Computer education taken to rural areas effectively by Zimbabwean man

In the quest to equip all Zimbabweans with computer skills different strategies have been employed in the past decade by various organisations. Most, because of either laziness or lack of inventiveness simply bought computers and threw them into schools and called it a day. Local man Itai Shumba tried this himself and it failed spectacularly which led him to devise an ingenious solution – a mobile computer classroom.

Why did the other solutions fail? As most of us can probably attest, the donated computers became staff computers the moment the donor left school premises. The teachers would also not care properly for the machines and a good number would be damaged within a year. The students mostly did not benefit as Shumba discovered.

Shumba then tried building a centre where children from close by schools could access the computers. It was better than the first solution. However with the distance between schools, especially in rural areas where he implemented the project, only a few communities benefited.

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After this he came up with the mobile computer classroom. It is a structure built on a trailer on which 10 computers are fitted. There are 2 desks facing each other seating 5 children each and all under a ceiling which protects the computers from rain and sun. Also fitted to the structure are solar panels to provide power to the computers thereby ensuring the mobile computer classroom works even in communities where electricity is not available. Where electricity is available it can be connected to the grid.

Shumba used his personal money to fund the project, which he is calling Muono (Vision) and supplemented this with scavenged materials from scrapyards. He has contributed funds to the tune of about $3100 (R42000) and has worked with 2 other colleagues, Tafadzwa Nyatoro and Kudakwashe Mandishaya. One can only imagine what can be achieved if more funding is provided to this project.

This model helps in ensuring the aforementioned problems of misappropriation and machine abuse are dealt with in one fell swoop. The donor of the computers can ensure proper use and maintenance of the the machines via a selected person in charge of the mobile classroom. The limitation of an immovable centre not reaching as many communities as desired is also remedied by the mobile classroom being, uh, mobile.

A similar project was implemented in Uganda, called the Mobile Solar Computer Classroom which essentially uses SUVs fitted with computers and solar panels. It is, dare I say, wildly successful. Over the years that it has been operational it has reached an average of 5000 children, 100 teachers and 500 community members each year and equipping them with competitive computer skills.

With a working similar model in Uganda it is not  irresponsible to be optimistic that Itai Shumba’s mobile computer classroom will be successful. Even with the limited resources at his disposal thousands of children in his home village and surrounding communities are going to benefit and even more if other funding is obtained.

If the mobile computer classroom utilised the portable cloud that would be a game changer. The portable cloud is in the main a glorified portable hard drive which allows multiple wifi hotspot like connections of up to 60 unique devices at a time. With the potential the portable cloud possesses children in remote areas could get an appreciation of what the full world wide web is like.

We need more people like Itai Shumba. It is not everyday that you see a man motivated simply by the desire to give back to the community. He is employed as an electrician in Strand, South Africa and uses his own resources to fund the project. We have wealthier men and organisations (NGOs especially) doing less to improve the lives of Zimbabweans. We should all be like Itai Shumba.

Personally I wouldn’t mind if copycats implemented the idea in their own home towns and villages as more Zimbabweans would get computer skills. What do you think? Do you think it will work in Zimbabwe as well as it did in Uganda? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

About Zimbabwe

The Republic of Zimbabwe is a country located in the Southern Africa region. Its capital city is Has capital::Harare and the country has provinces. Zimbabwe is 390,580 sq km and is bordered on all sides by other countries (Zambia in the north, South Africa in the South, Botswana in the west and Mozambique in the east). The Zimbabwean population includes the majority black Africans, most of who are indigenous Shona and Ndebele. Besides these major ethnic groups, there are also migrant citizens mainly from sub-Saharan Africa. Besides these foreigners resident in Zimbabwe, there are also a number of other local indigenous ethnic minorities scattered in different corners of the country and these include the Tonga, the Tawara, Venda and Kalanga people. As at 2012, the population of people in Zimbabwe stood at 13 061 239.The National Anthem. Click below to play Read More

5 Comments

  1. Peter G. Raeth, Ph.D. says:

    A great solution. Giving computers is easy. Educating and Training are hard.

    Regarding the portable cloud: Their website does not give ordering information that I can find. Any pointers on that?

    1. Leonard Sengere says:

      Hello Peter, it seems to be an oversight on their website. We contacted them and they will get back to us shortly. We will advise you then. If you want you could send an e-mail to news@techzim.co.zw and we will send their contact details to you. Or just give you the information they are going to provide to us. Whatever you prefer.

      1. Peter G. Raeth, Ph.D. says:

        I also wrote to them and have not heard back. It is a most interesting product.

  2. Robbie Savage says:

    Training will be hard and that would mean the custodian of the mobile classroom would have to have the ability or maybe employ a suitable teacher. Volunteers could also aid in the educating part. All in all I agree with Peter there, it is a great solution. I myself saw first hand the misappropriation of computers by teachers at the high school I went to.

  3. tachi ngoni says:

    Marvelous! Isn’t it?

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