Education and computer literacy are central to finding jobs in a rapidly changing workplace; recognising this Natalie Emery started the Change the World Trust, to develop office-based computer literacy skills among South Africans.
After founding and running literacy programmes in Delhi, India, for three years, Emery now develops and runs computer literacy projects through the trust, with sponsorship from the Dell Development Fund and Rectron.
In 2008, the Change the World Trust started with one IT training centre in Olievenhoutbosch just outside of Centurion, Pretoria, before moving its main centre to Midrand after a series of robberies.
Now the organisation runs its main operations from Midrand, with two smaller training centres in Zandspruit and Diepsloot, and holds tutorials on programs such as Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.
The organisation also offers advanced courses in web design and maintenance, and equips students with marketable IT skills.
SKILLS FOR JOBS
“It’s not just educational projects but also giving our students tangible skills so that they can actually go out and get jobs as well,” says Emery.
“So we decided to go with computer basics and more advanced courses because we see that as a skill that is needed in the business community … if you have that skill it’s easier to get a job.”
On what motivates her team, Emery says, “I think it’s seeing the success.
“When we first started off what really motivated me was when we had 29 single young moms in our training centre in Olievenhoutbosch who weren’t able to finish high school and had very little opportunity to work because they had to care for their children.
“After the training it was still very difficult for them but most of them got jobs. That was very rewarding; it showed us we were doing something right.”
Emery says that just over 60% of the students who completed the training course in 2009 went on to get permanent jobs.
The organisation also runs an outreach project, its IT Workshops programme, visiting schools across Gauteng.
It offers school children, many of whom do not have access to a computer, lessons on how to operate one, and advanced courses similar to those available at the training centres.
The organisation’s Connecting Leaders programme aims to improve teachers’ computer literacy skills to supplement their teaching and make tasks such as setting tests, and organising timetables and class rosters, easier.
On 13 March 2014, Change the World visited Winnie Mandela Secondary School in Tembisa to hold a Connecting Leaders workshop, during which teachers were introduced to Microsoft office programs before taking a test to evaluate their newfound skills.
Teachers successfully completing the test received proficiency certificates, and felt more confident about using the programs.
Daniel Modiba, a home languages and social science teacher, said what he had learnt during the training session would make his life a lot easier; “This was very fascinating, I didn’t have an idea how to use this thing [a laptop] but as of now I have a little light at the end of the tunnel.
“It was a problem for me but as of now I’m going to use this thing in front of my learners and for more personal things too.”
Steven Masemola, head of the English department, said he has had a computer for some time but wasn’t quite sure how to use some of the programs, but “now I know how to use Excel and PowerPoint. I want to get a projector so that I can use the computer in the lessons to the benefit of my students and teachers during meetings.”
Faith Moyengwa, a trainer at Change the World, says she finds being a part of the organisation “fun and rewarding”, “especially the projects that we do going out to the schools and working with kids”.
“Right now we’re busy with a project, Boot Camp; we gather high school students and they do basic web design, so that’s pretty cool.”
The Boot Camp project teaches high school students how to create websites using popular programming language HTML/CSS, and techniques to create functional, attractive websites.
The Boot Camp culminates in a competition in which the most promising pupils compete individually or in groups to create functional websites in four hours.
The competition winners receive a tablet and a certificate of proficiency, while second and third place contestants receive 16 gigabyte and eight gigabyte flash drives respectively with their certificates.
PLAY YOUR PART
“All these projects would not have happened without the support from the Dell Development Fund and our fantastic sponsors,” says Emery.
She encourages individuals to “get involved”, and help the non-profit to continue its work by visiting the organisation’s how-to-help page, calling its offices on +27 (0)11 455 2282, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.