Powering Africa Out of Poverty: Teaching the Teachers

July 2, 2013
OUR WORK in a village in Tanzania has helped one young woman to overcome a fear of computers so much that she is now teaching other young people how to use them.
Hellaena Tayari, 18, has lived in Songambele B village – an off-grid community  97km from the Tanzanian capital Dodoma – all her life.
Growing up in a community without power, Hellaena knew it was unlikely she would ever get to use a computer. In fact, at school in Mbezi-inn, Dar Es-Salaam, she saw computers being used in other buildings and admits she was too scared even to touch one.
She said: ‘I could see other people use computers, but I had a phobia of them. I feared even to touch them and I never thought I would have the opportunity to use them.’
In November 2012, we and our partners ALIN began work on a community hub in Songambele.
We power the Maarifa Centre with a solar-wind hybrid system – the first power resource the community has ever had.
That power is used to power five internet-capable computers, which can be used by everyone, and which have enabled Songambele’s residents to learn ICT skills.
                                                                           Students at work learning ICT skills
Learning new skills is vital for the community, as it has suffered from both a poverty- and skills gap due to its lack of access to energy. With computer skills, the digital divide is closing, and people are able to use their new abilities to enter careers which had previously been unavailable to them.
Forty-eight people have so far completed ICT training in Songambele, with another 24 currently taking the course, and several more cohorts waiting to start.
Hellaena overcame her concerns to become one of the first people in the village to take the course. And she was an enthusiastic student, as trainer Mr Sadock recalled.
He said: ‘She would stop me from moving to the next point when she didn’t understand. I could really see her curiosity from the questions she asked.’
Hellaena completed the course, and used her skills to become a Community Knowledge Facilitator at the Maarifa Centre. As part of that role, she now uses her own computer skills to teach other young people how to use computers, helping them across the digital divide.
                                                                      Hellaena teaches a new cohort of students
She said: ‘I am happy now because I know all the basics – and some more – and I can pass that knowledge on to other young people who, like me, might not have been able to use a computer without the centre.
‘I am trying to make sure we can get some more computers here, because the training is very popular and there are waiting lists. I’d really like to say thank you for the opportunities I now have.’