puttnam sophie holly

Lord Puttnam with students from Mercy Secondary School, Inchicore, Left, Sophie and Right, Holly.

Lord David Puttnam, Digital Champion of Ireland, visited the Camara Education workshop in Chapelizod to congratulate the social enterprise on providing 40,000 computers to disadvantaged schools in Ireland, Africa and the Caribbean. The container Lord Puttnam sent off, currently on its way to Tanzania, will add to the 500,000 children whose education Camara has enhanced since its inception seven years ago. By refurbishing used computers that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away and pairing them with crucial teacher training, Camara delivers digital literacy skills, giving children from disadvantaged communities a route out of poverty.

“We are delighted to celebrate Camara’s 40,000th computer dispatched in the company of such a distinguished guest,” said John Fitzsimons, CEO of Camara Education. “Camara is a community of people who believe that poverty is wrong in the 21st century, that education is the key to alleviating it and that technology has the power to radically transform education. Pooling our resources together, we have been able to make a difference in the lives of half a million children. These children would otherwise not have access to the technology necessary to develop digital literacy, an essential skill to not only attaining employment, but also creating it.”

Students from Mercy Secondary School in Inchicore, who have benefitted directly from Camara computers, training and educational software, were at the workshop to give Puttnam a demonstration on the effects of ICT in education. Mercy is one example of a school that has prospered thanks to the introduction of technology in the classroom and the promotion of digital literacy.

“Camara has provided us with supportive training with students and teachers,” said Mercy principal Treasa Lee. “We have to make sure the teacher skills are keeping up with the students’ skills because they’re way ahead of us in things in IT. We’ve seen that in the last five or six years we’ve been working with Camara. They’ve helped us and we’re very appreciative of that.”

Lord Puttnam, a proponent of education reform and member of the board of Promethean, an education technology firm, has won ten Academy Awards, 26 BAFTAs and a Palm D’Or for film production. During his visit to the Camara workshop, he expressed appreciation for the work Camara does to improve education through the use of technology.

“Camara hits a whole lot of targets,” said Puttnam. “Number one, the fact that they’re using old, disused equipment and giving it a new life for people in other countries, and indeed here in Ireland. Real credit has to go to the head teacher at Mercy for having the confidence to say, ‘We can’t do it on our own. You know what? I’m good, my school is good, but we need help.’ The attitude in Ireland tends to be, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Well, the truth is, the system, to an extent, is broke, and it needs fixing.”

Camara Ireland (a branch of Camara Education) is part of the answer to this problem. Through the provision of low cost, high quality refurbished computers, teacher training and educational training, they provide low income schools in Ireland the opportunity to enhance their students’ education at an affordable price.

“Average is over,” said Puttnam, emphasising the importance of developing digital literacy skills. “For this generation, the young people we’re here with today, there is no average. They’ve got to be better than average in order even to get a decent job. And if they can be much better than average, they’re going to get great jobs. That is the real challenge for Ireland: It is no longer of any use at all just aiming to be average.”

Camara takes in computers from individuals and businesses alike. Every computer donated to Camara is wiped seven times in accordance with US Department of Defence standard 5220.22-M before being refurbished and loaded with educational software. When combined with training, technical support, and end-of-life recycling facilitated by Camara, these computers have the potential to provide thousands of people in marginalised communities the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty they find themselves in.