Using Old Computers to Bring Technological Literacy to Students

Bringing tech to students promotes learning.

Aug 5, 2022
Using Old Computers to Bring Technological Literacy to Students | Bringing tech to students promotes learning.

As the world has changed, so has education. The inclusion of tech literacy into the educational curriculum has become a vital part of education. Success later in life is contingent on students being able to navigate the digital world.

Since 2018, Nelly Cheboi and her non-profit TechLit Africa have been bringing computer technology into schools in Kenya, helping students join the digital world, and unlock their potential. With its own software programs, curriculum, and teacher training programs, this non-profit hopes to change Africa.

From student to visionary
In 2012, Nelly Cheboi received a scholarship to Augustana College in Illinois that changed her life. In a CNN heroes profile, she relates how she grew up in poverty in rural Kenya, watching her mother struggle to support her family alone. 

Cheboi had had no experience with computers before moving to the US to study. According to CNN, she handwrote papers and then struggled to transcribe them on a laptop computer. 

Somehow she fell in love with computer science anyways, and began a career in the field. But she did not lose sight of her origins. 

As an undergrad, I invested all of my income from various campus jobs into my community back in Kenya. I built a school, Zawadi, there…,” she says in her bio on the TechLit Africa website. But soon she wanted to do more, and that is how TechLit Africa began.

Computers in Suitcases
In an interview with Software Engineering Daily, Cheboi describes how her background helped her understand how important technological literacy could be for children living in poverty. 

“For an entire community and entire generation to be left behind was just not fair. I built a school with the idea of trying to see if I can incorporate computer science as part of kids’ curriculum growing up,” she says in the interview.

“The program was doing really well. But then I realized that building schools is really hard and it’s going to be really hard to impact as many people as I can building schools, because it’s so hard to fundraise, it takes a lot of money.”

Cheboi  and her co-founder, Tyler Cinnamon realized that they could reach more students by incorporating computer training into existing schools. They started small. They physically lugged over 40 recycled computers that had been donated to them by various tech companies to Kenya in suitcases. 

Now, since the non-profit has grown, it works with various companies that help them scrub the donated computers of data and send them on to Africa without the need for the non-profit to do so on their own.

TechLit Africa runs its own curriculum with its own software programs in 10 Kenyan schools, and the hope is to scale up to 100 throughout Africa by next year, according to the nonprofit’s website. The students love learning about computers, and in turn are gaining skills that will help them leverage their talents into a way out of poverty.

Because the software is programmed and run by TechLit Africa, and since they train the teachers, it makes it easier for them to track how students are progressing, troubleshoot issues as they come up, and learn how to make their project even better. 

Cheboi and her work is beginning to get noticed by the wider world. She made it on to the Forbes 2022 30 under 30 List, and as well as being profiled by CNN. So the next time you decide it is time to retire your laptop or computer, consider donating it to the future of Africa. 

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.