By ArabDev CAIRO, Egypt, 03 July 2004
“Learning and working on the computer makes me feel that I am no less than anyone else in the world.”
“Everyone should learn how to use a computer, especially the poor.”
“The computer is my friend, it teaches (educates) me, it entertains me and it is full of dreams and aspirations.”
This is how the children of 4th grade elementary in Abou Korkas, Menia governorate feel about their computer classes. ArabDev, APC member in Cairo, in cooperation with the Association of Upper Egypt for Education and Development (AUED) trained 20 teachers in 8 schools in Menia governorate to become IT trainers. These teachers in turn trained 600 pupils in 18 months. At least another 600 children wanted to participate in the training, but were held back because of PC shortages. Each school has an average of only 2-5 PCs. The training has allowed 2 children per computer for each course.
The 8 schools ArabDev has been working with are all catering to poor communities cut off from IT services, among many other services. “Most of the children were never exposed before the project to computers,” said ArabDev director, Leila Hassanin, “Now the children are proficient computer users.” The IT classes were intertwined with academic topics and activity groups at the schools. Topics ranged from the environment, journalism, creative writing, and children’s rights. Adding the IT element to the school day and activity classes made it an enriching experience for the children.
The IT knowledge of the pupils made their siblings and parents eager to acquire IT skills. Some of children’s mothers asked them to research family and health topics over the Internet. The schools have asked ArabDev to train more of their teachers and administrative staff because they want to digitalise the school’s administrative system. School principals also want more teachers to use IT to become more up-to-date in their teaching approaches. Computer literacy has been equated with literacy as a basic skill to be acquired by as many people associated with the schools in the eyes of the school principals.
ArabDev and AUED have been facing challenges to get the needed computer hardware for the schools. The schools were able to buy some computers through local donations by wealthy individuals, though only in limited numbers. ArabDev has been brokering with the Ministry of Telecom to donate computer labs to the schools. The Ministry’s representative has visited the schools. After having seen the success of the project 6 schools were selected to receive computer labs (10 computers per school, with a printer and scanner). The red tape though has until now prevented these computers to reach the schools.
The children are awaiting the computers, many more want to take the computer class and the parents are eager to enroll their children after having seen the outcome of the training.
At present ArabDev and AUED are planning to establish a self-sustainable financial model for the PC labs by opening them up as adult training centers and Internet cafes in the evenings. The project has received many demands from adults in the communities for IT training. Many parents want to take a computer course after having seen their children’s skills. A good number of school officials want to obtain IT skills to use it in their jobs and many others see job opportunities in learning these new skills.
To respond to these demands ArabDev and AUED are planning to use the present computers for adult training in the evenings. The trained teachers could then augment their meager salaries by giving training to the public, the schools could get some revenue from the computers this way and the community would benefit from the training and having a local Internet café. This initiative would be more successful if there were more computers at the schools. Some schools are operating on 2 or 3 computers only. Having a lab at each school would benefit the pupils and the adult population in the villages.
To date, even with the hardware shortage, the project has been a successful model. More computers will multiply the positive effects the project had on school children, their families and local community members bringing them within the realm of digital reality.
This project is poised for potential replication in other schools throughout Upper Egypt if adequate numbers of computers are can be reached. ArabDev is appealing for assistance to make this a reality. You can find out more about how you can help by writing to email@example.com.