by John Fitzsimons, CEO Camara Education
After two impressive stops in Kenya and Tanzania, it is with some trepidation that we move onto Zambia. From quite a few trips to our African hubs, I can’t think of a country more suitable for Camara than Zambia. ‘The bread basket of Africa’ is a very progressive and soon to be middle tier country. From the Ministry of Education down to schools, they have a great appetite for ICT in Education. Yet somehow we are not achieving our potential here and we have a few days to figure out why.
First thing in the morning, I have the opportunity to visit three schools. The first stop is Mahatma Ghandi Primary School for an unscheduled visit. We walk straight into the eLearning centre and my heart is instantly filled with joy. The room is packed with kids playing educational games, working on documents and utilising the technology to its full potential. I interviewed some of the students and wow, they were impressive! The only challenge they have is that there are 2,300 students and only 25 computers.
Next we travelled to King’s Highway Secondary school where we discovered another busy eLearning centre.
We also visited Chiwama Primary which proved to be no less impressive. I met the Principal of Chiwama Primary School, a very strong and impressive lady who works hard on behalf of her 4,400 pupils. She took us on a tour around the school and showed us a room which she plans to convert into a second eLearning centre, as soon as Camara can supply her with the computer equipment. She says that access to technology for her students gives them ‘survival skills’ for the 21st century. Wanting the best for her pupils she demands more computers. By next Monday!
Back at the Camara hub we have time to reflect on what we experienced in the schools and to consider what we heard from teachers. It is clear that what we are doing is working, the challenge is to scale our operations to meet the demand we witnessed. The team of seven at Camara Zambia are all working extremely hard but they are feeling the pressure. What is making this challenge so much greater here than it is elsewhere in the Camara network? Then it hits- volunteers!
Camara Zambia is an extremely successful hub, however the high level of demand for its services requires a huge amount of support in the form of volunteers. The hub has been working hard to develop a structured volunteer programme which will allow the team to move from ‘doing’ to ‘leading’ so that scale can be achieved.
If ever there was a reminder of the importance of volunteers, it was here in Lusaka, Zambia. Volunteers are the rock upon which Camara is built and the key to its continued success.