In Greek mythology the nine muses were supernatural inspirers of culture and human creativity.
In Greek mythology the nine muses were supernatural inspirers of culture and human creativity. And in a town like Grahamstown, with a great percentage of its population under the age of 18 and a vast number of schools to cater for all these young people, it’s no surprise then that one of Grahamstown’s most long-standing institutions, the Albany Museum, has a structured education programme to inspire learners in wonderfully inventive ways.
The museum’s education programme plugs a number of gaps that a lack of adequate facilities creates in several township schools; and Catherine Lambley, the museum's HOD of education, lights up when talking about the young people from all walks of life in Grahamstown enthralled by the museum’s Education Programme.
“Hamilton, the robotic dog used to teach the power of computing, is a firm favourite,” she smiles. “He follows voice commands and the kids are delighted.”
Robotics, generating sound waves, rock art, enjoyable explosive chemistry, South African heritage and maths and science and many other topics are covered in the education programme that runs from February to December each year.
Rhodes students and staff generously give their time and skills to help make it all happen. It’s an ethos of constructive collaboration in improving the lives of all in Grahamstown, which sees dynamic Grahamstown institutions and the university and its students often working together.
Another great Grahamstown institution is The South African Library for the Blind, which stands as a national model of how a community can provide access to literature and literacy to the visually impaired.
Here, too, Grahamstown’s all-pervasive collaborative ethos has made its mark, with Rhodes School of Journalism and Media Studies radio specialisation students having created several audio books for the library, ranging from modern fiction to the Brothers Grimm fairy tales – handling the whole process from copyright holders’ permission to the complete recordings. Student volunteers were also part of creating a phenomenal stadium experience for several visually impaired crowd members during the Fifa World Cup 2010 in South Africa. They underwent intensive training to become live stadium commentators who provided eyes on the pitch for the visually impaired, through live electronic commentary within the stadium environment.
On their return, many of these students had tears in their eyes when describing how enriching it was to be able to do this for people who could now see the game in their mind's eye, while experiencing the visceral thrill of being at a World Cup match.
More than anything, be it through co-participation in unlocking the muse in Grahamstown’s youth, or providing the gift of sight through sound, ongoing collaborations between the town’s sharers of knowledge and information, such as the Albany Museum Education Programme, the Library for the Blind and Rhodes University, creates a vivacious context where synergies are harnessed to the ultimate benefit of the town as a whole.