We need computers for schools in Ghana to help our students catch up with technology. This story proves that it can be done.
It is clear these days that everything is about technology. Jobs in the coming decades will witness people being surrounded by digital technology all the time. Even for a Market Trader or a Taxi Driver, smart phones are becoming the standard. Market people can do their financial administration with an app. Taxi Drivers switch to Uber for their employment. So, it is very understandable: Ghanaians are craving for a digital transformation of schools.
All Junior High Schools should have well equipped IT labs
Many organizations have been bringing computers and digital training to schools in Ghana for about 15 years now. But the impact has been discouraging, as the conditions for a successful implementation were not met. The majority of schools in Ghana are still in need of good programs for digital skills.
Earlier this year, the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) decided to partner with Maxim Nyansa IT Solutions foundation, a Ghanaian NGO. This foundation has developed an approach to scale up and help schools achieve their goals. They have done so in close collaboration with their partners in India. “Computer Shiksha” has successfully introduced IT in hundreds of deprived village schools in India at a very low cost. Let’s have a closer look at the ingredients for their success.
First and foremost, computers are needed. This seems very obvious but in many situations, the financial resources are not available for schools to make such an investment. In India, private enterprises are obliged by law to spend a percentage of their profit on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Computer Shiksha is in constant contact with the big IT companies in the country, begging them for donations. More importantly, they receive their end of lifecycle computers for free.
The Ghanaian business community is challenged to take its responsibility.
In the case of Maxim Nyansa IT Solutions in Ghana, hardware have been collected in the Netherlands. Partnering with various IT companies, its Dutch branch has been collecting computers and shipping them to Ghana. Special software is being used to clean all data for data protection purposes. In Ghana, new software (Open Office and Windows7) are installed on the machines before taking them to schools. Costs of investing in an IT lab are being reduced considerably in this way. The foundation will start campaigning this year for Ghanaian businesses to donate their computers to schools, too.
The need for tracking
Tracking and tracking system gives transparency and prevents loss of equipment.
An inventory system has been developed to follow the logistic flow. Donors can follow their items with a unique code and can see where it is being used in a school. Teachers are requested to come up with photos proving that the items are still in place and that students are in the classroom and using them.
Teachers get free video materials for their students
Secondly, a standard digital course is being used to train the children. A 16 month course in English runs on video, helping JHS students to start using computers and all the main programs. The course has been developed by Computer Shiksha in English and is available for schools in Ghana free of charge. The role of the Teacher is very easy. He/she plays the instruction video for about 15 minutes. After that, students will practice at their own work station. It is compulsory that every student has a workstation to exercise.
Teachers are being equipped to train students in IT
Last but not the least, it is necessary to keep the ICT lab in a very good shape. Electronic equipment arevulnerable and sensitive to climate conditions. Maxim Nyansa organizes compulsory Teacher training programs. A 12 day training is being organized to take the Teachers through the complete program. No prior digital knowledge is needed.
WhatsApp video to do “remote surgery” on faulty desktops
During the training, Teachers do not only learn to run the 16 months’ digital skills course in their school. They also learn how to repair computers. Maxim Nyansa and Computer Shiksha have a help desk on standby all the time with a “remote surgery system”. In case a Teacher has not been able to make a repair, he/she makes a video call on Whatsapp using his/her smartphone inside the computer to show the situation to a remote helpdesk assistant. If a hardware part is faulty, a new spare part is brought in via courier service.
In November this year, an international award (The 2019 FIRE Africa Award) will be given to this program. This award will be presented to Maxim Nyansa IT Solutions at the UN Internet Governance Forum in Berlin.
Diana van der Stelt, Board Member of Maxim Nyansa IT Solutions (www.maximnyansa.com) | Sales Director, Trinity Software Center (www.trinitysoftwarecenter.com) | Member, Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana.