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.
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.
The Republic of Zimbabwe is a country located in the Southern Africa region. Its capital city is :Harare and the country has 10 provinces. Zimbabwe is 390,580 sq km and is bordered on all sides by other countries (Zambia in the north, South Africa in... Read More About Zimbabwe