The Kenyan Woman Sourcing Old Computers To Teach Children IT Skills



Students at Zawadi Yetu Academy in Mogotio Baringo County in East Kenya are the IT specialists of the future. That’s thanks to a project that uses digital skills to unlock global opportunities in remote parts of the country.

Founder Nelly Cheboi grew up here in Mogotio village and had never touched a laptop until she won a scholarship to study in the United States. When first faced with a computer, she had no IT skills and did not even know how to type.

Her experiences made her think of school children in her village and inspired her to start a programme that teaches kids vital IT skills. So she founded Techlit Africa.

It uses old computers donated by companies and big institutions.

Cheboi offers the computers for free but local schools have the responsibility of paying the teacher, which costs parents around a dollar per day in addition to the Ksh 4500 (37 US dollars) per term at Zawadi Yetu Academy. Other schools have different fees .

“We collect computer donations from companies and institutions. We import them into Kenya, we have a refurbishment centre here where we wipe the computers, install our own custom operating system and then we deploy into schools,” explains Cheboi.

“We also partner with youth in the community that we train to run our classes so our classes are part of the school curriculum. Our teachers are doing classes from 8am to 4pm and the kids are learning this everyday as part of their curriculum. It is not a token project where they are doing it over the weekend or over the summer. It is so embedded that this is something that they are learning. When you have someone in grade one they are going to be doing it until they are in grade 8. ”

Sammy Ruto, a student at Zawadi Yetu Academy, says he wants to work in IT when he grows up and the skills he is learning here will help him to that.

He says: “In this class I have been taught how to use visual studio studio code, to make my own website using HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) the I have been taught about openshot and about NASA to make my own rocket when I grow up. So I hope this class will help me in future to be an IT expert.”

Elysee Dusabinema is an IT teacher at the school.

He believes the lessons will ensure that the pupils can compete in a digital world.

“This is something that will help kids know how they can brand themselves online and how they can do business online because that is where the world is heading.”

TechLit Africa is targeting remote areas where people rarely have access to computers or electronics, arguing that there no need for children to travel long distances to get education.

“Most of these students would not have used a computer because we are targeting the most remote parts of Africa and so right now we have students who don’t even speak Swahili yet, knowing how to use a computer, building websites and the coolest part is that they can still do that in their own village. They do not have to go to Nairobi to do that, they do not have to go to America to do that,” says Cheboi.

Innocent Kimutai, an educational expert and consultant, says that IT skills will help prepare young people for the future.

“As a third world country, we have been left behind in terms of technological advancements. I believe what Zawadi (school) is doing, actually taking these kinds of machines to kids who are in a marginalized area, will try and kind of equalize the playing field. Most of us were actually exposed to laptops at 18 or our first time when we went to university,” he says.

“But these kids, exposing them at such an early age, it will enable them to be able to learn skills that is coding, programming which will in turn, because we are living in a world where we are now going to digital currency, things like Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, fintech, basically financial technology. Should these kids begin these particular skills at this age, I am sure by the time they are actually out of university they will be implementing these skills and not looking for jobs like most of us did.”

The programme is currently running in 13 schools across Kenya, equipping 5,000 students from the ages of 4-12 years with skills to unlock their future.

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