As part of our drive to learn more about the need for computing in Malawi we have asked a number of Malawians, in business, academia and NGOs to tell us why they think I.T. education is important. This is the second post from James Gondwe, Executive Director of our partnership organisation in Malawi, CYD Malawi.
I have a strong passion for youth development. Yet in modern society we are unable discuss youth development without mentioning Information Communication and Technology (ICT). ICT defines the way youth work, study and spend their leisure time all over the world; hence computer education is a must for young people. Through Centre for Youth and Development I have been involved with Malaptop a Scottish Charity Organisations which sends out refurbished computers to Malawian Secondary Schools.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article on Computer Education in Malawian Secondary schools as a guest on Malaptop Blog. In my article I highlighted the importance of computer education in Malawi and why it should be promoted. I also highlighted some challenges computer education is facing in Malawi. One of the challenges that I highlighted was lack of hardware for the schools to effectively offer computer studies to students.
In this blog I will share with you a firsthand encounter I had at Mponela Community Day Secondary School. The school has 3 computers working in its computer lab out of the 7 that the school owns. Simon of Malaptop requested photographs of Mponela CDSS for a possible partnership with Stirling High School in Scotland. I personally visited the school and as luck would have it, I found Form 4 students taking computer studies examinations.
To my surprise I only found three students taking exams in the lab. “Are these the only students you have?” I asked the invigilator Mr. Kawonga. He replied with a quick “no” and explained that the school only has 3 working computers and that means students have to take turns to take the exams. Through this question I learned that the school has 26 students in form 4 and it expects 30 students to sit the Malawi National Examinations this year. This school also has about 40 students in form 3. Yet it only has 3 computers.
During last year’s National Examinations in Computer Studies, 7 students were locked in the examination room for more than 10 hours. 21 Students registered to write the computer studies examinations and with 7 computers only they had to take turns in writing the exams. The last group entered the examination room at 11:30 AM; a few minutes in the examination room electricity power went out. According to the examination rules and regulations, no one is allowed to go out of the room until they finish their paper. Electricity power came back around 9:30 PM. This kept me wondering- maybe if the school had enough computers they would all have written at once. Maybe if the school had a standby power generator students would not have had to stay in the examination room for such a long time.
Others have wondered whether computer education is a need for Malawi or probably a luxury Malawi cannot afford. Short interviews with children at the school revealed that computer education is a need in this era when technology defines our day to day life.
I believe computer education is very important, in institutions of higher learning and the job market, computer literacy is a must. Why not in secondary schools?”
Maybe Mponela CDSS is one of the few who are better off, some schools despite having a Computer Studies Teacher and the will to start this subject do not have a single piece of hardware to start offering the subject.