kenya-comp-child
Training and Development

Educating Kenyan children who have never used computers

“How many of you know what a computer is?” asks Caleb Ndaka an IT graduate from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He is standing in front of 200 nine to 14 year-olds.

The group stares back blankly at him. Yet this is not through lack of interest; just lack of knowledge. And this is the story Ndaka has seen regularly while travelling around schools in Kenya.

As an IT enthusiast, Caleb Ndaka teamed up with Moris Mucheru to come up with Kids Comp Camp. And they have enlisted a team of volunteers to bring computing knowledge to those who have never touched a computer in their lives.

Their mission has been recognized by Microsoft - Kids Comp Camp was a beneficiary of a grant amount of US$50,000. It also received a partnership with Microsoft to target 5,000 primary students by the end of 2015 under the “WeSpeakCodeKE” programme.

The Beginnings

“Kids Comp Camp is one year and six months old,” Ndaka tells IDG Connect.

“When I was about to graduate from school, I started thinking about how to use my skills as an IT graduate. I also thought about literacy skills in the rural areas,” Ndaka explains.

Ndaka opted to visit schools during the holidays and weekends but with this came the issue of feeding the children. This is because most schools in rural areas need to provide food for poor children to keep them in attendance.

He started a campaign where he called upon his social media contacts to skip a lunch and donate the amount to sponsor lunch for one child. The response was overwhelming.

“Kids Comp Camp is community centred. We have a nomination process where we ask for schools to apply. After nomination we get to identify the contact people in the community, then they will help set up the local organizing committee. The local committee usually do the local errands like how to host the trainers, and how to feed the kids,” Ndaka says.

Once they have figured that out, the group of volunteers are ready to make long trips to the targeted schools and begin the process of educating the students, one click at a time.

“We want to build a community sustainable project,” explains Ndaka. The ultimate objective of running these camps is to stimulate various communities to set up computer and resource centres to enable students to continue learning beyond the camps.

Yet without the support of the community, the Kids Comp Camp is nearly impossible to implement. So the challenge is to find a reliable contact person who will facilitate the camps.

“People perceive that we are donor funded,” Ndaka says.

Ndaka adds that, “One of the lessons that we have learnt is really to invest in due diligence. Does he [contact person] believe in community-ship like we do? Does he believe in the common objective of the project?”

Another challenge is the lack of infrastructure in the schools they visit. Most of the rural schools do not have electricity and if they do, the outputs like sockets and light bulb plugs are not well maintained.

So far, Kids Comp Camp has reached over 3,385 kids, spread over eight counties in 31 schools in Kenya.

“We target kids with no prior experience in computers,” says Ndaka who feels that is what sets them apart from any other computer bootcamps in Kenya.

“They are learners and they get it,” he remarks, “especially when working in groups.”

In line with the plan to have e-learning in all schools by the Kenyan government, Ndaka points out that the kids are eager to learn new technologies.

He warns though that teachers need to be fully involved the system and also be trained on using computers.

“One of the things we are trying to think through is how we can get the young teachers [to] train with us for the purpose of sustaining the computer culture in the schools,” Ndaka observes.

“Every one of us has a bigger part to play in the ecosystem,” Ndaka concludes.

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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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