We augment existing schools but don’t build new ones. TechLit creates computer labs with computers that American individuals and companies have replaced, providing computer classes for existing African schools. A primary school, often grades 1 - 8, provides a room. We show up with computers and teachers to run our programs.
The building you’re seeing is Zawadi Yetu. Prior to founding TechLit Africa, Nelly founded and continues to expand a school called Zawadi Preparatory in her hometown of Mogotio, Kenya. TechLit will rent the second floor as its Mogotio headquarters, which will include computer labs for Zawadi students and for youth and adults in the local community.
In Kenya, most public schools have already built a room for computers, with working electricity and extra security. However, few schools have actually obtained or installed computers, let alone the educational software needed for actual computer literacy --until now.
From our experience, video games are the best way to show the value of a computer to a child. So, they play games the first few classes until they’re comfortable and confident enough to start learning harder skills.
We are committed to enabling self-sufficiency. We push every computer lab to cover its own costs, and charging parents a minimal amount allows us to expand quickly without friction. Some parents are unable to pay, in which case their child may still participate. But in general, African families place more value on things they have paid for, even if it doesn’t sound like much to an American. For example, participating in computer classes in Mogotio, Kenya costs $1 per month.
We create content that works on all desktop platforms, but we teach from a Linux desktop on all donated computers. This allows us to expand our program consistently with no extra cost, and gives us more flexibility when teaching programming and introducing students to the Internet.
Our original goal was to prepare adults for online work, then help them find productive remote roles. This is still a worthy goal, but the greatest enthusiasm for computer learning has been among children. As these children grow, they’ll have the same facility with using computers that American kids have now, which will enable them to compete in the global marketplace. In the meantime, seeing even young children starting to learn coding has inspired an increasing number of young adults in the community to see what they can learn, too.
We have found many benefits to keeping responsibility for your donated computers. First, we can ensure that computers are all used in the classroom, rather than taken home by staff. We can constantly update and tailor the content on the computers specifically for students. Finally, when the computers are damaged, we are responsible for repairing or replacing them.
We are committed to effective use, and we have seen more failures than successes with the strategy of just handing over used computers. When we retain ownership and responsibility for the computers and their content, we ensure that computer classes will be safe and impactful.
We are committed to must ensure effective use, which also creates happens to provide two stable jobs per computer lab. This allows us to provide an inclusive classroom where students have the freedom to explore and create without being physically or psychologically abused. Unfortunately, traditional African methods in the classroom involve rote memorization and strict to severe discipline. Those trained in these methods do not adapt easily to a fast moving, flexible and very enthusiastic computer lab experience.
We are committed to enabling self-sufficiency. We push every computer lab to cover its own costs. Data is still relatively expensive in the areas where we work, so none of our labs have decided to pay for WiFi yet. But with the intranet that TechLit Africa has developed, with vast amounts of content (including Wikipedia, Ted talks, educational content and programs) available on nearby servers, computer learners can learn how to search for information and other content just as if they were on the Internet, without access to the darker side of it. So when they do have WiFi, they’ll be able to make use of it.
The first time we brought technology to Mogotio, we set up an intranet with terabytes of content like Kahn Academy. Nobody used it, and it fell into disrepair when we left. The first secret to our success is that we only distribute content that is engaging and useful.
The happiness of our teachers and the quality of our program is paramount to us. That is why we are staying close to our headquarters in Mogotio, Kenya, for the first year or two. We will keep your school in mind as we expand, and we will be there as soon as possible.
When you see students sharing a computer, that’s likely because one student is teaching the other, or because they’re pairing on some problem. Our teachers encourage peer-teaching and pairing to improve and demonstrate understanding.
TechLit Africa is a 501c3 charityEIN: 83-2767182