This year in the IFWEA Training of Trainers course: Digital tools and methods for conducting online trade union activities, DGB Bildungswerk is supporting its partner Public Service International (PSI), of which The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) is a member.
Immaculate Mbali from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa is Provincial Secretary for DENOSA and has been part of the course. She speaks about the impact it has made:
Why did you choose to do this course?
I heard about it from a colleague, so I raised my hand and said I would love to sign up. I was not quite sure what to expect – but ever since Covid hit us, it’s been very necessary to do things online. It’s been a different era to any other. And I knew I needed to learn more.
How much of what you learnt was new?
A lot. Before, I had been working in Zoom with my organisation, but I had no interest in learning more about it. I knew there were many features, but I didn’t know how to use them. I would just ask for the Zoom link and log in. Now I know how to use the different features, such as the meeting rooms, and Jamboard. I also found out that I could hold meetings using WhatsApp and even Facebook.
We learnt which app to use for a small group, and which for a bigger group. The educators gave us the confidence to hold our own online activities. The objective of the course was to tell us about digital tools and online training methods, and I really discovered new possibilities.
The course itself is online and participative. How did this methodology work for you?
I came into contact with people from all over the world, and this was good for networking. I am based in South Africa, so normally I can meet with people from countries near here, such as Zimbabwe. But doing an online course meant coming into contact with people from around the world, outside my area, like Asia. It provided a good space to learn and to get to know each other. Also, people were in different organisations, for example one organisation was for household workers. This was useful in hearing how others in the educator community work, what they do, and how they do it.
What is your background – how did you get into trade union work?
When I started my nursing profession, as a student, I joined DENOSA. We were encouraged to do so by our tutors. It’s the only union in the country that only deals with nurses. When I completed my training in 2007 I started attending union meetings, and also told others to come. Gradually I started getting more involved – I attended grievance meetings, I sat in HR meetings. I became more and more active, and was invited to attend more events such as nurse’s conferences, and bargaining council sessions. I learnt how to manage arbitration and conciliation, how to prepare cases, and how to plea. In 2020 I signed up for a post-grad course to assist me to learn more about trade unionism.
Most of the time if we are talking about unionism people think you must be loud – but I wanted to know more about industrial relations, which is why I signed up for a post-grad course in this.
What, in your experience, are the challenges when building digital literacy?
The biggest challenge is data, particularly in Africa. We use our phones for everything, so using them for learning and organising makes sense. Except for the cost and availability of data.
If data was not an issue, we could hold general meetings on Zoom, perhaps on a weekly basis. On the Monday I could say to people ‘tell me what you understand about grievances’. And on the Friday we could discuss, either on WhatsApp or Zoom. It is something I am working towards.
Meeting face-to-face is actually more expensive, actually. If I need to call a meeting, people need to travel, they need to eat, we need to book a venue, they may need to stay overnight. This is all money. Instead, if I could spend R29 buying one gig for everybody who’s supposed to be in the meeting, we could meet online and it would be cheaper.
We need to plan – some leaders are not familiar with the use of these apps, so education is necessary.
How do you see your organisation moving forwards after this course?
The only way we can try and build better online communication is for each one to teach one, and hope they will teach another in turn. I also think alternating between physical meetings and Zoom meetings could be a way to get a balance.
Ultimately, was the course useful and would you recommend it to others?
It was very useful. There was a small challenge with different time zones, and maybe this could be looked at in the future. But otherwise the course was very user-friendly and the educators were very patient with us. They offered to assist with making time for homework, and to meet deadlines – they were so helpful.
It was a good course, which I would recommend to others. And I myself would like to do an advanced version of this course.