With computers becoming more and more integral to our way of life, it makes sense to allow the school children access to it to. By giving the pupils of the school the essential skills to work within a typical office environment and beyond, the girls are able to potentially find their way into higher paying jobs in a country where the IT infrastructure is still in heavy development.
For this purpose, we now have equipped a computer room with 24 computers, in order for as many students as possible to be using the computers at once. However, this is still not enough for a whole class, so the work to bring computers to the school is ongoing. The computers are currently a mix of desktop computers and laptops. While the computers are good, they are not as easy to get hold of due to restrictions on the import of computers. Laptops provide a perfect solution to this, allowing our volunteers to easily bring the laptops to the school with them. The laptops also have the advantage of having batteries (Although some batteries may not be the best quality) so the computers can still be used in the event of the quite frequent power cuts to the school.
Any laptops we receive have all old data removed from them and are installed with a Linux distribution, which means we can provide the software the students need in a highly secure, stable and most importantly free way. While the PCs have licenses for Windows installed, obtaining new licenses is not easy and this alternative is a great compromise.
In order to do so, we have funded for a part-time IT teacher to teach the students the skills they need to know while using a computer. These skills start off with the use of a mouse and keyboard, moving the pointer around the screen. As the students progress further, programs installed on the computer allow them to gain fluency in touch-typing, and effective use of a keyboard.
Once the students are capable to use control a computer, the IT teacher, Dennis is able to teach them how to use common applications that many of us take for granted – a mixture of old version of Microsoft Office and other free, open source word processing applications allow the students to take their typing skills and put them to the test, writing simple documents. The end goal is to have the students easily writing pieces of text on the computers, which is a great skill that can be applied to so many new types of jobs in Uganda.
Moving on from basic word processing, the P6 and P7 students have begun to learn more advanced applications such as spreadsheet software. This includes the usage of maths functions integrated within the software to quickly and easily calculate finances and other uses for the program.
While the children have made a promising start with their new IT equipment, it is a challenge to have the other teachers adopt the technology. By doing so, students may be able to use the computing resources to complete work for other subjects, as we see today in UK schools.
With the current teaching, the students are learning how to use the computers, however Dennis’ teaching specification can extend into teaching the basics of how a computer works. This extended knowledge can help in other areas such as computer repair, another skill that is not as prominent in Uganda.