A bad hair day tail from late-2004 – to help set the tone 🙂
I am having a particularly bad hair day today…
As per usual I appear to be the only gobemouche of the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) global development alliance, representing a cost-share MOU between local ICT in education development stakeholders, USAID and
AFT — the appointed contractors serving this alliance. I have taken some moments to digest the content of the latest of AFT’s chronicles of gloom, and intend to leave flies in this festering unguent, prior to my proposal that we withdraw SchoolNet’s engagement from this sad little AFT GDA project altogether…
I am informed that AFT has been given an opportunity to extend their project (a no-cost extention?) in Namibia on the basis of a report which attempts to veil their numerous blunders in blame. In particular, blame on SchoolNet. I will not allow SchoolNet’s reputation to endure any more of such surculose sycophancy any longer.
The focus of my dissent is a feasibility study report dated April 2004, purportedly prepared by BOTH AFT and the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED), a copy of which I received electronically on 15 October 2004.
Therein the authors write
“The period for conducting the Feasibility Study was extended from the initial plan of 6 months to 15 months. This delay was due to several unanticipated developments that would have a fundamental impact on the future course of the project, making it impossible to accurately forecast the project’s trajectory and to estimate future project expenses. Among the most important of these are:
1. an 18-month delay in selecting pilot schools due to: the inability of SchoolNet Namibia to provide an accurate listing of schools that had fully functioning ICT platforms and trained teachers; the decision to replace six SchoolNet schools with schools participating in the Microsoft/Parliament ICT program; and delays in getting ministry authorization to install DireqLearn software in pilot schools;
2. a decision by Alliance partners to source curriculum content software locally rather than having it developed in the U.S. by LessonLab, an educational software organization recommended by the AFT;
3. a decision by the Alliance to accept an offer by Microsoft Ireland Operations Ltd. to include in the pilot study six schools that were being equipped with Microsoft platforms, under an agreement with the Parliament of Namibia;
4. related to 3 and 4 above, was the difficulty and delay in identifying locally sourced curriculum content compatible with the Namibian syllabus and the technical requirements of SchoolNet’s Gnu/Linux and Microsoft’s Windows operating systems;
5. dissension by SchoolNet Namibia to include Microsoft Ireland Operations Ltd. as a full partner in the Alliance;
6. resistance by SchoolNet Namibia to testing and resolving technical issues related to making LearnOnLine (LOL) content curriculum (selected by a NIED review panel and approved by the Alliance) available to pilot schools equipped with SchoolNet’s Gnu/Linux platform; and
7. turnover of key AFT project personnel.”
While I am gob-smacked by the authors’ temerity in transfering blame to SchoolNet for innumerable unilateral blunders during the first ” 6 months of feasibility study”, followed by collusion with M$FT thereafter, my more direct points of dissent read as follows:
1. After an 12-month joyride by David Roth at the considerable expense of the American people, and the considerable chagrin of SOME of us in Namibia, during which time the AFT goal posts were moved to accommodate various unilateral Roth-driven changes, the “feasibility” component was extended for an extra 12 months to seemingly cover up the brouhaha surrounding budget allocations for AFT’s choice of LessonLab and subsequent M$FT californication. While the bureaucratic delays of USAID/AED/EDC to expedite the SchoolNet GDA came as a fitting distraction, SchoolNet was also denied access to USAID funding under AFT GDA contract to deliver technology and content services meeting AFT’s then latest cross-platform technology, OS and content requirements. This then also resulted in the SchoolNet GDA being manipulated to select NEW schools to meet NEW AFT school selection and OS and content criteria.
2, 3 & 4. A decision by SOME Alliance partners to source curriculum software different to that offered by SchoolNet followed Roth’s collusion with M$FT, neatly accomodating a concerted take-over bid by M$FT in their national “anti-Linux” campaign (quoting Gary Hodgson, formerly employed by M$FT, who spearheaded this campaign in Namibia – a more detailed articulation exposing this campaign is in preparation – i am mightily pleased Schoolnet has a call centre in Windhoek, not Cairo!).
5. Correction — dissent not dissension, resulting from Roth and M$FT pushing the limits of the laws of disseisin. We remain firm on this position, as reiterated and minuted in the SchoolNet Board of Trustees’ most recent board meeting.
6. Utter codswallop – SchoolNet DID NOT resist testing – it DID test LOL and laughed out loud!!! AND provided its frank opinions and made recommendations to AFT and LOL. To add insult to injury, AFT is misrepresenting our denial of a resource intensive M$FT EMULATION on our open source platform as a denial of their choice M$FT content package to SchoolNet schools. I have made it plain and simple to both AFT and LOL – provide a LOCAL LOL web service, and SchoolNet will ENSURE THAT SUCH LOL RESOURCES ARE MADE AVAILABLE ONLINE!!! Please phone LOL and Eric Kouskalis (WorldTeach) to confirm such dialogue took place!
7. Herein lies the core of the problem – costly and myopic AFT project personnel short on transparency.
To date I am STILL waiting for a response from AFT concerning outstanding issues raised on numerous occasions. The present feasibility study report does little to ease my mind that they take my queries seriously, or, for that matter, ever read any of my mails.
Since it appears that SchoolNet is the only AFT GDA Alliance member who continues to protest AFT’s position on awarding M$FT FULL MEMBERSHIP of the AFT GDA Alliance, and that it intends to pursue this on the grounds of M$FT cost-share (this is a complete joke!), I respectfully request that USAID accepts SchoolNet’s withdrawal from the AFT GDA.
To cater to AFT’s needs for functional schoolnet services at the schoolnet schools earmarked for the continuation of the AFT project, I have discussed this matter with my staff –
1. Training needs at AFT project schools can be honoured by the CECS project – Theo Whittaker can be contacted directly.
2. Technical service and support needs – schools continue to use our toll-free number, and get problem solving escalated as we do for all our educational clients.
3. LOL – when we hear that LOL would like their educational content hosted on a local web server, we will either facilitate this on our own ISP server, conditional on allowing ALL our educational clients access to this resource, or provide a URL link to whichever local server is opted for.
4. Learnthings – the online version will be available to the M$FT pilot schools, conditional on these schools acquiring internet access from SchoolNet/XNet ISP.
I have reached saturation point with AFT antics; any further direct engagement with AFT would be noisome at this stage. As I have indicated before, I would be happy to meet with you to work out appropriate face-saving escape routes. I have taken considerable time this weekend to read through all the fine print concerning our partnership in the AFT GDA and the subsequent AFT contract. Since the GDA is NOT a legally binding contract, and we have NO contractual agreement with AFT directly, there is no reason why we cannot gracefully withdraw from this GDA.