Computers for Future
- Community Growth
Imagine a world without technology. In Madagascar, this is a reality for communities across the island; many people are unable to have access to information and knowledge via computers. With technological development rapidly changing worldwide, it is crucial that communities have access to internet and learn about computer skills to participate in their global community. Therefore, three institutions: two universities and one high school across the island have expressed interest in acquiring computers alongside their Peace Corps Madagascar Volunteer English teachers in order to improve the students’ computer literacy and allow all members of the school community to have access to more information and knowledge. Based on our estimated budget for equipment and shipping costs, two Peace Corps Madagascar Volunteers will buy 73 computers from World Computer Exchange (WCE), a non-profit organization that provides refurbished computers at low cost to schools and NGOs around the world. The classroom computer labs at each institution will be used by students and teachers for information technology courses, mentorship programs, computer clubs, and general research. Each community involved is committed to providing the building, tables/desks, chairs, electricity, WiFi, and a designated staff person to monitor and maintain the lab who has experience with computers. Through a combination of structured courses and supervised free access, volunteers will provide communities with a way to take education beyond the classroom. This project has the potential to impact over 2,400 students and teachers per year for many generations.
When discussing this project with our communities, our teachers and supervisors said that our institutions have been actively trying to provide a computer lab with modern technology to their students but have been put on hold due to lack of funding. Despite this challenge, our communities have already created pre-existing information technology courses for their students. For example, at the high school, they draw screens and keyboards on the blackboard to teach. At the university level at ISSTM, the students have access to computers downloaded with mathematics programs for their degree program, but don’t have access to research or language acquisition resources. Specifically, at the university level at the ELCI, the students, staff, and faculty do not have access to computers at all, putting the applied language students at a major disadvantage when trying to practice their English. However, all three institutions demonstrate their passion and excitement to teach technology, despite not having all of the resources to do so. Thus, our communities recognize the importance of having access to technology and to providing their students an education that includes technology, even if they cannot afford the technology itself. Reliable electricity is already present in all the participating institutions. With each computer lab at the three institutions, each institution has agreed to pay for the tables/desks, chairs, and the installation of the computers as a one-time fee, along with the monthly or yearly fees of the building rent, pay for the staff person, and electricity and WiFi and has included or plans to include this in their yearly budgets. Additionally, the high school proviseur, university directors, and many teachers and parents have been invested in the grant writing process and plan to help with funding the community contribution.
When approaching our communities about the access to computers through World Computer Exchange, we made sure we were working with groups committed to our goals of advancing students' and teachers’ knowledge of technology. Funding to pay the computer lab employee and the maintenance of the technology is already included in the institutions’ budgets. The WCE computers have a base-warranty of one-year, so it is important to ensure that there are people and resources already in place at each institution to accommodate inevitable computer maintenance and IT issues. At the university level, the ELCI and ISSTM already have professors knowledgeable about computer maintenance and monitoring the equipment as well as a budget for WiFi access for the students and teachers. This is also present at the high school level, with the school already having a full-time information technology staff person and many teachers already have a baseline knowledge of computer use and maintenance. Therefore, if the computers require maintenance and IT issues arise overtime, then there is already faculty and staff present at each institution that is knowledgeable about computer maintenance and already has a salary from their institution to help with technology and computer maintenance.
In addition, each institution plans to set money aside to for the upkeep, maintenance, and security of these computers. Computer costs and expenses are currently budgeted into each institutions’ budget. At each institution, the teachers currently teaching the technology courses will help to ensure the maintenance of the lab given their experience with computers. The information technology courses at the high school and ISSTM institutions were created prior to the arrival of these computers, therefore, the interest to have the technology was instilled in our communities before bringing this project to their attention. For the ELCI institution, the students, staff, and faculty have expressed wanting access to computers in order to enhance their language learning and access to their global community. If there is a problem with the computers, each institution is already connected with a current faculty person knowledgeable about fixing computers; their current job is to fix computers for the institution, so this will not be at an additional cost for the institutions. This was clarified to ensure that each institution is aware of how to fix the computers if the computers break or become out-of-date and need updated software and programs.
Additionally, the mentorship program is being led by host country national teachers at the high school level and university level. The university directors and high school proviseur have committed to allowing all students and teachers access to the computers for clubs or independent study . Due to the disproportionate amount of students compared to the number of computers, it is crucial that each institution assures equitable access for all students. Each institution can create a time limit to use the computers if there are people waiting to use them, as well as during courses and structured clubs, there could perhaps be a rotation system between the students sharing a computer and those working individually.