A training school with a difference
ęThe Star Computing
Tuesday April 11 1995
by Johan Borman









Photo with the press article:
In the multimedia editing studio ... brothers Jonathan and David Spiller working on a complex graphic at the K-Net training school in Rivonia

A training school with a difference

by Johan Bornman

Computer training schools can be places of torture, where people pay money to sniff the heavy ozone emitted by over-worked photocopiers producing bad photo-copied manuals.

They can be places where people stare at white-boards for hours at a time and consider themselves lucky when they get to do some hand-on work on a close-to-retirement XT with a radio-active green monitor.

The highlight of most of those training sessions is tea-time, with its plate of boxed cookies. Experienced trainees know that to sit close to the door gives you a better chance of nabbing the solitary lemon cream among all the ginger nuts.


But a training school in Rivonia is different. There's an almost complete lack of furniture other than dozens of bean-bags on the floor, with traces of their polystyrene guts clinging to the carpet tiles.

Some of the more functional pieces of furniture wouldn't be out of place at an airport or bar - sweet dispenser, Coke machines, soccer tables and even a Gymtrim, something one would expect to find nowadays only in The Star's Classified section.

Augmenting the bean bags on the floor are shoes, rucksacks, haversacks, backpacks and a few sets of "blade" (in-line roller-skates).

The walls of the empty rooms are covered in computer graphics, obviously produced by people with very free minds, inhibited by corporate colours, company policy and pervasive boredom.

The school's pupils, or students as their mentors (teachers) call them, aren't there for a day off work. They're having fun as only the three-to-teenage cross-section of humanity can.

They are not perturbed by the fact that elsewhere PowerPoint, Fine Artist, Creative Writer, Encarta, DOS, Windows, Quick Basic, CorelDraw and the likes may be tool of torture.


This is K.Net, is a four-month-old computer school that is the brainchild of Jil Hrdliczka, former principal of Damelin Computer Schools. She has structured the school's activities around formal and informal computer-related workshops, classes, club sessions, play-groups and work-groups.

It is all geared towards giving children the knowledge most adults can only dream off.

Apart from using sophisticated tools like PowerPoint or CorelDraw to do "real school" homework projects and to create animated cartoons, children here also learn how to fax, how to use phones with internal extensions and how to use the Internet.

"Children find K.Net a home-from-home," said Hrdliczka. "Here there's no-one to tell them to sit up straight or be polite or work at this or that pace. And that's why we get such good results," she said, pointing out the walls and walls of projects finished by K.Net students.

Many of the walls are covered in Std 3 projects on mammals, inventions, birthday cards, posters, mock adverts - all high-standard work that would look good even on an adult's CV.

At K.Net children enjoy using the latest technology, Apple Macs, colour printers, CD-ROMs, video, multimedia, networks, the best in software, colour monitors and an attitude where age doesn't matter.

Three-year-olds who can't yet read produce paintings and drawings and graphics while their contemporaries elsewhere are still struggling to master the medium of crayon. "Digby can't read but knows just where to click to get what he wants," said Hrdliczka of one three-year-old's drawing.


K.Net's activities are divided into sessions with names such as: computer fun (computer basics for children aged three to seven), technoblast (computer skills for reading age up), technical (DOS and Windows for child prodigies), business, holiday, programmes of pure fun, parents sessions, teacher sessions, and club events where they can play pool, raid the sweet machine, hang out or play games over the computer network.

Even Johannesburg's teenagers, for whom almost any formal activity is uncool, seem to enjoy it here.

Honed into teenagers' odd ways by her former employer's crowd of almost-adults, Hrdliczka has managed to involve all K.Net's teenagers in activities: "Here they can be who they want to be and that agrees with them very well - they walk out of here understanding bitmaps and animation and many other skills that will help them later on at university or work."


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