Research conducted in 2008 by South Africa's Department of Basic Education showed that over 90% of schools had no computers at all for students to learn computer literacy from. A disturbing number considering that the world has shifted into the knowledge economy as we also get Afrika ready to benefit from the fourth industrial revolution.
That statistic has likely not changed much in 2018. Especially when you consider that many government-funded schools in South Africa are still battling with basic needs and cannot prioritize any funds for building computer labs in order to be able to offer computer literacy as a subject.
Anda Ngcaba, Chairman at Born To Be Free.
One organization, Born To Be Free, believes it can make a dent on this statistic.
"As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution the future leaders of Africa need to be adequately equipped to ensure they partake and are not left as spectators as has been the case in the past. But how does one adequately equip themselves for this new dawn? This can be done in numerous ways, but the foundation lies in one’s ability to interact with technology around them," said Anda Ngcaba, Chairman at Born To Be Free.
"As opposed to trying to install a computer center in every school around South Africa, Born To Be Free takes time to find one or more schools per area where all students in the area can come and learn basic computer skills. These classes are held on Saturday mornings and run for two hours and they are for students ranging from grade 4 to 7. After 4 weeks, the students are given an assessment to analyze their performance."
Ngcaba goes on to explain that instead of just installing computers in underprivileged schools, Born To Be Free realized that most times the teachers at the schools are not equipped to teach the students' computer basics.
"This is where our volunteer program started, as an organization, we seek volunteers from universities in the area who are able to take time aside on a Saturday to educate the future leaders of tomorrow."
With Khanyisa Jam Jam as Chief Executive Officer and Ngcaba as Chairman, Born To Be Free has put together a team of young committed professionals to make their mission a reality. However, it hasn't been all smooth sailing as the organization relies also on volunteers for their Saturday School program.
"One of the biggest hurdles we experienced last year was the lack of volunteers for our Saturday school program. However, despite this hurdle, we were still able to conduct our program successfully and train over 50 kids," said Ngcaba yo iAfrikan.
Also, given that setting up computer labs in which the Born To Be Free Saturday School can be carried out costs money, funding appears to have a problem that Ngcaba and his team came across, forcing them to raise money from friends and family as Ngcaba explained.
"Another hurdle was trying to get funding from corporates in Cape Town, after sending countless emails we barely received a response. And when we eventually did we would be told that their community outreach budget is finished. Thus, we had to raise funding from our peers and family members,"
In 2017, Born to Be Free built a computer center at West End Primary in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. The center looks to attract students from all over Mitchells Plain to teach them computer literacy. Even with the Mitchells Plain in operation, it sometimes proved difficult to get students to attend the Saturday School program.
"During gang initiation season in Mitchells Plain, the parents were scared to let their kids leave home. Thus Saturday school attendance dropped during that period," said Ngcaba.
Despite all this, Born To Be Free were able to train over 50 students in Mitchells Plain and in 2018 they are aiming to train 200 students as they are now looking to open a second computer center in Cape Town.
"Born to Be Free is also looking to partner with individuals or organizations who wish to help us expand our operations, all the material we teach our students is available online for anyone to make use of. We consider ourselves an open-source NPO, in the sense that we allow for anyone to open a Born to Be Free center and have access to all of our teaching material," concluded Ngcaba.