Missions Offer Rural Youth IT Training
Three Catholic missions in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal are the sites for successful computer schools for disadvantaged rural youth, established by the Netherlands’ HomePlan Foundation.
Students study for six months to sit exams for the International Computer Driving Licence, a skills certificate that is globally recognised, and so far 267 young people have graduated.
The computer schools are at St Scholastica in Mulima, Limpopo; uMusa woMsinga of the Augustinian Sisters in Pomeroy, KZN; and Duduza Care Centre at the Maria Ratschitz mission in Wasbank, KZN.
Local management has worked hand in hand with Ricus Dullaert, public affairs director of the HomePlan Foundation. The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s Aids Office in Pretoria has provided administrative support.
The first computer school to open was Pomeroy in 2015, and one year later the schools in Mulima and Wasbank.
Since then, the three schools have enrolled 382 students. Each school is equipped with 12-24 computers and has two teachers to help the students master the seven modules of the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL).
Teachers also help students with their English if it is found to be insufficient to understand the syllabus and to write the exam.
The next challenge for graduates is finding a job. Many students opt for internships at companies, including IT and construction firms, as most employers ask not only for a certificate but also for work experience.
So far, 48 students have found work either in the formal or informal sector, 21 are doing internships, and 11 have received bursaries to further their studies.
The results of a study to evaluate the impact of the three computer schools, done by Emilinah Namaganda, were shared with managers and teachers of the schools.
Ms Namaganda, employed by the Shared Value Foundation of Utrecht in the Netherlands, found that:
- 85% of the enrolled students are female.
- Students’ self-esteem is greatly boosted by the training.
- The chances of finding a job, or furthering a career or studies, are greatly enhanced by getting the ICDL certificate.
- Spending time at the computer school is a great alternative to crime; early pregnancies, in some instances to obtain a grant; and substance abuse.
- Finding work remains a challenge, and internships are the route most likely to result in long-term employment.