Digital Education for African Children

A Cheltenham based charity, IT Schools Africa (ITSA), has been providing computer equipment and training to schools in countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and Madagascar.

Together with partner Computers for African Schools (CFAS), the charity has sent 27,000 used computers to Africa. It has equipped over 1,000 African schools with IT labs, provided IT training for over 650 teachers and enabled IT education for over five million children.

“We believe transforming education is one of the best tools for improving the lives of individual Africans and helping develop their countries,” explains ITSA’s programme director Tim Barnes, adding: “African children are a great investment. They deserve to be part of the digital era.”

ITSA receives donations of used PCs from UK companies, organisations and individuals. After data-wiping and refurbishing them, they are sent to Africa and distributed. While there are much larger UK organisations, such as Computer Aid, who also supply computer equipment to African schools, ITSA provides a more comprehensive service because it offers IT teacher training, as well as technical backup and support.

We believe transforming education is one of the best tools for improving the lives of individual Africans and helping develop their countries

The charity is also working with the local community in the UK, providing ‘back to work’ programmes for the unemployed and work placements for disadvantaged young people from Ruskin Mill College, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire. It runs a restorative justice programme in four UK prisons – Whitemoor, Winchester, Long Lartin and Stafford – where 100 prisoners refurbish the computers and learn skills they can use on their release.

“Our refurbishment programme gives prisoners the opportunity to learn about the needs of others and of their ability to help them,” explains John O’Neill, head of regimes at Whitemoor prison, “which improves their self-esteem, making them feel restored with the world outside and more positive about their place within it.”

ITSA’s programmes also help the environment, as refurbishment and reuse is the most efficient way to dispose of old equipment. It has been estimated that of the total energy used in a PC’s life, 80% is consumed during the production phase, as opposed to 20% during its use.

“Reusing IT equipment saves energy and resources, prevents hazardous materials from ending up in landfill and is 20 times more effective than recycling at saving life-cycle energy use,” says Tim. However, when the computers do finally reach the end of their days, ITSA works with its distribution partners in Africa to ensure the parts are recycled.