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"Bringing Hope to the Rural Disadvantaged"  
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Coalition for Educational and Scientific Literacy Assistance
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UNIZUL Science Centre
The photographs that make up this short video were either taken at the UNIZUL Science Center, or the UNIZUL Science Centre display area at the "Zululand Expo."




 
Our Beginnings

CESLA began unofficially in 2002 when Dr. Terry Hutter was invited to Capetown, South Africa to give a talk on the need for and benefit of hands-on learning techniques in conjunction with indigenous knowledge applications in rural education. At that time he met Derek Fish, director of the UNIZUL Science Center in KwaZulu-Natal. After much discussion and collaboration between the two professionals, Dr. Hutter was invited to return to South Africa in 2003. The purpose of this trip was to ascertain whether or not Hutter’s ideas on tactile education and indigenous knowledge systems would be beneficial and applicable to the learners of KwaZulu-Natal.
During Hutter’s stay in 2003, it was decided that not only were his ideas on education applicable, but they could be revolutionary for the young learners of this region. Hutter promotes the use of toys and hands-on equipment to further learning in science and mathematics. Because of the potential that was perceived, Hutter applied for and was rewarded a Fulbright Scholarship for the Fall of 2004. At this same time, Dr. Hutter, his wife Diana, and several educational colleagues decided to form a non-profit organization to address and combat the lack of relevant education practices being used for learners in KwaZulu-Natal. CESLA was born.
In 2004, CESLA obtained an exciting donation from ImagAbility. 600 boxes of toys were sent to be used in South Africa. These toys are called Wedgits. They are a special, versatile toy that can be used to teach spatial relationships, helping learners understand scientific concepts through visual education.
In 2005, Hutter returned to South Africa to begin the application of his educational principles. Extensive work was done of using the origins of indigenous people to aid in learning. He travelled extensively to provinces addressing the many problems with rural education and the specific needs of this region. It was at this time that it became clear that there were other, much more serious issues that had to be dealt with before education could become a priority. Poverty and illness, particularly the prevalence of AIDS and the disenfranchisement of orphans and vulnerable children must be addressed in order to provide an environment that promotes learning. CESLA had to broaden its focus to include at a minimum, these orphans and vulnerable children.
Hutter applied for and was granted a second Fulbright Scholarship for 2006 and returned to South Africa. He began working with the AIDS orphanages in Eshowe and Giingingdlovu. Over the course of the next three years, Hutter networked with organizations back in the United States to provide uniforms for learners who were prevented from entering school because of their lack of proper attire. In 2006, CESLA also designed the basis for the AIDS MaZe project, the purpose of which is to assist in the education of AIDS orphans and their communities using the addition of indigenous knowledge systems. Outreach programs were develped and implemented, their aim being to take education to the learners of rural areas. CESLA decided we would have to take learning to these young people because they had no way of traveling to the already established learning centers. Our AIDS MaZe concept was selected by the Unites States’ PEPFAR plan for funding. We also began to receive local support for the AIDS feeding stations.
In 2007 CESLA began it’s partnership with Siyathuthuka Obanjeni. Their mission is to provide food and care for those living in areas so remote that they are inaccesible by car. We identified the need for some kind of all-terrain vehicle to transport people and supplies. CESLA purchased and donated a portable kitchen with all the necessary tools for preparing food and feeding children. We also bought three months worth of food. Siyathuthuka Obanjeni is now becoming more self-sufficient, but CESLA has committed to obtaining ATVs for transport and providing fuel and maintenance for these vehicles.
CESLA is striving to make a difference in the education, health, and quality of life of the orphans, vulnerable children, and caretakers of Kwa Zulu-Natal. You can help.

Education & Scientific Literacy

What is important about Educational and Scientific Literacy? The 1982 MacArthur “genius” award recipient, Robert Moses, said that “math literacy and economic access are how we are going to give hope to the young generation.” Further, Robert Moses believes that proficiency in science and math are key to “successful citizenship.” Who is Robert Moses? He is a math teacher who for 44 years has lived his philosophy about equal opportunity for disadvantaged American kids. Are there others convinced of the importance of science and math? Yes. One example comes from the 1994 "Clinton Report," where it is stated that "scientific and technical literacy are required so that citizens can both make informed decisions and acquire appreciation of science."

For education to be effective, its communication must be an interactive process. This is especially true with science literacy, since science is NOT "common sense" to most. To change this view of science, one must communicate science that is relevant to a population and its culture.

Relevancy is important as it is a foundation on which to build overall science literacy. Participants involved with science education are actively drawn into seeking information to understand real life situations and problems. Therefore, they are further brought into the educational and scientific literacy process with a reference to an already existing piece of knowledge or experience.

Cultural views can serve to either complicate or enhance education, as all people seek relevance for their "understanding." To deny someone's cultural background is to deny who they are as a people. To include a person's cultural background allows for "learners" to see relevancy all around them.

However, without an early education foundation, the advancement of educational and scientific literacy will be tenuous at best. With this in mind, early childhood development centers will be an important aspect of the Hands-On Science Centers established by CESLA. A critical part of these centers will be programming, with the use of toys as hands-on exhibits. CESLA plans to establish the first "Children's Hands-On Science Center" in sub-Saharan Africa, at the UNIZUL Science Centre in KwaZulu-Natal.

Through the use of sound educational principles, "critical learning tools," early childhood interventions, and Hands-On Science Centers, CESLA is striving to bring long term hope to rural areas, to people who have been traditionally disadvantaged. The ultimate aim of this organization is the advancement of rural learners into science and technology careers.

CESLA further understands that to fully implement its mission, it will be necessary to address a variety of general health care concerns including AIDS.

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Executive Director
picture of Terry Hutter
Terry Hutter has his doctorate in Biogeology. He worked for two major oil corporations before starting and directing his own business, TH Geological Services in 1984. He continued in this business until 2005 when he retired to concentrate on his work with CESLA. Dr. Hutter is also an adjuct online professor at two colleges.
President
picture of Diana Hutter and AIDS orphan Valentine
Diana Hutter has been in education for over thirty years as a high school teacher. She has handled budgets and funds for numerous school organizations. She also maintained the accounting and correspondence for TH Geological Services. Mrs. Hutter has her Masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.
Vice-President
picture of Karen Fish
International

Karen Fish owns PROfile, a South African public relations company. She has been in business for over ten years, working with major corporations in areas of business including mining, aluminum production, and coal shipping. Her contacts in these fields are of great benefit in acquiring local support. Mrs. Fish was responsible for obtaining non profit status for the ladies of Siyathuthuka Obajeni.
Vice-President
picture of Chris Conner
Domestic

Chris Conner is an Elementary and Middle School teacher. He runs Conner Creative Productions. He assists in designing AIDS programs and shows for science centers on an international level. He develops interactive educational programs.
Secretary
picture of Shannon Scholler
Treasurer

Shannon Scholler has twenty six years of teaching experience. She specializes in early childhood education. One of her primary duties is to ensure that CESLA’s programs are age appropriate and address the specific needs of their target population. She excels in designing educational programs on a limited budget.


TOYS in use by CESLA
The photographs that make up this short video at the top of this page were just a few of the many toys that CESLA plans to use. These types of toys, while common in much of the world, are a rarity in sub-Saharan Africa. The lack of progressive play strategies and the absence of educational toys, result in educational deficits in the targeted rural disenfranchised populations.

Furthermore, the use of toys as manipulatives, prepares the "learner" to better utilize the exhibits in a hands-on science center. Also, in a ever growing technological world, the ability to use a variety of manipulatives aids in establishing critical thinking processes, helping to prepare graduates to enter science and technology careers.