Africa’s education efforts are shifting in order to reflect ICT growth - The Citizen

Africa’s education efforts are shifting in order to reflect ICT growth

Tuesday August 5 2014

Wilhelm holds lessons at his ICT lab. PHOTOI

Wilhelm holds lessons at his ICT lab. PHOTOI COURTESY 

By Elizabeth Tungaraza

In today’s society, everyone is computer literate . The need for everyone to understand and learn programming is becoming more and more apparent. Today’s children live in a very different world than their parents did. Today’s world is full of web-based services like YouTube, Facebook, Whatssap etc and all of these are key part of childrens’ daily lives.

Teaching programming for children will be giving them the ability to  direct the creativity and take part in the global tech economy. According the experts; programming is a highly useful skill for them to learn as it teaches vital problem-solving, creativity, and  communication skills. Therefore it is very important to teach young students how to code. It is one thing to know how to use these programmes, however, to understand the logic behind them is another matter.

Knowing how to programme helps children understand and fit in the world  that they are living in. Wilhelm Oddo is the founder of Niwezeshe Lab (NLab). The NGO is situated in the Mzambarauni-Gombo la Mboto area. The organisation deals with teaching  technological children skills. Its main aim is to help children and youth in Tanzania to catch up with the speed at which new problems and opportunities are arising in changing world as a result of technological  changes. It make a contribution in strengthening the economical and social environment  by promoting the culture of innovation though ICT. The lab has created a unique space for primary school, secondary school, university students, youth, developers and programmers to meet, network and prosper.

Wilhelm  teaches children from eight ages up to 18 free of charge and will be starting web building and designing  classes .

Wilhelm has gone an extra mile  and has decided to visit schools in order to reach more young minds. So far he has visited Heritage English Medium School and Mzambarauni Primary School.

“At Heritage I have managed to teach them both theory and practical skills because  they have computer, but at Mzambarauni I face challenges as the  school doesn’t have computers so I teach them theory and take them to  my lab for practical lessons. Most government schools don’t have electricity and they use Swahili language, therefore I have to translate for them. Most of parents don’t know that ICT can improve peoples’ lives and because of that they don’t encourage their children in this field,” notes Wilhelm who is also an avid fiction writer. He continuous saying that before teaching his students , he has an a six month contract with the school’s management after which he plans to move to other schools.  

“If the schools management happens to see that the programme is useful to  their pupils children what they can  always do is train one teacher, who will be able to teach the children and carry on what I have started at their school,” says the young teacher.

Wilhelm  started teaching programming  right after finishing his university education. During this period  he realised  that there was a problem in the country’s employment sector. Like many young and eager graduates Wilhelm  found the task of securing employment very challenging.

He therefore decided to employ himself in 2010 by opening the lab at his house. Starting with  40 students  and within a short time Wilhelm started teaching coding to children from eight up to 18 years old.

He soon discovered that  every one on his street was dying  to  learn what he was teaching his young pupils . The  women from  my neighbourhood soon started following be around  and asking me to teach them how to use social media so that they can  be able to use it for advertising their business,”  Wilhelm  recalls. He  soon started training these women  under the programme ‘Techno Mama’.

“It was a group of 30 women. Ten were nurses and the rest were women who were engaged themselves into small trade business. I taught them   how to use social media so as to empower them and allow them to be able to use it  for advertising their business.

So I then decided to merge this with another  program which is known as ‘Ups and Girls programme’. And I have been receiving positive feedback about the training, people are happy with the results and find it useful to their lives,” he notes.

Wilhelm  is planning a festival in September at Postal ground Kijitonyama and through it he  aims to inform parents and their children of the many ways in which   ICTs can change people’s lives.

“During the festival we will teach scrunching programming to children, this is the software programme made  especially for children, but parents too will benefit from the festival as they will get education which will help their children on how to go about it.”

On the same day Wilhelm will launch Niwezeshe Cloud Fund Website which is aimed at children.

“The fund will help street children with their education. We will upload children’s  profiles on the network so that anyone who wishes to contribute for him will do so online. And for our side we will take 10 percent in each service. After that we be having swimming competitions, kite ridding and bicycles ridding  events and the money we will get will go to the Niwezeshe Cloud Fund Website,” Wilhelm says.

 Wilhelm adds that his career has made him into recognised figure both  in and outside the country. Through Niwezeshe he has been able to buy  equipment for his  lab. However, his biggest achievement has been becoming inspirational person to children.  Wilhelm advised young people to not depend on employment but to employ themselves. “Through ICTs people can create employment, parents should introduce ICT programming to their children and our government should place more emphasis in ICT by creating ICT competitions.