Picture of Mxit rendering of Grad 10 table of contents
Posted on July 21, 2012 · Posted in FHSST, Siyavula

I thought the time had come to finally dust off my blog and get things ticking over again. The best way to start probably being to reflect briefly on the events that led me to be in my current “career”. Almost 10 years ago, 10th anniversary being 2nd August 2012, we started the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project.

FHSST was started purely in reaction to learners in schools not having textbooks and the fact that learners in poor (under-resourced if you will want to be politically correct) schools actually were prepared to make an effort to acquire the information that would have been contained in those books. Even if that information were mathematical or scientific in nature.

When we started FHSST we felt that the information contained in high school maths and science textbooks should be freely available. This isn’t cutting edge, patented content, it has been written down thousands and thousands of times in school textbooks, many having no meaningful distinguishing features. We thought the time had come to liberate that information by writing it all down under an open copyright licence and ensuring that it was curriculum aligned so that it could have an impact in South Africa.

We wrote Grade 10-12 Mathematics and Physical Science textbooks which we completed in 2007, 5 years of work. These resources had some impact and we did lay a foundation for some educators and learners to take advantage of them.

Since then, as part of Siyavula, we’ve managed to build on that. It took a lot of very hard work but in 2012 2.5 million textbooks, based on the FHSST books, were printed and distributed by the Department of Basic Education in South Africa to learners.

FHSST was really about liberating the information and hoping someone would do something with it, that happened and we did as Siyavula. The distribution of all the books should have ensured that the liberated information actually made it into the hands of all learners but, for various reasons, not everyone got a copy.

Last week we officially launched our books on Mxit, a chat client for WAP-enabled phones, which is extremely popular amongst youth with low-end feature phones in South Africa. The key thing is that mobile penetration is close to 100% in our target demographic. During the course of 2012 the books have been made available in print in huge quantities, on the web, on mobile phones and Mxit, I’m now confident that any learner in South Africa who wants to access the information contained in the books should be able to do so. Not all of them know that they can but the word should spread quickly.

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.