Computers for rural schools

Computers for rural schools

MASERU-IN 2005, the government pledged to develop ICT curricula for all levels of the education system by 2020.
Fifteen years on, it remains a pipedream despite the country adopting a national ICT policy aimed at entrenching the learning of ICTs in schools.

This week, Communications Minister Chief Thesele ’Maseribane said the government expects 65 percent of children that enter primary, secondary and tertiary to get connected on the e-learning platform.
He said this while launching the ministry’s three-year strategic plan.
For many students and their teachers, these remain words, especially because most schools have no computers or electricity to make the dream come true.

However, there is a ray of light after the Lerotholi Polytechnic’s Student Entrepreneurial Community Hand (Sech) launched a campaign to fix old computers and donate them to schools.
The aim is to repair at least 5 000 computers in the next five years.
On Friday the student volunteers, through the efforts of the Computer System Engineering students, repaired over 50 computers at their campus.

Chakela Thaba, the Sech Faculty Adviser, said the institution volunteers dedicated time, skills and other resources to support a series of selected communities.
Thaba said projects were identified by students during their weekly meetings.

The 5 000 computers anticipated to have been repaired in the next five years can serve up to 250 000 learners and 600 teachers in 125 semi-rural schools, he said.
“We want to bridge the technological gap between urban, semi urban and rural areas,” Thaba said.

He said the Central Bank of Lesotho has donated over 85 old computers, while the polytechnic donated over 100 used computers.
He called on individuals and businesses with old, unused or broken computers to be part of the initiative.
“From our previous projects, we learnt that people want to invest in what they see,” he said.

He said the polytechnic, as the main funder, has so far injected M4 600 into the project as seed funding in hopes that donors will support the initiative once results begin trickling in.
“We do amazing work though we don’t have enough money,” he said.
“We are hoping that donors’ interest will be ignited once they see and learn of our good deeds. The major problem is that people don’t know about our work. If they knew about it, they would be interested and support it,” said Thaba.

“We have to convince them to recognise our work. Once they know about us it will be easier for us to change this country for the better.”
He said the project was supposed to start two years ago but “numerous things” such as lack of adequate funding hindered progress.
“I am excited that it has finally started,” he said.

Sech Lesotho is a network of students at tertiary institutions who, under the guidance of their faculty advisers, offer their time and skills to help with community projects with the aim of enhancing sustainable development.
The organisation was legally registered under the Societies Act in January 2010.

“The Sech programme model was designed to bind the business talents of network members for the advantage of people and communities around the country, while also providing meaningful opportunities for leaders to connect, collaborate and learn from one another,” Thaba said.
Computer Systems Engineering lecturer, ’Mareabetsoe Chabalala, said she became part of the project as an instructor because she believes students would benefit in the long run.

“It will come in very handy as most first year students come clueless about computers or how they operate. I want to use my expertise to help such students,” Chabalala said.
“I always have to teach them (first year students) basic computer knowledge before introducing them to the main content so that we will be on the same page with others. They do struggle but eventually they adapt,” she said.

She said they have been longing to assist secondary schools and “now that it is finally happening, we will do our best.”
Project leader, Liteboho ’Molaoa, a Computer Engineering student, said he is looking forward to changing lives through the project.
“I will work to leave my mark,” ’Molaoa said.
’Molaoa, a second-year student, said he hopes to also benefit from the project.

“It is amazing how it will transform my life in the long-term considering the scarcity of jobs for graduates. I can have my own computer maintenance workshop,” he said.
He encouraged his peers to join the initiative as to gain important skills for future.

Marketing management student, Sefora Khalieli, who is also a Sech member, said she joined the project because she wanted to learn about computers, explaining that although she has a personal laptop, she wants to acquire skills on how to repair computers.
“It is exciting to be part of the initiative and I have already learnt a lot of things,” she said.

Motlalentoa Theoane, a Panel Beating and Spraypainting student, said he was pleased to be part of the team as he didn’t know how to use computers.
“It is not easy to work with skilled people as they use technical language I am not familiar with. But they have been patient with me so far. They are very keen to help me,” Theoane said.
Sech members are driven by a vision of “breeding the next best generation of business leaders” from both the students’ body and targeted communities.

Sech gives its members an opportunity to transfer classroom knowledge into real life situations, which could help them create their own jobs.
This is not the first initiative that Sech is undertaking to help communities.
In 2018, the organisation repaired farming implements, targeting at least 600 beneficiaries and put back into function M1.2 million worth of farming implements.

The students went to the rescue of villagers in Matlameng, where thousands of people risked sinking deeper into poverty due to lack of functional farming implements.
For years, farming implements had been lying idle despite the dire need for their use as farmers struggled to pay for repairs.
The story changed after Sech members volunteered their skills to repair farming implements for the villagers.

Last year, the Sech members engaged in a community outreach project aimed at contributing to road safety.
They offered free inspection and repair services to motorists who live in Leribe and Quthing districts.
The project was intended to repair at least 100 vehicles, and offer motorists a total of M40 000 worth of repairs in the two districts.

’Mapule Motsopa

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