For the second time in as many weeks, Maun West MP, Ronald Ridge, on Monday condemned the government for halfheartedly giving out funds to the initiatives designed to assist the less privileged despite private and parastatal institutions’ hectic strides to uplift the lives of the group across the country.
At the children’s computer learning station launch in Maun, Ridge took a swipe at the government for not lending an aggressive helping hand financially to assist the private and parastatal organizations to empower the less privileged.
“Parastatal and private institutions are doing their best to empower the underprivileged Batswana. Government, however, sits on excess funds that could be utilized to empower the ordinary poor. Of late, BTC brought back a residue excess of P100 million from the telecommunications development sector. These are the government excess funds that should be injected into parastatals and private institutions. Government however sits on these funds. The government should be seen to be playing a dominant role financially in partnership with these institutions,” charged Ridge.
“Government fund should be in place with adequate finance. The private and parastatal groups should be injecting funds to the already established fund. These institution’s initiatives are designed to empower the poor.
Initiatives such as the children’s computers learning station that we are about to witness being launched are one of the examples that these institutions are determined to dish out to the less privileged. But the government seems reluctant to join the band wagon”, he noted, adding he was unimpressed by the status quo.
Ridge, who happens to be the area MP, was an official at the launch of the children’s computer station at Moremi Ward in Maun. The station was piloted by parastatals and private institutions, namely BOTA, CITF, GTZ, NIIT and Maun brigade.
The children/youth computer initiative, dubbed the ‘hole in wall’, was first conceived by Indian researcher Dr Mitra and caters for the children of ages 6 to 16. Mitra conducted experiments that revealed that semi-literate, disadvantaged children could quickly teach themselves rudimentary computer skills and internet exploration. The key concept here was that basic computing skills could be acquired by the children through incidental learning provided they are given access to suitable computing facilities with entertaining and motivating content and some minimal guidance.
Provision of unconditional access to computers to children initiated learning. Children formed groups that would do collaborative learning and that enhanced their skills as they interacted daily at these learning stations. The concept was a success in India and Cambodia.
BOTA and associates, impressed by the idea, initiated the pilot projects for the less privileged, one recently launched at Old Naledi in Gaborone and the other in Maun.
“I am pleased that BOTA and associates are introducing computer lessons to the less privileged children. I like it more as education investment is directed for the poor youth and children, especially those whose ages range from 6 ÔÇô 16. They are the leaders of tomorrow. They are the most vulnerable and marginalised areas and should not be overlooked,” Ridge noted.
While BOTA and associates could be given a pat on the back for such noble exercises, Ridge was quick to express fear of vandalism of resources.
“Computers today play a pivotal role. These properties should not be vandalized. These computers should also be monitored lest they corrupt the minds of the children. Websites and the internet should be protected,” Ridge pleaded.
Officially launching the Maun computer project the Minister of Education, Jacob Nkate, said the objectives of the ‘hole in the wall’ were, among others, to spread computer literacy among disadvantaged children and youth and to initiate literacy at a very early age.
He said the Gaborone and Maun computer stations were selected because of their accessibility to the targeted youth.
“The hole in the wall was designed to assist our children to learn not just basic skills but basic life skills of learning to interact with each other, sharing resources and developing leadership skills at an early age. The computer used here is similar to any other you know except that this one is customized to suit children’s needs. It has the software that has interactive games and internet services that children of ages 6-16 could explore on their own thus gaining not only just ICT skills but building confidence,” Nkate observed.
The Ngami MP attributed the ‘hole in the wall’ to the vision 2016 pillars and, in particular, the pillar that emphasises prosperity, productivity and an innovative nation, adding the skills the youth would derive from the projects would not just end in Gaborone and Maun. Some of the products, he said, are going to be engineers, IT specialists and would be less likely to be intimidated by the computer.
“We shall be boasting of many technical jobs in the hands of Batswana. Our intention is to empower the youth and urge them to use their skills together with government assistance schemes to create employment for themselves and for others”, Nkate said. “We know the youth have what it takes. They only need our support and nurturing to succeed. A project such as the ‘hole in wall’ can produce great scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs.”
For her part, the managing director of NIIT in Maun, BOTA companion, Sheela Raja Ram, promised the residents free basic computer lessons to start soon.
“Because the computer is important in today’s life NIIT Maun will in 4 months to come provide free basic computer courses to individuals who wish to do so,” she said.
The ‘hole in the wall’ pilot project is a joint venture project co-sponsored by BOTA, GTZ, NIIT and CITF and is aimed at empowering the less fortunate children.