Connecting through Computers
EVCO seeks to affect positive change by facilitating computer literacy for school children in rural Ghana, Libera, Nigeria, and Egypt. Since 2004, EVCO has installed and donated 34 computer labs. Twenty thousand school children each year – most of whom would not otherwise have access – use computers made available through EVCO’s programs.
To ensure the success of its donations, the organization works with communities committed to a three-year partnership. EVCO provides computers, installation, training, and tech support, while participating communities provide appropriate school sites – secure, well-ventilated buildings with electricity, tables and chairs – as well as instructors, who will be trained by EVCO, to manage the lab facilities.
Continued support and connection make EVCO’s labs different from other technology donation programs in the region. Amy Gaylor Nedriga of Children Inspiring Hope, who partnered with EVCO to create a library and computer center, has experienced EVCO’s collaborative approach.
She explains, “Unlike some organizations that just plop down the computers and leave, EVCO develops relationships and stays connected, fostering a strong sense of international collaboration, community, and stewardship.”
As a child growing up in Ghana, Founder Seth Owusu believed that the schools he attended—uncompleted buildings with straw roofs, no electricity, and no books to speak of—were inferior to schools in the cities. His organization seeks to instill hope and pride in education: “What I have seen after a lab donation is a total self-confidence and belief in rural school again. The effect is not only on students; it is also about parents, who begin to pay attention to education and insist that their children go to school.”
This parent buy-in is critical because attending school is not free for African students. Seth explains, “When educational materials are lacking at a school, parents don’t see much reason to spend money on tuition.”
But when families see the seemingly limitless learning capacity offered by the new computers, they make school a priority. Parents understand that, with proper studies, students can figure out how to use technology to improve their lives.
In addition to renewed faith from parents, the computer labs improve attendance in other ways as well. Owusu believes the computers draw kids to school: “Kids want to be there to learn something new. They want to show up.”
Ayana Mustapha, who worked with students in an EVCO lab as an IT teacher, says that the computers “improve students’ confidence” through “a new way of learning.” Mustapha’s work with EVCO inspired him to continue his education at the University of Education, Winneba, where he studies physics.
EVCO typically sets up labs with a dozen networked computers to be used by about 400 students. As the technology becomes part of a school’s culture, communities seek out avenues to raise their own resources to build on what EVCO started for them.
“We have seen this ripple effect at the EP Primary Ho-Bankoe School,” Nedriga notes. “Since the school used the technology so effectively, the Ministry of Education donated more laptops to expand the program at this site.”
Whenever a new lab opens, the entire community joins to celebrate its efforts with a dedication ceremony. EVCO highlights the initiative of local leaders, the school community, citizens, and volunteers who came together make the lab a reality.
Nedriga, who attended the dedication ceremony for her organization’s collaborative project, likened the “unbridled joy and energy” around the event, with more than 1000 people in attendance, to the “jubilation we are used to seeing at major sporting events. We just don’t have that level of energy around academics in the United States. These labs are such a tremendous gift to the community.”
Through EVCO’s work, Owusu hopes “to inspire people all over Africa to sow a seed of patriotism and not sit on the sidelines waiting for someone to make change in the community. EVCO is reiterating the adage “it takes a village—indeed the entire village—to raise a child.”