“Education is the most powerful toll which you can use to change the world,” one of Africa’s eminent persons and South Africa’s first democratically elected President is quoted as saying.
Education experts and social scientists also support this by saying education is key to success because it empowers people to cope with the challenges of life with an informed mind.Camara, an International organization, is one of the organizations that has been using the saying to champion education transformation in various countries of the world through the use of technology.
It is dedicated to use technology to improve education and livelihood skills in disadvantaged communities around the world. It believes that with better education, communities are able to break the cycle of poverty they find themselves in.Founded seven years ago in Dublin, Ireland, the organisation has built a proven model of ‘education delivery’ that is sustainable.
Available information indicates that some 340,000 children in poor communities, where Camara is operating, have been made digitally literate in a period of seven years.Camara has provided eLearning Centres to 1,650 schools in several countries in Africa, Ireland and the Caribbean, installed nearly 30,000 computers and trained over 5,000 teachers how to use the technology for learning purposes.
It currently operates seven Education Hubs in Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Uganda, Lesotho and now Tanzania which is expected to be officially launched in September, this year. It has one hub in Jamaica and one in Ireland. All Hubs operate as social enterprises and are financially sustainable after one year.
It deals in hardware, software, training in maintenance of computers and transformation of education, the kids in the 21st Century skills. Camara Education is a registered Irish Charity supported by the Irish Government and by charitable donations. These includes computer companies-intel and Dell.
The word Camara is derived from a West African bantu languages-meaning; the one who teaches with experience.
It is a volunteer-based organisation that uses technology to improve the lives of disadvantaged communities in Ireland, Africa and Jamaica.
Its vision is ‘world where even the poorest have access to quality education.’ Camara operates as a social enterprise and operates in two distinct business lines: ‘Electronic waste reuse’ and ‘Education delivery’. The connection between these two, seemingly disparate business units is technology
Edna Lyatuu-Hogan is the founding Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Camara, Tanzania Office. For the past two month, she has been busy setting up the office at Kurasini B, in Dar es Salaam region. Born and grew up in Tanzania, Ms Edna joined Tanzania School of Journalism now the School of Journalism and Mass Communication University of Dar es Salaam in 1999 and graduated in 2002.
While in college she had a short stint with the Daily News as a correspondent and also on a part-time basis as a Radio broadcaster in the English service of the then Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam.After college, she worked as in intern on the role of Public Relations Officer for CONCERN-Tanzania, an Irish Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) operating in the country. In 2003, she moved to Ireland after meeting her future husband.
In Ireland, Ms Edna got a job in the bank in Human Resources Department. At the same time she enrolled for further studies with the Institute of Bankers in Ireland where she studied Financial Services and Management.Edna worked hard and her banking career took off and within a short period she was promoted to the management level.
Despite being a professional banker, Ms Edna still uses her journalistic skills every now and then and works closely with the Irish National media. For example, last year she made a well received documentary for Radio One-the Irish National radio.Edna has just finished writing two books, a novel that is still being edited professionally and a poetry book that is ready for publication.
The idea to bring Camara to Tanzania was conceived by the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda when he visited Ireland in 2009 on official visit. During his visit, Premier Pinda gave lecture at a university community in Dublin, the capital of Ireland.He shared with the university community on the country’s experience of overseeing the implementation of key priority Sectors in the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty and the challenges faced.
He expressed strong feeling that if joint efforts from both the the government and the Development Partners are put together in the sectors of Agriculture, Roads infrastructure, Education and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Tanzania will make a breakthrough in its efforts to combat poverty and achieve sustainable development.
According to him, the Education Sector is an area which has been accorded priority since independence. To-date, enrolment rate has reached 97 percent. With these results, the country is on track to achieving the Second Millennium Development Goal regarding enrolment in Primary Education for both boys and girls.
The government through the Education Sector Development Program (ESDP) is working hard to consolidate the by improving quality of education through recruiting more teachers, optimizing effective use of available resources, reinforcing capacity to manage schools, addressing gender disparity in schools and improving transition rate from primary schools to secondary school levels.
The government recognises that with the rising demand for technology, Tanzanians require at least Secondary School Education to cope with development challenges under the environment of global competition. To address this challenge, it is implementing a Medium Term Plan (2005 -2010) which requires Local Government Authorities to establish Secondary Schools on every Ward, under participatory approach.
Under this approach, impressive progress has been recorded. Secondary school enrolment has increased by 254 percent from 432,599 students in 2004 to 1,222,403 in 2008. Similarly, the number of secondary schools built has increased by 194 percent from 1,291 in 2004 to 3,798 in 2008. However, such success stories are always coupled with challenges. The government has not been able to provide laboratories for Science Subjects to every school.
