This year the SITA Air Transport Community (ATC) Foundation won silver in the Best Foundation category of the Corporate Engagement Awards. It’s thanks to the Foundation’s work in providing access to ICT and education for young people in Africa.
With half the population in Africa today aged 19 or under, the continent faces growing demand for access to education and skills development. However, access to technology and ICT can be difficult, and education is not always prioritized in rural areas.
At the same time, there’s more opportunity and desire for people to travel, due to demographic change and more affordable air travel. That’s led to an increase in requirements for infrastructure and technology to support airports and aviation.
This is driving a skills gap, and the intent of the SITA ATC Foundation is to help close it. To date, the SITA ATC Foundation has positively impacted over 80,000 young people in Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, through ICT projects delivered with the Foundation’s charity partners.
The SITA ATC Foundation began operations in 2015 with projects in three countries: Ethiopia, Uganda and South Africa. Since then it’s grown to include programs in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In 2018, this included the building of secure ICT labs and provision of ICT equipment for secondary schools, the training of teachers in the International Computer Driving Licence qualification, and the funding of students at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).
Sponsorship of seats at the Tshimologong Innovation Precinct helped entrepreneurs to develop business ideas, and attendees here and at Wits University took part in the SITA Foundation innovation award. The $10,000 prize was granted to the team who presented the most innovative case for how to address the needs of the first-time air traveler in Africa.
2019 projects include four more ICT labs being created and equipped in Uganda and Zambia, while students at 10 schools will benefit from Coding Clubs. Continuing the goal for sustainable long-term projects, more teacher training is taking place in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Ethiopia. New grants will help eight students at Wits with their studies, while six will receive continued funding.
From the start, it was felt that smaller charities better met the requirements of the Foundation’s Africa program, and were much closer to the operations, monitoring and evaluation of projects.
Partners since the Foundation’s creation include ComputerAid International, PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools) and The Wits Foundation.
The Foundation has continued to learn and to evolve its programs. Examples include buying headsets for computers when discovering that children playing different music in one room could be quite disruptive. In addition, the scope of ICT training was extended to non-ICT teachers to help them plan lessons in other subjects.
“We discovered that providing access to ICT helped to hugely improve the performance of the school football team… they had discovered YouTube and were watching sports skills videos to train their team!” says Amber Harrison, Director, CSR, SITA.
The project requires flexibility to address new challenges. The Foundation must take account of local economic or political situations, or currency variations or project delays. Working together with absolute transparency, there is a culture of trust and openness with all charity partners.
Monitoring and evaluation plays a key role in all the programs, and it’s vital to ensure that projects are sustainable locally. The aim is to support a project for around three years, and to encourage local management and support. This forms part of the initial due diligence in selection of the schools to work with.
Taking this approach, since 2015 the SITA ATC Foundation has been able to prove grants to 82 students, create and equip 74 labs, and train 356 teachers.
The Foundation has adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as part of the guiding principles. Two in particular are quality education – meeting the overall aim of the work in Africa, and gender equality. Overall the program has 51.4% gender focus on females, ensuring that opportunities for young women, and their communities, are more accessible.