4 November 2014

‘I thought computers are for rich people, but I was wrong': ICT4D in Tanzania

At the Hermann Gmeiner School in Arusha, Tanzania, teachers, students and co-workers are learning how to make computing work for them. It's SOS Children’s Villages Tanzania’s latest project in Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D).

4 November 2014 - When the Hermann Gmeiner School in Arusha, Tanzania, introduced new computing technologies in 2012 as a pilot project, the goal was simply to help teachers manage their lesson plans, class administration and students' assessments. But before long, the teachers realised they could also use the new hardware and software in their lessons in the classroom. They began by using PowerPoint presentations as teaching aids; next they were showing their students how to access information beyond textbooks.

"In the past I thought computers are for rich people, but I was wrong. Everyone can use them,” said one student.
 

Internet access motivates and opens world of possibilities

Having access to the internet and learning how to use computing technologies “makes us students more impressed and work hard,” said Kamal Abdallah, a student at the school.
 
"Our computer lab has modern computers, keyboards, mouses, projectors and other things. Also, our computers are connected to the internet! This helps us get more materials."

“This is much more interesting and we have more materials to learn from,” added Matthew, a classmate.
 
Another classmate, Gloria, was proud to demonstrate what she had learned: “Here I am showing my friends how they can search for materials on the internet, use a simulation CD for a science subject, or type using MS Word and other software.”




Students at the Hermann Gmeiner School in Arusha, Tanzania, say they are more motivated to learn, now that they have access the internet and a computing lab. Photo: SOS Archives

Effect: Higher scores and admissions

The effects of the computer training and internet access at the Hermann Gmeiner School in Arusha may already be showing in improved performances on national exams. Out of 36 students who completed form four in 2013, 24 passed the national form four examinations.  Out of those students, 22 were selected to join form five government schools. In 2011, before this ICT4D project began, only 8 out of 36 students were selected to join form five government schools.

ICT in administration

Administrative staff at the school are taking advantage of the new technologies as well to move from paper to digital data organisation; digital databases are now being used to manage information about students’ assessment tests and performance by subject. The administration are also participating in web-conferences via Skype or Lync.

Getting the technology is the easiest part

Despite the high levels of interest and quantifiable successes in terms of student performance, the project also presented formidable challenges, for example, in terms of a lack of budget for adequate bandwidth, hardware and staffing the computer lab.
 
“Effective integration of ICTs into the educational system is a complex, multifaceted process that involves not just technology,” said Kipuyo Lebaati, SOS Tanzania's ICT Coordinator. “Indeed, given enough initial capital, getting the technology is the easiest part! Curriculum and teaching, institutional readiness, teacher competencies, and long-term financing,” are just as essential components, he added.