As we recognize Africa Day and its theme of unity, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of partnership and collaboration. There’s an oft-quoted African proverb that says, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. It’s something I find myself reflecting on time and again when I look back on the last five years of the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation.
The positive results and far reaching impacts that we’ve seen would not have been possible if we’d worked alone. Over 80,000 young people in Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have benefited to date. These results are thanks to strong collaboration with our partners : ComputerAid, PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools) and the Wits Foundation.
From left to right: Ludovic Gautier - Computer Aid: Head of Programmes; Lynda Murray, Wits' representative in the UK; Amber Harrison - SITA: CSR Director; Ben Lovejoy, Corporate Client Executive, CAF Philanthropy Services; Christina Constantino, Business Development Consultant, ComputerAid; Katy Wood, Corporate Client Manager, CAF Philanthropy Services; Jenny Groot - PEAS: Chief Operating Officer
Collaboration from the start
Right from the early seeds of an idea for the Foundation in 2014, collaboration has been a key theme. When we set out to establish an initiative that benefited those beyond our immediate industry, we turned to our SITA Council Representatives to share ideas. They helped us to form the mandate of the Foundation, ‘to provide access to IT and education to young people in Africa’. The SITA Council continue to provide guidance through their governance role and take a keen interest in our achievements.
As a supporter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SITA also believes strongly in partnership. Goal 17 ‘Partnership for the Goals’ is a recurrent theme in how we build, deliver and monitor our programs, particularly those around Quality Education and Gender Equality.
A continent of opportunity
Africa has an interesting future ahead. With population numbers rising, demographic change, increased interest and investment from government, countries and businesses, a changing infrastructure, and a predicted growth in aviation there are many opportunities. They are not without challenges however, and while the future may seem positive long-term there are some areas that need attention now.
Through the work of the Foundation we focus on ensuring that young people have access to the technology, education and skills they will need to help succeed in this future. It’s important for us to make sure girls have the same opportunities as boys. And, of course, we design our programs to be relevant, appropriate and sustainable.
Grassroots change for good
We are further supported by in-country non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who have relationships with the local communities. They share their expertise and local knowledge and give us a unique insight into the daily workings of the programs. Some of my most treasured experiences have been travelling with them across dusty roads and mountain tracks to visit young people and teachers who have embraced their new access to ICT.
Along the way we have learnt more about the individuals, communities and cultures that we are working with. It’s helped us to refine and to evolve the programs.
Students at Mbisi in Zimbabwe were able to use the computers to research, design and order their majorette uniforms.
Examples include discovering that while electricity is present at a school, there may not be enough of it to run an ICT lab; extending the scope of ICT training to non-ICT teachers to help them plan lessons in other subjects.; and buying headsets for the computers when discovering that children all playing different music in one room could be quite loud (!). We’ve also extended one program in Zambia to include coding skills, something we aim to replicate in other countries.
We’re hugely proud of the work we do in Africa through the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation and I was thrilled to learn that we were to be shortlisted in the Corporate Engagement Awards in the ‘Best Foundation’ category. The award celebrates successful and innovative partnerships around collaboration for good.
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