09 February 2010

What About The Children?

Often rural Africa is in survival mode. Surviving the HIV pandemic, staying alive in situations roaming with malaria, TB and other deceases. In search - and often having to fight - for education, water, transport, communications, energy, and financial services. All to make ends meet, to entrepreneur it to the next day. Interventions are mostly focused on adults, the responsive group.

We gratefully live alongside, to join in inspiring activities, participate in connecting the unconnected and more, so people can play a local role in the current global society. Success stories feature adults mainly, the vocal group.

What about the children? In comparison, children in the West live in a world of possibilities and innovations. I witness young people visiting from the West in state of shock when experiencing our limited throughput on the Internet. When explained, they little comprehend life before we got connected, which was only few years ago.

When we set up camp in rural Africa there was no means of communications. Most places I visit today still have neither Internet or mobile phone networks. Children grow up in rural Africa unexposed, without comprehension of a connected world. This all goes way beyond generation gaps.

The New York Times states “If Your Kids Are Awake, They Are Most Probably On-line”, going on with “the average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device”, apparently more then seven and half hours per day. Around me here in rural Africa I do not know any kid that fits that description.

Yes, there is need for exposure and use of communications by children in their formative years, also in Africa. African children and young people must be prepared for, and involved in, the information society and beyond. In Macha we give it a try: primary rural example school Macha Innovative Community School with computer education from reception class now working on replication in other primary schools; on-line chats on experiments and science lessons between rural secondary level school and western school; and students from Zambian universities joining the Macha Works while in tertiary education. These are our pebbles in the pond.

It is time to make Waves for connecting the young in Africa, as to build more and new bridges over widening divides, as to assure we can be together in the future.