The PC Wize Trust was registered in mid-2010 and started operating in 2011 in East London. The PC Wize Trust’s goal is to help poor children in the Eastern Cape become computer literate. The problem in the Eastern Cape is that 80 percent of mostly black schools in townships and rural areas do not have computers. The children who attend these schools never get to sit in front of a personal computer (PC). How can they ever become computer literate in these circumstances?
When it was decided to train technicians to help with the refurbishment of computers for schools there were certain realities that cropped up. Firstly a look at available training material led to the conclusion that all of it had been written in first world countries and comprised mostly only of theory. Students would learn it like parrots and pass the exam, but the minute they get to the workbench they do not know what to do and thus have to start learning all over again, defeating the whole object of the exercise.
The universal truth of ‘one good photo is worth a thousand words’ kicked in and it was decided to produce a new training manual that would be more visual rather than just written words. The PC Wize Trust also decided to only include in the manual what a technician has to know to be able to the job competently. For instance, he does not have to know how the processor executes the calculations, rather, he has to know how to determine if the processor is working correctly and how to replace it if is defective.
The manual was written and tested on a pilot course that included one deaf student and one semi-literate student. With the deaf student there was no verbal communication at all, yet he passed with flying colors. The semi-literate student also passed easily and both are now competent computer technicians. They were given the visual theory in the morning and then went onto the workbench and applied it in practice. It is on the workbench where most of the training actually takes place. There is no better way to train a computer technician.
There are several problems associated with giving computers to poor black schools and they have to be addressed if any degree of long term success is to be achieved. It must be acknowledged that the computers are going to semi computer literate instances and that even the teachers at such schools are not always fully computer literate. Unintended problems with both software and hardware will occur through human error. Most of these schools are far away from IT support centres and they do not have the finances to pay for any hardware, or software repairs. With the result that in a relatively short time most of the donated computers will be shut down, completely defeating the object of the exercise.
It is imperative to train one person, male or female, to firstly be able to repair any hardware problems that might occur with the donated computers and keep them running smoothly. This person must be trained as a full computer technician and also be able to repair any software problems that occur through human error. The technician must also receive International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) training so that he/she can in turn train others at the schools where computers will be installed. If the schools open the computer centres to the community in the afternoons they can also receive ICDL training and pay a small fee, the instructor can then earn a living for his services. If these conditions are not strictly applied it completely defeats the object of the whole exercise of trying to get the youth and communities computer literate.
There is no problem with the collection of old computers, in fact most people do not know what to do with their old computers and therefore willingly donate them. It is not good practice to dump old computers as they contain hazardous substances that can cause serious environmental and health hazards. If all the computers that are thrown away or destroyed in South Africa are collected and refurbished, there will soon be computers in every school in South Africa and the youth, who are the leaders of the future, will become computer literate. To recycle old computers is good practice and a green concept.
The Trust has so far trained 52 technicians and has donated just over 500 computers to various schools through the province. This has been accomplished with no financial support from anyone.
To view PC Wize Trust in the Prodder NGO Directory, click here.