Digital donation a big step forward

Tanzania is known by visitors for a few things, abundant wildlife, welcoming locals and beautiful landscapes. However, for local students and teachers alike the country can be known for the unpredictable and often lengthy power shortages that disable lighting, refrigeration and desktop computers that are relied on for businesses, health, teaching and of course learning.

Katoke has been blessed with the installation of a backup generator that keeps a small supply running when the national grid fails to deliver. This essential contingency allows enough energy to keep food supplies fresh and lights on but does not provide any coverage for the student-work-deleting blackouts. When the desktop machines lose power, hours of teaching energy and student focus is gone. 

Recognising the importance of future-proofing careers, Katoke built a computer science lab in 2009. The desktop computers in the lab were nearing a decade-old. The need for an upgraded fleet of computers that could efficiently deal with power-cuts and contemporise the students’ digital education was prioritised. Katoke Trust’s fundraising committee, led by founder Prof. Alan Watson AM, had committed all available funds to the next building phase onsite in Tanzania. They needed a solution to the PC power-struggle and there was no funding on the way.

Then, it happened… And by it, we mean Alan’s unbreakable ability to inspire others to reach out a helping hand for his amazing cause.

At a men’s breakfast event, held at Alan’s church in Sydney’s Sutherland shire the conversation and tea flowed. Alan recalls, “I sat and chatted with two men; one introduced himself as a Christian philanthropist. I wondered, hmmm?”. Hmmm indeed.

After delivering an account of his work at Katoke the men were hooked, like so many before who have been lucky enough to hear Alan speak of his work. Alan was informed that one of his new breakfast buddies was looking for a philanthropic opportunity. Calculating that AUD$30,000 would “cover it” the order was placed.

The amount ‘covered’ an order for 21 Lenovo Thinkpad laptops, powerful enough to help the students get their hands Q-W-E-R-T-Y learning on up to date software.

When asked about the donors’ motives Alan simply offered that “This generous man has a passion for Africa”, retaining his identity. 

Students working on new Lenovo ThinkPad laptops in class

This generous contribution has helped Katoke students access the skills and information vital to their successful futures. However, the need for adequate computer hardware, internet access and qualified teaching and support staff is hindering the potential of students and learning outcomes.

Students can regularly be seen running to the Computer room, partly out of excitement and partly out of the desire to be one of the lucky ones that get to pilot a machine. The reality is that there is only 1 computer to 2 students. Rarely do the students allocate themselves evenly throughout the room leading to as many as 6 students crowding around one small screen, as observed in classes at the time of writing. The swarms of eager eyes also cause a human wall for teaching staff who find it difficult to monitor students onscreen activity and limit distractions.

The distracting influence of the inadequate amount of machines is only compounded by regular power cuts (on average about 4 hours a day during class time), unreliable internet supply despite tireless efforts to get connected via satellite and a lack of technical support to keep things running consistently.

Students crowd around computers during class

There is no doubt that the generous deposit of laptops has been a “big step forward” according to School Head Ken Lanford-Smith, but there is still a long way to go before Katoke students can be properly prepared for the modern working environment.

Not everyone can donate 21 shiny new laptops, but there is something you can do…

It could be as simple as donating a few of your hard earned to help fund an IT technician to visit the school for a day (around AUD$20) or you could help with some much-needed funding for one of the 20 additional computers.

It’s as simple as clicking here to DONATE NOW

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