Recently in Jamaica, the youth-led advocacy group Help JA Children launched a locally-designed application for BlackBerry. The app, named CARS (Child Abuse Reporting System) is the first in the Caribbean and the second such application in the world to be approved by Research in Motion for listing in its Blackberry App World. More on this in a later post.
We know that young people love their mobile technology… Here’s another great social use for teens from South Africa. You can read the article by Tania Page, and watch a couple of videos on Al Jazeera English here: http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/africa/south-africa-youth-tap-gender-app?utm_content=blogs&utm_campaign=Trial4&utm_source=twitter&utm_term=socialflow&utm_medium=tweet
A gender violence game doesn’t exactly scream fun, but it’s proving a hit with thousands of South African teenagers.
It’s a generation hungry for new knowledge – knowledge many in the western world simply take for granted.
It’s revealing that despite 25 years at the United Nations Development Programme it wasn’t until Anne Shongwe, the app’s developer, actually started asking young Africans about their perceptions of the opposite sex and how they coped in a sexual relationship that she realized education was the key.
Shongwe left the UNDP determined to break free of its bureaucracy and forge her own path by addressing gender based violence among young people.
But it was a big challenge to go from a good salary, with lots of support, to a start-up. Especially, as she freely admits, as she’s not that technically minded.
But she hired people with the right skills and a few years later she’s an award winner.
After winning the AppCircus 2011 competition in South Africa with Moraba, Shongwe was selected as one of the top 20 finalists to pitch her app to a live audience at the Mobile Premier Awards in Barcelona, Spain.
She did so alongside Ghanaian app developer Robert Lamptey of Saya and Ugandan app developer Christine Ampaire of Mafuta Go!
They were the first African app developers to pitch at the awards. Ampaire’s Mafuta Go! won the Ringmaster’s Award. Her app, inspired by Uganda’s petrol crisis, lets users find the nearest petrol station with the cheapest prices.
Shongwe and her team at Afroes have a major challenge looming. She’s returning to her native Kenya to develop an app to prevent young people from being manipulated into causing trouble at next year’s elections.
The last ballot was marred by violence and she says it’s believed a lot of the trouble makers were youths who’d been paid off or talked into taking to the streets.
So, the app is meant to educate them so they can identify when someone’s trying to use them for their own gain.
And this story from Zambia from the great organization Room to Read gives us a lesson on the importance of literacy… We should go to all lengths possible to ensure our children can read – and enjoy reading, too. Lack of resources is no excuse. Here is a great quote on the website from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:
“Literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, is essential to development and health, and opens the way to democratic participation and active citizenship.”
Chimbundire Basic School in Katete never had a library, but its teachers and administrators didn’t let the lack of resources get in the way of ensuring the highest possible quality education for their young students. With only a few books, the school implemented a reading program once per week, and held story sessions under a tree on the school grounds.
When our team in Zambia first visited the school and saw the enthusiasm for reading of the school’s 1,000 students, we knew we wanted to partner with Chimbundire Basic to build a library. With more books and trained librarians, we thought, imagine what they could do!
For this project we would have to start from scratch. An average class size of 114 meant that there was no existing space to spare for bookshelves, so we prepared to build a brand new structure that would both house a library and provide additional storage for the school.
While our team got to work on the building design, the community leaders in Katete met to discuss how they could commit a significant portion of the project costs (as is required by Room to Read), knowing that their extremely rural setting did not provide many resources.
In the end it was decided that each village served by the school would take an entire day molding bricks for the new library. The next day, the neighboring village would do the same, and the rotation would continue until enough bricks were made to finish the project.
After the building was complete, Room to Read provided brightly-colored children’s books to stock the shelves along with chairs and desks for library activities. Then we conducted training (the first of several to take place over the next three years) for three teachers, a school administrator and one member of the community on library management skills like book leveling and community engagement.
In the months since Chimbundire Basic got its first-ever library, things have started to change. More committed than ever to ensuring all children in their community gain a solid foundation in reading, the school’s teachers have begun to take time out of classroom instruction to conduct reading activities in the library. “It is so lovely to have our reading program conducted there,” says the school’s head teacher.
A weekly library period for each class to read and check out books has been implemented school-wide, and the facility remains open before and after school so that students can enjoy the new books in their free time as well. Some of the students still like to take books out to read under the old “library tree,” but they no longer have to.
Learn more about our work in Zambia.
http://www.roomtoread.org (Room to Read website)
http://www.theelders.org (The Elders – independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights, including Kofi Annan)
http://www.google.com/literacy/ (The Literacy Project: Google)