BUILDING DIGITAL LITERACY SKILLS
While most of us recognize the importance of using basic word processing and spreadsheet programs, and accessing the internet for information and communications, people in many parts of the world do not have access to computers or opportunities to learn basic computer skills.
Following on-site professional development workshops presented by Words Into Deeds in 2019, teachers listed as their top unmet educational needs: in-school computers and digital training opportunities for themselves and their students, and support for student outreach projects, which are key elements of the Words Into Deeds curriculum.
In partnership with Friends of UNIFAT and Ithaca Rotary Club, Words Into Deeds raised funds to establish a DIGITAL LEARNING CENTER. This required renovating two large rooms, purchasing 30 laptop computers, installing a video projectors and large TV screen, upgrading internet access, and hiring a full-time IT specialist/teacher. These were completed in mid, 2020, and classes for students and teachers began despite the school being closed due to COVID.
At the beginning of planning for this facility, a committee of teachers, administrators and students was formed to develop guidelines for use of the center and design curricular goals for each grade level. They were responsible for drafting assessing the needs and capacity of solar power.
Teachers attending computer-training class.
Electric power outages are almost daily occurrence in Gulu, which compromised use of this center, especially hindering access to the internet and having ZOOM communications with partners. To overcome this, the same group of partners raised money to engage a Raleigh, NC-based NPO called All We Are, which has its own Uganda-based engineering team and had installed 40 solar systems for schools and villages. Installation was completed in July, 2021, and UNIFAT became the first primary school in the region to have solar power-supported computer educational facility.
Staff and students celebrate the installation of solar power at UNIFAT. The panels are visible behind the fence.
This facility is fully used six days a week, with lessons and schoolwork time for students and teachers, access to internet resources for classes, and ZOOM capacity for project planning as well as school administrative functions.
The benefits to UNIFAT students and teachers are incalculable. Recent graduates are now teaching their high school peers – and in one case their teachers – how to use computers. Teachers are using spreadsheets to track their students performance, and incorporating digital resources into their classroom activities. The current Gender Equity-WASH program is thriving, which could not have been planned and launched without frequent ZOOM conferences. And, as evidenced by remarks by many parents, having this facility was a major reason they selected UNIFAT for their children’s education.
UNIFAT teachers and students sharing the outcomes of their community outreach projects via ZOOM teleconferencing with global peers and youth leaders at a Youth Empowerment Summit held in April, 2022.
In addition to peer-to-peer and partner teleconferencing, students used ZOOM capability to join an Ithaca Rotary Club meeting, and each student thanked the members for their support of UNIFAT. This is mark of citizenship in action.