Every Wednesday, from 11am to 1pm, the Ntengwe volunteers meet with students from Zambezi Technical College here in Binga. Students here range in age from 18-25, following various disciplines and number 11 at present; soon to expand to over 30. We have divided our 8 person team into 4 groups, each of which take a different subject.

This Wednesday, Lucky (national volunteer) and I, Peter (UK volunteer), hosted our first ICT training workshop. Lucky was delayed in a meeting with a stakeholder, leaving me to present our workshop alone. I gathered in the 8 students, into the small, bare classroom. They brought with them their seats, white plastic garden chairs, and placed themselves along the grey/brown concrete walls; far from my flip-chart paper with handwritten plans at the front. Next to me, three computers sat in a row- each one yellowed with age.

From my understanding, the students had little knowledge of computers; how little, I didn’t know until I asked them for myself.  

“Who here uses a computer on a regular basis?” Blank faces and not a single hand moved.  “Who here knows how to use a computer?” Same reaction: no reaction.

I had prepared an introductory session - file keeping and maintenance.  I explained the principles of cutting, pasting and moving files, and then demonstrated the procedure, pulling the wooden chair from the desk and waving the heavy mouse to wake the computer. This will be new for me too, I thought, as I witnessed the foreign screen come to life slowly. This computer must be from the early 90s and had next to no resemblance to the computers we now use. 9 people now stared at a computer screen looking a little lost.

Still, the principles are the same on every computer, I told myself quietly, before repeating loudly for the rest to hear. I got to grips with it enough to practise what I taught, demonstrating basic file operations. I encouraged each person to take a turn to practise, encouraged by how little guidance they needed to do such operations even though some of the students had obviously never used a computer before.

Peter's ITC session

It will take a long time with the students to get them familiar to ICT, especially with such basic tools in which to practise on. This is one of the main challenges here in rural Zimbabwe for development workers - basic lack of infrastructure. The commitment to learning and the desire to build on their capacities is there - all that is needed is the knowledge and skills to move forward with.

But, with ICT, as with many of the things we do, we have to adapt what we deliver and how we deliver it, to the resources we have. If we create a base from which people can build from, we can empower them to take control and benefit themselves.  

By Progressio ICS UK volunteer Peter Jones