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