Like most schools in Togo, the schools in the mountainous canton of Kuma lack most resources. How is it possible - without resources - to combat school truancy, motivate boys and girls, and provide them with the skills they need to embrace the future with confidence?
'I feel like a 21st century illiterate, because I can't work with a computer.' This statement by a French and History teacher at the College Kuma Tokpli got the ball rolling.
The idea emerged by chance during a trip through Togo. We wanted to familiarise young people and their teachers with IT and communication technologies, through a user-friendly and durable infrastructure.
After months of preparation, we had collected more than a ton of ready-to-use equipment. More than enough to equip the college with its first computer room with 25 workstations, a local network, a printer, a projector, interactive screens, etc.
I feel like a 21st century illiterate, because I can't work with a computer
From the IT centre in Kuma to INITIC
In October 2012, the Centre Informatique de Kuma opened its doors to the public in a small building which was previously used by farmers. It was refurbished by a village team. After the installation of a safe electrical circuit, a local network and the equipment itself, the first immersion classes took place.
Since then, we have set up a further two IT classrooms in Kuma Adamé, and in the Collège St-Esprit in Kpalimé. We have provided training to around 12 teachers, and more than 1000 young people. With the financial support of several friends, Enfance Tiers Monde and the City of Nivelles, we transformed a small building in Tokpli into a permanent IT classroom. Even teachers based far from Kuma can come and discover the added value of ICT at the school.
Four years later, most children younger than 12, and many other young people from neighbouring villages, have taken IT immersion classes. They acquired digital skills up to a level which we would refer to as 'basic knowledge' here. Some of them have broadened their skills, and would like to continue in IT.
We would like to extend the initiative to other schools in Togo, beyond the Kuma canton. That is why we gave our project a new name: INITIC ("Initiation aux TIC", or 'ICT immersion').
The INITIC project would now like to set up classrooms in schools themselves, with affordable, economical and low-maintenance nano-computers, such as the Raspberry Pi. In any case, this is more sustainable and cheaper than using end-of-life computers from Europe, which can break down and are expensive to repair.
We want to collect the necessary resources to set up at least one new classroom in a different school in Togo every year. The project should encourage other communities and organisations to incorporate this model of school IT infrastructure.
During the academic year 2013-14, I took a year out to focus exclusively on the project in Kuma. Now I go there twice a year. Of course the most exciting aspects are the preparations with the local community, teaching the young people, and sharing expertise with local teachers in the partner schools. And of course, that magical moment when the students' eyes light up with joy because they have learned a new skill, that's what you do it for!
Dominique Laloux, enseignant en informatique.
INITIC : une action indépendante au Togo qui met des salles informatiques à disposition des écoles.
Faciliter l'acquisition par les jeunes Togolais de compétences numériques encore trop souvent inaccessibles.