Visiting a South African township

Self-sustaining community center meets technology

First ever place I landed in Sub-Sahara Africa is Johannesburg. It was late 90’s. I remember exactly how it felt: I was stunned and kept on trying to register why I knew so well this was the tip of Africa. It was warm with green beautiful trees I never saw before; and had this amazing color of a sunset falling on the thousands of people walking from work to their townships. The city has gotten much more advanced and crowded since.

 Johannesburg is a vast city inclusive of a downtown surrounded with well-developed suburbs and a number big townships where most of the population lives. The downtown is a ghost of a city mostly deserted as safety got worse. As you drive through the streets sky scrapers are deserted, entrances are blocked but city dwellers found a way to take over the buildings. The businesses moved to suburbs with their own business centers and shopping malls amongst pretty housing complexes with electronic safety systems around them where upscale living occurs.
And then there are the townships. There is Soweto, on one of its streets lives three Nobel Laurates inclusive of Nelson Mandela. There is Alexandra which at one time I danced with kids in the Intel computer club house to the great rap music they made on PCs. This time around it was time for my introduction to Tembisa. As we drove towards the airport and took a turn, came across vast hills full of small shacks made from cardboard, tin, brick and every other material. We had an Intel program to launch together with Siyafunda, a local NGO, teaching the disadvantaged folks in the community center how to use computers and entrepreneurship skills. Our South Africa Country Manager, who is a strong lady, accompanied me for the launch. It was amazing to see how this self-sustaining community center employed over forty folks; utilized recycling techniques, growing vegetables and chicken, and teaching local students, women and disabled folks how to use computers.
As we finished the ceremony, I moved on to chat with some of the folks in attendance. The first person I spoke to was a lady who happened to own one of the three internet cafes in Tembisa township! She got trained in the center, opened her own café, and now she was out here to get certified so that she can start giving certifications herself and make money! The other lady I spoke to started as a trainer in the community center we were in, and she grew to be a manager; and today is running another community center herself. It was amazing to meet a series of women who took their own fate into their hands. I was so humbled in Tembisa how disadvantaged communities create opportunities in a self-sustaining manner and was open to embracing technology. They had no fear and looked ahead.

Below is something i received from Rashid Mtandwa from Bilal Technical College, this is a follow up to my recent visit to South Africa.
“Here at Bilal Technical College the easy step Intel program was received with open arms and its implementation was integrated in the School teaching curricula for grade 6 and 7. Since its implementation the Intel program has brought a different approach into the Computer literacy program, we started with the community class on the 10th of April with 4 students enrolling for the MS Office course and gradually the number went steadfast at 17 students this week.
We have also discovered that for the older people who have enrolled for the MS office it has been a simple start though the understanding of using the mouse and keyboard is still novice and torrid to adopt they are moving at a good direction .Actually the INTEL EASY PROGRAM has sort of motivated and changed them  and they can work on their own they can type thus compared to when they first enrolled. Significantly in comparison to the other teaching programs it takes 3 or 4 weeks for some to be familiar with keys on the keyboard but what I have noticed with easy step and combing with the typing master program they really move fast.
During a visitation at the college the Gauteng Department of Education supervisors for Private School recommended the INTEL program and the College has been identified and given another opportunity to train students from townships schools to be trained at Bilal Technical College as from next. We shall provide training in Computer basics skills using the INTEL PROGRAM.
I have observed that the INTEL easy step it’s so easy to train with and exciting to classes and age groups and it removes fear of using the computer as at the very first day, I let them learn on how to use the computer.
Thanking you in anticipation”
Rashid Mtandwa
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