Youth At Risk Uganda held an ICT Youth Forum at Wampewo Secondary School in Kasangati, Uganda on 1 May, 2016 during the FASTAfrica action week about the importance of the Internet for education and career development, and the barriers to Internet access that still exist in spite of ongoing efforts to improve policies, infrastructure and costs.
Wampewo Secondary School was awarded $500 USD to improve the Internet in their library as part of an “Internet Affordability School Challenge” held by Youth At Risk Uganda.
The event was attended by around 80 students and 10 teachers from four primary schools and four secondary schools, along with representatives of leading Internet service providers, BroadBand Company, MTN, Africell, Airtel, and a representative of Uganda Communications Commission, the national regulator.
The mayor of Nangabo Subcounty, Tonny Kiyimba Sempebwa delivered the opening remarks, and spoke about opportunities for education with Internet but also of the risks for exposure to bullying and sexually explicit content. BroadBand’s chief executive officer, Rodney Raymond Rudman spoke about young people as ‘digital natives’ and how the company plans to increase Internet access and affordability.
Youth At Risk Uganda has worked with young people in urban and rural areas since 2009. A major focus of their work is advocating for the reduction in cost of broadband access via regulatory and policy changes, underpinned by research and knowledge sharing. They identify the major challenges for ICT in schools as…
1. Lack of qualified teachers to teach ICT in schools; The demand for ICT learning has been tremendous and the number of teachers who are trained to teach ICT cannot meet the demand. There are more students willing to be taught computing skills than there are teaches to transfer the skills.
2. Lack of computers; Computers are still very expensive and despite spirited efforts by the government agencies, NGO, corporate organizations and individuals to donate computers to as many schools as possible, there still remains a big percentage of the schools unable to purchase computers for use by their pupils.
3. Lack of electricity; Many schools are still not yet connected to electricity; Uganda being a developing country, the government has not been able to connect all parts of the country to the national electricity grid. Consequently those schools that fall under such areas are left handicapped and may not be able to offer computer studies.
4. Computers are still expensive, in a country like Uganda majority of the individuals and schools cannot afford to buy a computer and consider it as a luxury item, more expensive than a TV. While 2nd hand computers cost as little as $150 and branded new computers being sold at $500 or higher.
5. Broken down computers; while a good number of schools have benefited from donated used computers, they have not been adequately equipped with the same on maintenance and repair, hence its very common to see a schools computer lab full of broken down computers, some repairable and some not.
6. Burglary; the fact that computers are still very expensive in Uganda makes them a target for thieves who usually have ready markets to another party at a much less figure. This has made many schools to incur extra expenses trying to burglar proof the computer rooms. This extra expense makes some schools shy away from purchasing computers for their students.
7. Fear by the administration; there is still a strong perception especially by the older generation that computers require highly skilled personnel to operate them, while this may not be the case, some school administrators also fear that their students will be exposed to adult sites and other undesired sites, through the use of the internet. Some also fear the infection of viruses to their computers leading to data loss, while this may be true to some extent, proper education on the safe use of computers and help alleviate some of this fears.
8. Fear by the teacher, the teacher may fear being rendered irrelevant by the introduction of computers in his/her class. The ‘feel’ that the teacher still remains an authority and a ‘know it all’ in class is something that most teachers cherish, and anything that makes them otherwise is deemed an enemy of the classroom.
9. Lack of internet or slow connectivity; most schools are not able to connect to the World Wide Web, due to the high costs involved in the connectivity.
10. Lack of initiative by the community leaders; the community leaders who are charged with looking at the interests of a given community do not see the need to purchase and subsequent installations of computers to their schools as a priority. They consider health care, provision of water and other amenities as more important than buying computers for their schools.
11. Obsolete computers lower the morale of both the teachers and students; it is very common to find schools using very old computers running Windows 98 or Windows 95.
12. Increased moral degradation – internet pornography, cyber bullying and other anti-social behaviors is a worrying emerging problem.
The dilemma which arises in providing educational technology stems from a lack of financial resources and a limited distributive capacity. In addition, many African countries have not been able to employ teachers, and provide resources to keep up with this demand. This brings about compromised quality of education.
Students at the ICT Youth Forum were from Hormisdallen School, Wampeo Primary School, Seta Quality Primary School, Kampala Quality Primary School, Wampewo SS, Gayaza High School, Junction Star SS and Light College.
Youth At Risk Uganda was the recipient of a small grant from the World Wide Web Foundation for FASTAfrica activities.