I’m thinking a lot about this stuff at the moment. Whenever people are deciding to donate to a charity or support them in any way, they always make some sort of value judgement about them.
What I find frustrating at times is that many people form these judgements based on the brand of an organisation. So the big international charity that spends loads on a great advertising campaign generally gets picked.
People also make judgements based on the idea or cause underpinning a charity. So say if a charity is working in child health or education it’s generally thought well of, with little questioning as to how much it’s actually contributing to alleviating the problem.
In our case, people who go to Camara Schools make similar judgements. They’ll see a well-kitted out computer lab in a school where they didn’t expect to see one, and assume we’re doing a great job. Or, (and hopefully rarely) they’ll see a run-down computer lab and assume we’re doing a bad job.
One of the biggest indicators I think we should be judged on is as to how much our computers are actually used once they’re in schools. To date I’ve only really thought about the Hubs in Africa, and how well they’re using the resources we send them. It’s becoming more apparent to me that we have a long way to go in terms of building up school managers to the point that a computer lab is used constantly throughout the school week.
Another big element is the quality of the training delivered to kids. In some of the schools in Uganda (and kudos to Margaret for actually getting all of this information back) they don’t teach computers to teenagers in their senior years because it’s not on the syllabus. They simply say they don’t have time. What they’re obviously missing, and what the training we deliver should address, is that computers should enhance learning of traditional subjects, and if used properly there’s some strong evidence that they do.
In summary I’m beginning to get a better handle on the fact that the institutional capacities of the Camara Schools are going to be the big deciders as to how good a charity we end up being. We’re only doing this a couple of years so it’s a definite plus to even be able to identify this as a hurdle.
What Camara’s going to have to be about from here in, is ensuring that schools actually manage to use the technology, supports and training that we provide in a way that genuinely benefits their students. Given how badly resourced they are at the moment it’s a huge ask. If it doesn’t happen, then the whole concept of Camara is possibly too ambitious. If it does, then hopefully our schools should be able to leapfrog beyond where anyone imagines them going, and the kids in them should get the type of education that most students in Europe are able to expect.