AKA Computer Class Breaks Down Barriers | Aga Khan Academies

AKA Computer Class Breaks Down Barriers

“Being able to pass my knowledge as a student to someone who is much older than me makes me feel I am actually achieving something in this programme.” Stephen Githakwa, AKA, Mombasa student.

On any given day, after completing their regular morning chores, members of the janitorial and other support staff at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa head to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Lab to partake of free computer classes offered to them. Their instructors: students at the Academy.

The project, run as part of the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) programme by members of the Academy’s student club called U-Rock, was launched in 2014 with important goals in mind: to build bridges and break down social walls in order to build relationships between students and members of the support staff, and to improve the ICT proficiency of people who have had fewer opportunities to access computer education services that can qualify them for other future endeavors. 

“We saw there was some kind of divide between the students and the support staff. We wanted to bridge the divide,” says Stephen. “We thought teaching IT was one way to start achieving our aim. U-Rock was a group that was created with the aim of creating a bond between the students and the support staff.”

Students of the club say they feel a kinship with the support staff and want to give them a sense of belonging.

“They are part of this big institution. So it is better to include them in what we do and interact with them,” muses another U-Rock member. 

To date, the club includes 12 students who are dedicated to sharing knowledge they gain in their own classes with members of the support staff.

“The programme is student-based, and we pick what we learn from class and teach them,” says Genesis Kayemba-Mungufeni, one of the creators of the project. “Our aim is to close the gap between the students and the workers. It gives us a chance to interact with them, and we also learn from them. We recognise them as part of our community. Our aim is to instil ICT literacy in the support staff and also break down social inequality between the students and the support staff.”

Sydney Ochieng, a co-founder of the programme, says students create Gmail accounts for the workers and communicate with them via email every day.

“After 12 months of intense learning, we give them certificates to celebrate their efforts,” he adds.

Students teach computer classes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays. The people in the janitorial staff say they get to work earlier than usual to ensure they complete their morning chores so they can attend the classes on time and complete the assignments they are given. 

“I make sure that I have done all my duties on time so that I have sufficient time to finish my assignments before lessons start,” says 37-year-old Samuel Maina excitedly. He said he was always interested in taking computer courses but did not have the money to pay for them. 

Bakari Said, 44, says he has learned to read and send emails. He echoes other participants in the class when he states he gets along well with the students.

“The students came up with a good idea since we relate well with them through the programme. We live in a dynamic world where everything is digital, and we appreciate their efforts to empower us with these computer skills,” he says.

As for creating a bond between themselves and the working staff, the students may have achieved their goal as attested by one of the beneficiaries of the programme.

“They have very good respect for us. They don’t see us as cleaners. They see us like brothers and sisters,” says support staff member Adeya John Ougoh.

By Perviz Walji

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