What was it like visiting some of the schools that have benefited from IT Schools Africa?
As always it is so rewarding to see the computers that have been donated by schools, businesses and the public in the UK given a new lease of life - making such a difference to those that most need it. The great thing is, we are able to provide computers, not just for learning about IT but. to show schools, students and parents, the benefits of ICT. We give them what we take for granted every day, quick and easy communication, programmes that help with school homework, ability to write essays quicker, a tool to store contact details, the most powerful research tool at our finger tips, the list is endless.
How important is an education in IT to the next generation in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi?
In urban areas it is very important to young people and increasingly so to businesses and the government of these countries. Ultimately we have to remember that the world is a smaller place, globalisation has brought us much closer, so what we have here in the UK, is seen by people thousands of miles away, they want what we have: to be able to communicate with their friends, type their coursework for University, set up their own small business or to manage their own finances.
How integral school is to the students' lives; many schools that support areas densely populated are structured so they are open in two shifts to accommodate all of the students. It shows how important the school day is and how, as an institution, it is instrumental in helping to provide access to ICT. By providing computers and ICT training to teachers we are ensuring children receive an education in IT and benefit from the digital tools that will help them go on to further education and ultimately to get better jobs.
Has the IT equipment improved students' grades?
In ICT the student's grades have definitely improved. For example in one secondary school in Malawi the impact of one of our new computer labs has meant that the number of students taking ICT has increased from 160 (2013) to 960 (2014). The exam pass rate improved from 56% to 74%.
How much of an impact has the work carried out by ITSA in the UK, had on students in Africa?
It really does have an effect; what we do in the UK ensures the quality and specifications of the equipment complies with the local standards in Africa and importantly, meets the needs of the students and schools.
Besides IT lessons, what other ways are the schools using the computers?
Some teachers of other subjects use the computers to show educational videos or other interactive materials. They find this helps to make their lessons more interesting and can make topics easier to understand. It also helps to keep the students motivated, particularly when temperatures can reach 40 degrees!