The seed for IT Schools Africa (ITSA) was sown more than 17 years ago, when an old computer was thrown into a skip.
Monis Khalifa, ITSA’s Information Technology Manager was working on a small industrial estate in Leckhampton near Cheltenham, where he watched as the computer was dumped and thought to himself, is there not a better way to recycle old computers?
He mentioned this to his friend and Rotarian, Michael Ratcliffe, a member of Cheltenham Cleeve Vale Rotary, and between the two of them, they decided that there definitely was a better way – to send them to African schools!
— IT Schools Africa (@itschoolsafrica) March 18, 2020
According to the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations organisation which is committed to connecting the world, only 9.2% of households in Africa in 2018 had access to a computer. That’s compared to over 75% of households in Europe.
Despite the high proportion of computer access in Europe, amazingly just 8% of the UK’s population has no basic digital skills, according to Lloyds Bank’s Consumer Digital Index.
ITSA reuses computer equipment donated by UK schools and businesses and sends the equipment to schools in Africa.
Only 9.2% of households in Africa in 2018 had access to a computer. That’s compared to over 75% of households in Europe.”
The charity’s mission is to provide quality IT education through access to e-learning technology for school children in Africa.
In the UK, we are supporting disadvantaged individuals from varying backgrounds through the UK Community Programmes.
The charity’s vision is for students in Africa and communities in the UK to benefit from fully functioning e-learning technology, which offers life-enhancing knowledge and skills, access to further education, and improved opportunities for employment.
Based in Gloucestershire, we are mainly run by volunteers who re-cycle IT equipment to send to educational establishments and IT training projects in Africa. There, these projects are run by local people who understand what works best for their area.
The UK operation is supported by the charity’s prison programme which provides skills for prisoners who help to refurbish the computers. This programme is also supported by community volunteers, young people out of work and students at school and university, gaining valuable work experience.
ITSA is committed to improving digital inclusion in its local community.
Since 2004, ITSA has collected over 90,000 computers and laptops in the UK, supplied more than 1,800 schools, installed 24 e-learning labs and given access to IT to five million schoolchildren.”
It provides IT equipment to small charities and community centres, and has recently opened a digital training centre, TECH Connect next to its Leckhampton offices near Cheltenham. TECH Connect provides free training to improve skills and confidence in digital technology.
Since 2004, ITSA has collected over 90,000 computers and laptops in the UK, supplied more than 1,800 schools, installed 24 e-learning labs and given access to IT to five million schoolchildren.
These centres, with 40 to 50 computers, have a transformational impact on the students, enabling children to use a computer by themselves, significantly improving their digital skills and enhancing their school education.
The charity’s programmes in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe ensure that the equipment is distributed to schools, providing technical assistance and basic IT training for teachers.
From the early days, ITSA has been lucky to receive the support of Rotary clubs in Gloucestershire.
Around Christmas each year, several Rotary clubs hold a collection at their local Tesco store for people to donate their old IT equipment.
In the 12 years which Rotary has supported ITSA, the clubs have collected 2,949 computers and laptops, giving access to IT education to some 250,000 students.
Rotary’s help has been invaluable to ITSA’s ongoing challenge to supply schools in Africa – not only giving more people an opportunity to donate their equipment, but also raising awareness of the huge need in Africa which IT Schools Africa is addressing.
The charity provides refurbished IT equipment to a number of community-based organisations in Gloucestershire.
This enables their users, many of whom are vulnerable and disengaged from society, to gain vital digital skills and access to online services.
In addition, TECH Connect, the charity’s new digital training centre, is helping local people develop their skills and confidence using e-learning technology.
As technology and consumer usage changes, ITSA faces a challenge to acquire enough equipment to send to Africa.
We are constantly short of equipment to fulfil shipments destined to Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe and other small digital projects in the continent.
For more information, visit the IT Schools Africa website.