Joining the rest of the world – this is how two of Rotifunk’s first computer literacy students described the way they feel about starting computer lessons. They know the world is computerized, and they have, to date been left out of the opportunities and the knowledge afforded by computers.
Computer literacy and regular access to using a computer are among the most coveted resources in today’s Sierra Leone. People know this is their link to gain valuable job skills, better manage their work, and communicate with the rest of the world.
The Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation received 50 laptop computers in August from American donors Schneider Electric and TIP Capital. They lost no time in building tables and benches with local lumber and creating a practical manual for students who have never used a computer. Lesson One started in Sept – October with how to turn it on and find the Word software.
The first students are community teachers and other adults with a need to use a computer. They will form the core group to serve as trainers for high school students and others in the community. Only three or four of the 30+ secondary school teachers in area had any computer proficiency. Some had been exposed in college to manuals with screen shots of computer monitors as introduction, but never had access to using one themselves.
Here’s a profile of some of Rotifunk’s first computer students.
Deputy Paramount Chief – Samuel Caulker stands in as the ranking chiefdom authority for his brother, the Paramount Chief when both the Chief and his Chiefdom Speaker are out of town. Samuel says the world has gone computerized, but until now, Rotifunk was not part of this. This is his first opportunity for computer lessons and he wanted to take advantage of it.
He was embarrassed when going to training workshops outside the chiefdom, and he had to say he did not know how to use a computer.
Soon he can see computers in the Chiefdom Administrative Office. Records can be kept and accessed when needed on computers, like amount of taxes collected for the year and who paid in each Section. They can maintain land transfer records and avoid land disputes; they can keep names of all 208 villages in the chiefdom and the responsible headmen. Importantly, they can maintain minutes of Chiefdom Council meetings and other key chiefdom events.
Samuel is not finding using a PC as difficult as he may have thought. They have excellent tutors from CCET committed to teaching them. It would go faster if they had more time to practice. They come at 5:00pm at the end of their work day. Lack of electricity and cost of running a generator limit the time of the class to 6:30pm when it’s too dark to see. Today they had to stop when the battery on the computer ran down.
Samuel wants to thank Schneider Electric and TIP Capital for the opportunity to learn to use a computer and will make good use of his class. He also appreciates the low cost of CCET classes. They are paying Le30,000 (~$7.50 USD) for classes that would cost Le150,000 in Freetown.
Secondary School Teacher – Emanuel Mbasy teaches at Walter Schutz Secondary School. Emanuel sees technology quickly changing and wants to be part of it. With computer literacy for himself, he can then also teach his children. He can create his own documents and quickly find them, like class lessons, exams and other documents. Files get missing at school, and he could better maintain them.
The CCET teachers are good and he’s not finding it too hard to learn, if you concentrate and practice. Practice is unfortunately limited to a few hours of classroom time each week, and students like him do not have their own computer to practice on at home. They do have a good manual CCET prepared for them they can take home and review.
Emanuel wants to give his special thanks to Schneider Electric and TIP Capital for allowing him to join the rest of the world with learning computers. May God bless them. More computers for their personal use would be great.
Muslim Missionary and Imam – Osman Sesay is a young Imam with the Amaddiyah Islamic mission present in Rotifunk. Technology is improving, and the Amaddiyah mission has a computer, but he didn’t know how to use it. He’s glad for the chance for lessons now. He wants to be able to keep speeches on the computer, as well as lessons and exams for the Amaddiyah school. They conduct marriages and need to issue marriage certificates.
Imam Sesay really wants to learn to use a computer. It’s difficult, but he will learn. He’s not fortunate to have his own personal computer, and would really like to have one.
Construction Contractor – Abu Bakar Conteh is a contractor building new buildings at the Prosperity Girls High School. As a contractor, he needs to give bids and estimates and keep them. Offices with files are a luxury in rural Sierra Leone, and his work keeps him on the move anyway. A computer would help him organize his work and keep it available, as well as make calculations easier.
A computer would also allow him to advertise his business through the internet.
Abu Bakar enjoys computer lessons very much and is finding it easy, despite this being his first class. He’s learned to write and save some documents, and he’s become familiar with the keyboard.
He would like to thank Schneider Electric and TIP Capital so much. They find it difficult to get computer lessons in Sierra Leone, especially in a rural place, and these companies have made it so easy and inexpensive for him.
DSTV Satellite Dish Operator – Sembu Fallah maintains DSTV service for the area. We are living in a computerized world where knowledge has advanced, he says, and he would like to know it better. He wants to be a perfect man and learn enough to teach others as an additional job.
He could also use a computer to join the DSTV signal to a computer for viewing sports games here in Rotifunk as an additional source of income.
Sembu wants to thank Schneider Electric and TIP Capital for what they’ve done for them. He really appreciates it, and prays they will bring more. If he had his own computer he would continue to practice at home and not be limited to three 90 minute classes a week at the CCET office.
August 28, 2014 update: I see people continue to read this post, so I wanted to direct you to the latest up on Rotifunk’s computer program. We are turning a town tragedy into a triumph. A community computer center is being built as I write this from the ashes of a rebel burned building. You can read about it here: https://sherbrofoundation.org/2014/08/25/computing-center-roof-is-up/