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Our Foundation work at the University of Zimbabwe: a "good hustle"

Published on  03 October by Amber Harrison , Director, Corporate Social Responsibility
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Meet the students and learn more about our project at the University of Zimbabwe in our new video

“If you go into the library you find that mostly boys have the desktops. Very few girls get the opportunity.”

This is the situation for women students at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). Hundreds of networked computers are available at the large and well-maintained library computer lab. But it’s fully occupied much of the time. These same computer facilities are open through the night for 24/7 study. But it’s a long, dark walk across campus from the halls of residence. There’s so much potential for these women students to make the best use of IT resources on offer. But sometimes, somehow, it’s just out of reach. 

“As one of the student beneficiaries of the computer program, I personally want to express my gratitude… You have done us great.”

When our charity partner Computer Aid presented us with the opportunity to fund a project to improve IT access for women students at UZ, we were happy to get involved. The aim of the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation is to create opportunities for young people in Africa through technology and education, and this gender-focused initiative was an excellent fit for us. Through Computer Aid we sponsored the installation of 100 computers with internet access in new labs at three UZ women’s halls of residence. Around 1,500 women students live in the halls of residence, and the location of the labs close to their rooms means they can usually find a desktop to use, whenever they need it, in a place they can claim as their own. 

“I don’t think there are any jobs now that require people to write everything in pen and paper. Everything is computer related, so any job I get, I have to know computers. Everything needs computer literacy.” 

Having access to computers is the first thing. Knowing how to use them is the crucial next step. To ensure women students at UZ have the skills they require now and when they graduate, we invited them to take up one of 100 fully-sponsored spaces on an International Computer Driving License (ICDL) training course administered with the help of the wonderful people at the Zimbabwe Computer Society. The four funded base modules provide internationally recognized certification in computer skills including operation essentials, working online, word processing and spreadsheets. To give this education initiative longevity at UZ, we also trained four ICDL trainers and two dormitory supervisors to share skills and support future training. 

“On my own I’m not able to draw a chart on a spreadsheet. I’m not able to analyze my data in Excel. The boys, they want a fee. They want you to pay them.”

On a recent visit to Harare I had the chance to meet and speak to some of the women students at UZ and find out how our foundation support has helped. This was one of the curious stories they shared, suggesting a little cottage industry had sprung up to fill the computer skills gap. I have to admire the enterprising ways of these young men...but do you know what’s even better? Sisters doing it for themselves. By funding ICDL training and certification, we’ve helped these young women be self-reliant and confident with fundamental computer tasks and ready to move on to the next level.

“Good day. Please note ICDL certifications are available for collection... You may collect your certificates from 2 pm today.... #WellDoneLadies #Good Hustle” 

The UZ Computer Center and the students have been using WhatsApp to organize ICDL training sessions and exams, and it was great to see this post come up at the beginning of September. I’m very happy to report that 60 women students have now completed all four ICDL base modules and a further 12 have made excellent headway, completing up to three of the modules. I’m proud of what the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation has achieved here and grateful to have had the opportunity to get to meet some of these inspiring young women. Well done indeed, ladies. And all the very best in what promises to be an amazing future.

Read more about the center in Zimbabwe

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