Giving pupils in slums a digital oriented future

By Shadrack Mbaka

Kids from Church on the rock, Mukuru enjoying their group computer classes.

Kids from Church on the rock, Mukuru enjoying their group computer classes.

Today’s world mirrors a global village, where communication and transactions are made through a touch of a button. This therefore brings all of us to the realization that remaining computer illiterate is no longer an option. Progressive globalization, especially in the African content has created lots of opportunities, which if properly nurtured would improve standards of living and provide access to quality education.

Tr. Evans Otibine of Akiba Mashinani Trust moderates the computer lesson.

Tr. Evans Otibine of Akiba Mashinani Trust moderates the computer lesson.

Computer and social skills impacted to the current generation of students, through interactive and practical training will enhance competitiveness and enhance a new educational possibility which has led to alternatives in traditional classroom learning, job markets and spur growth in different economic sectors.

Mukuru, one of Nairobi's fastest-growing slums, Janet Moraa a 14-year-old standard seven pupil intently goes through the basic computer packages. Just one of some 200 students being taught basic computer skills, she has attended the free weekly computer literacy lessons without fail for two months now.

Janet Moraa a pupil at Church on the Rock receives instructions from Tr. Kate of Muungano wa Wanavijiji.

Janet Moraa a pupil at Church on the Rock receives instructions from Tr. Kate of Muungano wa Wanavijiji.

It’s an opportunity he considers a rear opportunity in her upper primary schooling. Her mother earns about $3, which translates to about Ksh.300 a day washing clothes for middle class households in Imara Daima and Donholm estates. “The tutors from Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Akiba Mashinani Trust are very friendly; so far they have enabled us to understand more about the fast world of computers," she said. "This project stands to empower us gain computer skills.”

LIXIL Corporation - a Japanese-based organisation in partnership with Muungano wa Wanavijiji— began offering free information and communication technology courses to under-privileged school going children in standard five to eight. The computer literacy project is currently piloting in three primary informal schools in Mukuru. The schools are; Maendeleo Learning centre, Church on the Rock and Tinas Learning Centre.

The training takes eight weeks. When the pupils complete the courses, they will receive certificates of graduation. But this is no traditional class setting. The schools have access to 14 laptop computers donated by LIXIL Corporation to power the pilot initiative in informal schools in Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Mukuru Kwa Reuben settlements.

With offices in Nairobi, Lixil, a sanitary ware company that supports sanitation projects in informal settlements through modern day waste management technology, also promotes computer literacy as part of its corporate philosophy of social responsibility.

Muungano Computer literacy programme project targets pupils living in informal settlements. The vision of this project is to empower and help bridge the gap in terms of access to basic computer skills, a privilege that their counterparts from private and public schools widely enjoy. The programme further examines the cognitive consequences of children's learning to use educational technology in an informal collaborative environment.

This project also intends to explore ways in which learning to master educational computer programs can promote problem-solving.

In a community where the majority of residents try to survive on less than $ 1(Ksh. 100) a day with little hope of improving their futures, the community is set to benefit from a $ 6,000 mobile community library to be located at Hope Centre in Mukuru Kwa Reuben. The computer lab will support close to 5,000 pupils and students in the entire Mukuru who would like to advance their computer technical know-how and also read books.

“Education is still a luxury in some of our informal settlements, we are delighted that Muungano wa Wanavijiji saw it important to come to Mukuru, especially to our informal schools, where many students and pupils cannot afford to acquire ICT education,” says, Mr. Juma a volunteer teacher at Church on the Rock in Mukuru Kwa Reuben.

It has always been the Muungano's approach to bring holistic solutions that include basic access to services such as; sanitation, power connectivity and infrastructure development into informal community schools. The computer literacy programme, however, is being introduced to help increase reach of computer literacy in slums. Akiba Mashinani’s Esther Emali explains, “With this programme we cannot meet all the demands in Mukuru, ´ she says. ´We'd like to expand the programme and we're looking into this, but we cannot reach all schools at the moment. In order to support this initiative, we have to actually bring all our equipment into a classroom or community resource centers which aren’t fitted with either internet or power connections.´

For now, these students from Mukuru look forward to completing their course and working toward a better future.