New Donation, New Ideas
Earlier this year, help2kids was fortunate enough to receive a large donation of over forty laptops. The donation was unexpected, but staff and students quickly found innovative ways to use the computers, including but not limited to viewing online videos to help explain mathematics, listening to English language videos with subtitles to better pick up on the grammar, and downloading typing programs to better acquaint themselves with the laptops themselves. Over the last six months since receiving the donation, help2kids Tanzania began their plan of slowly implementing the computers into their projects, beginning with the first step, which entailed introducing basic ICT to the staff and children. The donation turned out to be a huge opportunity for our organization and staff to start thinking ahead and compile ideas of how our projects could benefit from introducing basic technological advances.
Although Tanzania has experienced great economic boom within the last few decades, it lags behind in internet and other ICT related access. Roughly only 18% of the population use the internet regularly and many schools do not have the ability to provide their students with computer access*. In most areas, power cuts are too frequent for advanced technology to be practically used and older generations have limited working knowledge of laptops, navigating the internet, or accessing basic email features. Luckily, help2kids Tanzania is based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city and a place where reliable internet and cell phones providers can be found.
|Up until recently the vast majority of our staff and children had very little to no interaction with computers. Despite the Tanzanian Ministry of Education curriculum including ICT as a required subject studied in all private and governmental schools, most students, including many of our children, were only able to learn about computer technology through reading about it. Although some schools can equip teachers with necessary computers, many more lack the resources to also provide their students with the same luxury, forcing teachers to try and teach a hands-on subject literally by the book.
At help2kids, staff members, most of whom come from a generation where ICT was not a requirement in school and when electricity was less reliable, have even less experience with laptops. Although the lack of accessibility and knowledge has not impacted our students and staff to-date, help2kids employees have recognised that the digital age in Tanzania is blooming and as the economy progresses, it will be necessary to welcome and adapt to the new environment.
To remedy this, help2kids began two separate programs to introduce the basic skills needed to all staff and students.
The first program started at Bajeviro Primary School, where all teachers were given one-on-one tutoring in computer basics using the donated laptops. Sessions usually last around one hour and volunteers have been at the heart of the tutoring sessions, with Bajeviro’s Manager, Martin Kuery overseeing the courses and curriculum. The lessons focus on typing, Email, and creating basic documents that will help with overall teaching efficiency.
For a few of the teachers who have previous experience with the equipment, internet searches and higher tech applications are being taught as well. The Bajeviro teachers welcomed the new program, clapping hands when Martin announced the start of the program at the weekly teacher’s meeting. Speaking with the staff at Bajeviro they have nothing but praise for the program. Mr. Pastory claims that “using programs like Excel saves them time by organizing grades more efficiently and cuts down time spent looking through books”. Several teachers have already begun to use these laptops to assist them in their day to day tasks. The help2kids team hopes that by 2017, all teacher will be proficient enough in ICT to record grades, attendance, and schedule meetings through the laptops.
The second program is at the Children’s Home, where five of our older students, as well as the Children’s Home Manager, Leah Mchomvu, are receiving much of the same course material. Leah Mchomvu, who has managed the Children’s Home for more than five years, has taken a keen interest in learning more about managing online applications. Leah has been working twice per week in one-on-one lessons with a local volunteer and despite that she has had several computer courses over the years, she is finally able to have access to a consistent and reliable laptop to work from, making her lessons that much more productive.
The oldest children have been under the direction of Masia, the help2kids Children’s Home assistant. Masia oversees the children as they slowly and sometimes, frustratingly, try to hit the letter the typing program is indicating with the correct finger. Masia, who keeps a strict class, makes sure no one is peaking at the keyboard or cheating by using the preferred index finger. Although the students find it frustrating, they are excited for the opportunity to work with the equipment and have even been teaching the younger students as well when they have time.
Although the program is still in its infancy we are truly thrilled by the potential of this project. We are equally excited by the enthusiasm of our staff and their desire to learn. As we continue to move forward with this program we hope to see greater results both from our staff and our children.