaching the last guests “standing” with the bill (which is always more difficult if the cocktails were mixed just right).

The content is provided in a structured, curriculum-based format, allowing learners to progress through the content systematically, and the majority of tests are written and marked online. Incidentally Nomsa is currently busy with a five-part housekeeping course. Levels one to three are complete.

Witness Mnisi (Witty) is sitting next to Nomsa, guiding her through each module patiently, and with care. Because English is not Nomsa’s mother-tongue, Witty is ensuring that Nomsa understands each multimedia module and that she navigates through the software correctly.

No textbooks. No exam pads. No blackboards.

Rather, 400 kilometres from the nearest big city and living on one of Africa’s largest transfrontier nature parks, Nomsa Lubissi is immersed in a learning experience that is being executed as it might in some of the world’s most technologically advanced classrooms.

Nomsa has a dedicated teacher, she has a state-of-the-art 28-inch screen, the uncapped wireless internet is on, and she is engaged in interactive, digital learning.