SchoolNet’s 20th Anniversary was celebrated at the SchoolNet conference – and what a celebration it was!

SchoolNetSA celebrated its 20th Anniversary at the SchoolNet Conference – and what a celebration it was! This 20th Anniversary was celebrated on Friday 6th October at a well- attended cocktail function at Brescia House School in Johannesburg. The Telkom Foundation not only made it possible for a large number of teachers to attend the conference but also funded the birthday celebration. Telkom was one of the very first funders of SchoolNet back in the 1990s – so it was most appropriate that they were able to attend together with delegates and friends of SchoolNet to reminisce over the past 20 years.

the event a number of dignitaries associated with SchoolNet during the past 20
years reminisced about the history of SchoolNet and its effect on equipping
teachers around South Africa. 
This fitted in well with a
n anecdote from Janet Thomson’s article
Standing Room only @SchoolNet 2017 Conference’ where she mentions an interesting exercise that
Sarietjie Musgrave conducted early in her keynote address. Sarietjie asked the delegates in her plenary to stand if they had changed the way they teach because of the impact of SchoolNet South Africa. The majority of the 400+ delegates gradually stood up. It was an eye-opener to see the effect SchoolNet had had on the teachers of South Africa over the past 20 years. Sarietjie confided afterwards that she wanted SchoolNet to see that.

The speakers at the 20th Anniversary provided an interesting kaleidoscope of SchoolNet’s journey during the last 20 years. They included Nathi Kunene representing the Head of the Telkom Foundation; Denis Brandjes, the first CEO of SchoolNet in its foundation days; the current Chairman of the SchoolNet board, Mashala Kwape, and Janet Thomson who is the current Executive Director of SchoolNet.

Maggie Verster captured the speeches using Facebook Live
and the video can be accessed at:

Vis Naidoo, who was one of the founding members of SchoolNet, sent a message of congratulations to SchoolNet. Vis currently lives in Canada, and could not attend the celebration. He was the longest serving board member, as well as being the chairman for many years when he was living in

Vis Naidoo – ex chairman of SchoolNet

and founding member in 1997

South Africa. He entitled his note ‘Congratulations SNSA – 20 years of making a difference’ in which he provided further snapshots of SchoolNet’s history. Here is the note, which explains the rationale behind the establishment of SchoolNet SA by the national education department at that time:

“WOW, I guess some things are meant to last.

When we decided to form SNSA, I can say, without any fear of contraction, this is an example of a ground-up movement. The genesis of using educational technology in the classroom started in a few provinces, mainly in ex-model C and private schools. The amazing thing about these teachers who were early adopters, they were keen to take educational technology to all schools and to benefit all learners in South Africa.

In 1996, I was appointed Director – Centre for Educational Technology and Distance Education at the national Department of Education and with my Team, we recognised the value of this ground-up movement and the potential of technology. The leadership of the Ministry and Department of Education recognised this, hence the establishment of the Centre and enabled us to advance various edtech initiatives.

SNSA has had executive directors that provided good leadership and guidance at different times in the history and development of the organization. Denis Brandjes was the first executive director and the right person to set up SNSA. I was fortunate to be part of the Board and represented the Department of Education. It was exciting times, we were starry-eyed about what we wanted to do and had good people both within and outside the country that supported us. Thank you, Denis, for your leadership of SNSA.

Rod Grewen took the helm during a difficult time in SNSA’s development and was able to provide a degree of consolidation that was essential at the time. He faced a tough Board and challenging external conditions in our school system. Thank you, Rod for helping with the consolidation of SNSA.

Janet Thomson is the current executive director and she has been instrumental in shaping the organization’s new vision, led it to become focused and ensured it is well managed and funded. She has also helped SNSA grow and have a presence in all provinces. Janet is an amazing leader who has taken the organization forward and ensured it is a central element of ICT in education processes and keeping the focus on supporting our teachers. Thank you, Janet, for your focus on building the organization and ensuring strong support for our teachers.

During the past 20 years, we have had esteemed and distinguished folks on the Board. I was a member of the inaugural Board and remained a member for the first 15 years, becoming the Chairperson in the latter year. It was a privilege to serve on the Board and to shape the organization. The current Board is tasked with ensuring SNSA does not remain stagnant or go into decline. It is tasked with directing SNSA to keep innovating and raise the bar on how edtech will support our teachers and learners.

To Janet and her team – thanks for believing in educational technology supporting learning and teaching. Thank you for believing in SNSA. Thank you for all the work you put into supporting our teachers and learners. It can seem like an endless task, a thankless task, sometimes it seems there is no progress, you have to put up with unfounded criticism – yet you have continued and I have not doubt you will persevere.

So, what will the next 20 years look like?

This is the challenge to the SNSA Board, Janet and her staff and most importantly, all of you at this conference – the leaders in the use of ICT in education. You need to keep this ground-up edtech movement going forward and keep making a difference to the learners of South Africa – one click at a time.

Thank you.”

After the interesting speeches at the celebration the
birthday cake became the focus of attention for a while! 

Janet Thomson Executive Director of SchoolNet

– about to cut the cake

Many teachers posed with the cake before it was cut, as part of the celebratory and joyful mood that prevailed.

The rest of the evening was spent networking, chatting, taking selfies with colleagues, dancing, eating and drinking, and having loads of fun. Teachers definitely know how to enjoy themselves!

Further photos of the 20th birthday celebration as well as the rest of the Conference can be accessed on Google photos at the following link:

The SchoolNet YouTube channel has many videos that capture the history of SchoolNet over the past 20 years. Here are the links:

– SchoolNet History from the start

– 20 years of SchoolNet Trainers

– SchoolNet staff from 1997 to 2017

– SchoolNetters 2005 to 2013

– SchoolNetters the last 10 years

– Remembering Nomty

– A photostory from 10 years ago

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