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Mobile computer class a big hit

An unused, dilapidated caravan has been restored into a place of learning, granting youths in remote, vulnerable and underprivileged communities access to computers and the worldwide web.

Itai Shumba, a resident of Broadlands Village, hopes his mobile computer class will aid the development of children and unlock hidden intelligence which often falls by the wayside due to a lack of funding. The Zimbabwean national and founder of Muono Projects set out on his journey to reach out to and help in the education of underprivileged children in 2013, when he donated desktop computers to schools.

However, the qualified electrician soon realised the computers were not being used by the learners, but mostly the teachers. Determined to continue tapping into and developing young brains, he decided to change his way of doing things.

As a youngster, Shumba dreamt of one day becoming a scientist, but when his father passed away, he was forced to enter the workforce to help feed his family. Today, the married father of two runs his own business and wants to use his innovation to help youths from underprivileged communities as “there are so many ideas, potential and brilliant minds that are falling by the wayside”.

In 2015, he designed and developed a mobile computer classroom using the chassis of an old caravan and kitted with desktop computers, solar power and all the electronics needed for functionality. The second prototype was designed, implemented and tested at two Cape schools last year; it is currently stationed at schools in rural Zimbabwe.

“The second generation mobile computer classroom has 10 laptops instead of desktop computers, as well as a UPS system, solar power and WiFi connectivity to improve functionality and access to the internet,” Shumba explains.

“I aimed to create a versatile unit that can be used anywhere, therefore we rebuilt it to suit the needs of the young users. We want to harness all potential ideas so that we can develop young minds. We hope that the information gathered from the programme can be used for research.”

The feedback received from the two local schools, Better Foundation and Crosspoint Academy, was positive.

Shumba along with committee members in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi are focused on further developing and expanding the project to the rest of Africa. They are monitoring the progress, service and performance of the programme, and looking at ways to improve it by granting children in rural areas the opportunity to explore the digital world.

Muono Projects is in the process of gaining the patents for the concept and plans to engage with education departments on how the programme could assist them in furthering education.

Shumba believes this initiative could be a “game changer” in the education industry, as it is hassle free and is inexpensive to monitor. “There is not much overhead and the mobile classroom requires no security, as it can be stored anywhere,” he says.

The passionate innovator was adamant that he is not driving the project to get rich or win success; his main objective is to shape young minds. With little to no funding, he has backed the project by digging into his own pockets to create both prototypes and needs financial backing to further develop and improve the programme.

To date the two mobile computer classroom prototypes have cost R54 000 and an estimated R80 000 is needed to further enhance the project. “Whether we receive financial input or not, I will continually strive to better the project so that it can aid children in remote communities, so to bring them on the same level as those who are better off. I believe that money should never be a stumbling block in the road of education,” Shumba said.

“Children love computers and working in the digital sphere, they just need the necessary experience in the medium to reach their full potential.”

V To get involved in the project or for more information, contact Shumba on 081 550 5322 or ismachakata@yahoo.com. Alternatively visit www.muonoprojects.co.za.

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