I am happy to be interacting with you. As RCDF (now UCUSAF), we are excited to be working with you. Especially working with schools because we know we are touching the hearts and minds of our young people. Of course, when you touch the hearts and minds of young people, we know that we are reaching up the teachers who are the souls of the country.
So, when we touch the teachers and the students, in our view; in our philosophy as RCDF (UCUSAF) and UCC, we know that we have touched everybody.
Schools are very important because our mandate is to reach out to the underserved. Because the problems are too big and the resources are not enough, we had to optimize, balancing, reaching out to the underserved but of course reaching out to the critical mass that we should reach. So in our view, in our philosophy, we thought that going to the schools would be reaching out to the underserved through that critical point where we have the bulk of our young people. So we took the schools, especially the secondary schools as our entry point to the underserved areas.
So, for us when we come to a school, we are not only providing the hardware, we are not only providing the computer lab but we are using a school as an entry point to the underserved area.
That’s why in the past, eight years or so, we have been able to reach one thousand and thirty secondary schools, covering now almost ninety percent of all government schools in the country, with at least a basic lab. And note my word: a basic lab. I know that the infrastructure that we have put up in most of these schools may not be enough. Ours is to put up a proof of concept, a blue print that actually ICT can work, that ICT is very important in schools.
We are happy that because of our intervention, ICT is now an examinable subject at O and A level. We are happy to be part of this journey. We are happy to be part of this revolution. And we are willing to continue collaborating with the schools. We want to build most of our intervention from school level.
However, we have been facing a lot of problems with the ICT Laboratories. As you must be aware, most of these schools could not sustain the labs. Small maintenance issues left most of these labs dysfunctional – not working. Some of the schools did not see the importance of ICT. They left them to decay. One time I visited one of the districts where I found my friend the ICT teacher had gone away with the key of the ICT lab and he spent about two months absent. Here is a forty-computer lab, the children craving to get knowledge of ICT but my good friend the teacher had gone on live with the key. The lab was locked. That showed that the appreciation of ICT was somehow inadequate in some of the institutions.
From then on, we introduced retooling teachers. We’ve been retooling teachers to make our heads of these institutions to appreciate and understand this intervention we are trying to make. There’s a lot of improvement should say, but again we thought, “let us have an intervention where we shall put the running of these labs more in the hands of these students themselves. That’s when we evolved this idea of forming ICT Clubs.
In fact from this financial year onwards, we shall not collaborate with any school in as far as the computer lab is concerned when the school has no ICT lab. That’s condition number one. You must of course have space and second, you must have a functional ICT Lab.
What we are doing now in our partnership with KAWA is to make sure that we do a proof of concept. Last year we did 20 clubs. We shall do another 23 or so and perhaps another 30 next year. But get it from me that we feel every school should have an ICT Club if you are to collaborate with us. We believe that if these labs are in the hands of students, these small maintenance problems can be handled.
With KAWA, we are trying to develop a monitoring software that will be able to monitor remotely all these school labs where we should be able to collaborate with you online … you can call us. You’re being linked to universities where some of these small problems can be troubleshoot. We believe this will go a long way to improve the sustainability of this project.
So I wish you well as we partner with KAWA. Take whatever they are sharing with you very seriously. And take ICT very seriously because, as the saying goes, IT is the in thing of today and tomorrow.
“…we feel every school should have an ICT Club if you are to collaborate with us.”Director Hon. Nyombi Thembo