A strategically phased approach
There are over 41 million people living in Uganda. It has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Estimates have been made of a population of 100 million by 2050 at current growth rates. Maendeleo Foundation has a proven education model that can be replicated, and our presence in communities throughout the country should empower those communities to insist that local government and schools begin using technology to improve the lives of their children and generations to come.
Maendeleo Foundation recognizes that its long-range goal – nurturing a healthy computer-services industry in East Africa – is not only ambitious; it requires several critical preparatory steps. That’s why the Foundation is attacking the challenge in carefully defined phases, solidifying each one before moving to the next. Ultimately, all will be in full operation simultaneously.
Phase One: Mobile Solar Computer Classrooms
This phase, which includes designing and equipping the initial MSCCs, and developing age-specific custom-designed training software, has largely been accomplished.
These classrooms have three very distinct benefits. The first and most obvious is that they are bringing the building blocks of computer literacy to hundreds of school children every week. The second is a strong, and already visible, ripple effect: students who are motivated by learning about computers are finding that they can use that same disciplined approach in their other studies. Finally, the third benefit, which will have long-term payoffs, is the opportunity for the Maendeleo Foundation team to identify the strongest students to move to the next level.
But there is a fourth benefit as well. “By itself, Maendeleo Foundation only has the resources to make a relatively small difference,” says co-founder Eric Morrow. “But we hope to set an example for other NGOs, corporations and government organizations. In fact, it is already happening. Our MSCC project has attracted much interest and is being applied by NGOs in Kenya and a Sudanese refugee camp for refugees from Darfur. Our intuitive training software is being used throughout the world in computer classrooms.”
Phase Two: Advanced Computer Training And Incubation Center
At this Center, older students, including the cream of the Phase One operation, are learning computer skills applicable to real-world jobs. In addition, the Center provides education in business skills, not widely taught in East African schools. It operates throughout the year, in evenings, and weekends so those who are working or in school can still attend. Construction of the Center was completed in 2011 and the Center was officially opened in February 2012 by the mayor of the municipality of Mukono (near the capital of Kampala). The first graduates received certificates in both Maendeleo Foundation computer classes and Makerere University’s Center for Lifelong Learning Project Management class. The Advanced Training Center is currently offering classes in basic and advanced computer training, seminars in web design and scripting, and programming for Windows and Android apps. It will also be used for community empowerment activities, such as womens’ groups and reading camps.
It is part of our goal to open and support similar training centers in other strategic locations throughout Uganda, and eventually the rest of East Africa.
Phase Three: Connect Uganda Project
Now that the Center’s training program has been established, Maendeleo Foundation is again reaching out to more communities. A computer services industry can go a long way towards improving living standards in Uganda. New Internet infrastructure is opening up opportunities for those living in nearly every corner of the country. To reach even the remotest corners, we are now working with the quickly growing Ugandan Community Library Association (UgCLA – www.ugcla.org) which has more than 90 member libraries throughout the country.
Our Connect Uganda Project will use the Internet to provide information relevant to different regions, in local languages (there are 42 in Uganda alone, some 120 in Tanzania), helping educate community members in areas such as healthcare and agriculture. Using efficient Android based tablets running on solar power, we have begun to create an information network with free community access through our partner libraries. Promoted effectively, this network can help increase the quality of life for all.
Putting it to work
Now that the Center’s training program has been sufficiently established, Maendeleo Foundation will have a much more significant future-oriented role. The Center will act as an incubator for those students who show potential, and will help them find outsourcing work through technology partners in North America and Europe. The Foundation will help individuals or groups of students to incorporate, and allow them to use the Center’s equipment and office space until it is time for them to make it on their own. And we will carry out job-development work in the region, and job-counseling work for the students, to help place them in IT jobs of their own.