It is also facing shortage of teachers especially Science Teachers. The increase in number of secondary school leavers has also led to increased number of students who qualify for admission into Higher Learning Institutions. The number of both public and private universities in the country has increased from 17 in 2003 to more than 40, this year.
Similarly the number of students enrolled in universities has increased from 23,213 in 2003 to more than 100,000 last year. This number is set to increase further come September, this year. Despite the increase of universities and students enrolment, still the number of students enrolled into universities does not exceed 50 percent of qualifying candidates.
In the wake of the current global competitive economy, investment in ICT has a large pay-off. I am informed that central to Ireland’s current success is its heavy investment and highest concentration on the ICT, of course without negating the role of better of education at all levels. To-date, Ireland is one of the World’s Leading Software Industries. I commend the Leaders and People of this lovely Country for the remarkable achievements in the Sector of Education, including ICT.
ICT Development in Tanzania is still in its infant stage. Since 1990s, we have pursued ICT Development Strategy that has focused on promoting ICT as an enabler of socio economic development. Initially, we envisaged to use ICT to make our economy Regionally and Internationally competitive and at the same time enabling the economy to address its socio-economic development goals.
In view of this, the following measures have been undertaken by the Government:Since the introduction of these ICT reform measures, Tanzania’s performance in connectivity has improved substantially compared with where it was before. However, the levels are still low compared with other African and South East Asian Countries.
For example, the number of fixed and mobile phones currently stands at 21 per 100 people and the number of internet users is 0.99 per 100 people compared to an average of 5.46 per 100 people to other Sub Saharan African Countries. The major challenge we face is on increasing ICT penetration levels to Rural Population especially in Schools.
Also, we face the problem of low level of technology to exploit the potential of ICT for exports. Further, the slow progress for Private Sector participation in Development of Computer Application Packages is another challenge. Currently, no local manufacture of ICT equipment and accessories is being undertaken in Tanzania.
It is against this point that compelled the Prime Minister, Pinda to visits Camara organisation at the Digital Hub in March 6, 2009
Accompanied by the then Irish Ambassador to Tanzania, ms Anne Barrington, and Professor Peter Msolla, Member of Parliament for Kilolo (CCM) and former Minister for the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, Premier Pinda invited Camara to Tanzania.
Mr Philip Flynn, the CEO of the Camara Ireland Digital Hub, briefed the Prime Minister what the organization does, as well as experiences from the countries where Camara is operating. The 10 minutes meeting he had with Camara leadership and talk with some of the people working there was enough to understanding better what the organization stands for and convinced that it will go a long way in transforming education in the country. He invited Camara to the country.
Ms Edna says as she and a team of volunteers work to set up the office at Kurasini, already she has received lots of inquiries and applications from across the country. Those received already are from Zanzibar, Morogoro, Mbeya, Kilimanjaro and a host of secondary schools from the three districts of Dar es Salaam region-Kinondoni, Ilala and Temeke.
“Most of those who have inquired about Camara have relatives living in UK, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana where the organization has been in operation and registered impressive success,” she said in an interview with the Daily News in Dar es Salaam recently.
Like anywhere in Africa, Europe and South America, Camara staff are working as volunteers. Before accepted to volunteer for Camara, one has to undergo a three-months training after which one is awarded an International Certificate recognised by the Ministry of Education (in countries where it is operational).
We hope the same will happen for Tanzania because we plan to work very closed with the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Education. She is due to meet Camara adopts a social enterprise model that sells Camara package to schools at heavily subsidised prices making them affordable and valued to even the most disadvantaged communities.
Camara refurbish high quality three-five years’ old computers. These computers are sent to hubs where they are loaded with relevant educational software before being distributed to schools.A range of training programmes are designed to meet the individual needs of school teachers.
In Africa this programme covers basic computer literacy skills and courses in areas such as ‘Train the Trainers’, and maintenance. In more developed countries courses cover areas such as Virtual Learning Environments and the pedagogy of ICT.Camara engages computer technicians who support the sales contract signed by each school with technical backup ranging from six to 36 months.
At the end of their useful lives, computers are returned to the Hubs and replaced with a comparable machine. Obsolete equipment is then recycled by accredited recycling partners.Camara’s impact will be measured in three-year plan. During this time, it expects to give 1.25 million children opportunity to improve their lives by becoming digitally literate and improving their education.
This will be done by setting up 3,000 eLearning Centres in schools in Africa and the Americas, training 10,000 teachers how to use the centres to improve learning, open new education hubs and service centres to support the schools and improve the quality of the Camara eLearning package.
Camara has won a number of awards. These include; The Vodafone World of Difference Award; The Arthur Guinness Award; The David Manley Award; The Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award; The Lord Mayor’s Award (Dublin); and The Global Development Network ‘Most Innovative Development Project’ Award.
By ICHIKAELI MARO, Tanzania Daily News