Sophia. Patience. Gifty. Beatrice. Grace. Forgive. They are among about two dozen girls who gather each afternoon during the week in a makeshift classroom in Pokuase, where they spend the next two hours learning about computers.
The class is a program of WomensTrust, whose mission in part is to empower impoverished girls in Ghana through educational scholarships to help them stay in school, and extracurricular classes like health education and computer training. The computer class was first offered in 2009, through a generous donation that allowed WomensTrust to purchase 20 PC laptops and hire a local instructor. Since then more than 100 girls have received computer training--girls who otherwise would have no exposure to what we take for granted as a staple of modern life. Most public schools in Ghana can't afford computer labs, and though cell phones and ipads seem ubiquitous, these gadgets are still out of reach for many families, especially those in rural villages like Pokuase.
One recent afternoon I drop by the office of WomensTrust just as the computer class, which is conducted in an adjoining room, is getting underway. The girls, ranging in age from 9 to 16, come straight from school, still dressed in their uniforms that identify their grade and where they attend -- green dresses with yellow sashes or brown jumpers with yellow shirts for the grade schoolers, yellow shifts with blue or white trim for the junior high and high schoolers. They wear their hair closely cropped; school dress codes are strict and prohibit the elaborate plaited styles that are so popular here.
The girls sit quietly. A few have open books perched in their laps; others jot notes in notebooks. Their teacher, Dominic Osei, and a few of the girls make several trips carrying in a dozen laptops from the storeroom, and set them up in two rows on the long table. The girls take turns sitting in front of the screens, hands poised over the keyboard as Dominic guides them through the basics: turning on the computer, creating a password, logging in.
The girls are rapt and completely engaged--the kind of students every teacher hopes for. But there are other challenges. Power outages occur on a daily basis; sometimes there is no electricity for hours at a time, and computer batteries have a short lifespan. There are only 20 computers for 24 girls; and the waiting list for the class is long, since it's open to all girls who receive a scholarship from WomensTrust, more than 700 to date. And the computers themselves are more than 3 years old now--senior citizen status in computer-time.
Want to make a difference you can witness with your own eyes? Make a donation to WomensTrust to support its computer-training program for girls in Pokuase.
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