ICT programmes to expand, benefit hinterland youth

… Studies show interventions have been effective

Ministerial Adviser at the Ministry of Public Telecommunications (MoPT), Lance Hinds, has said that Code Camps in 2019 will be extended to accommodate more young people especially in the Hinterland Regions, building on MoPT’s 2018’s successes.

Ministerial Adviser, Lance Hinds
Ministerial Adviser, Mr. Lance Hinds

The 2 main training interventions by the Ministry in 2018 were the inaugural Coding Camps and the Guyanese Girls Code programmes which were conducted in close collaboration with the computer Science Department at UG and the Education Ministry’s NCERD.

“The two programmes proved what we can do and what we can scale up,” he said.

The mandate is large and it requires a lot of calculation and collaboration for us to effectively train as many persons as possible throughout all 10 regions of Guyana. Mr. Hinds said that the Ministry has a mandate to develop the ICT capacities of all Guyanese so that by 2030, Guyana would have achieved the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (#9), universal computer literacy.

In addition, he stated that there are ICT “geniuses” within the regions and it is the Ministry’s responsibility to find these persons and help hone their skills and IT qualifications for their own benefit and the national good.

The training outreaches in 2018 were the beginning of a long series of training initiatives that will include people in all administrative regions.
“At a national level we have to build an ICT workforce,” he posited. During August last year, Coding Camps were held in Berbice at UG’s Tain Campus, and at the Linden and Essequibo Technical Institutes. Currently locations and syllabuses are being finalized for 2019 training programmes this year as part of the MoPT/UNDP Internet Access project in Hinterland, Poor and Remote Communities in Guyana.

The Ministry is currently engaging the Iwokrama International Centre in Region 8 which has been identified as a prospective catchment hub, to partner with the MoPT to deliver training modules to students and adult residents of surrounding communities who would be expected to return to their communities to pass on their knowledge.
The ministry also plans to source equipment to present to the prospective trainers to facilitate their own knowledge transfer in their communities.

Minister Cathy Hughes stated: “The crux of the work of the ministry is Education and training … towards making every single citizen computer literate”. She stated that, “the goal is to reach into every administrative region, not only to enhance connectivity, but to train residents to use the internet for their daily needs, whether it is social, business or educational”.

Commenting on the programmes that were staged in 2018 in collaboration with UG’s Department of Computer Science and the Education Ministry’s National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD), she said, “Our interventions are working and hundreds of girls, boys and adult women have embraced it”. They (training programmes) were so impactful that the University of Guyana later conducted an in-depth evaluation of the teaching methodologies to determine what did and did not work, and then they did an assessment of the impacts.

The analyses, presented to the Minister and her Education outreach teams on Monday January 14, proved that the programmes were successful with the Minster committing to tailoring hem further to boost effectiveness.

“I feel certain that the findings will be factored into the outreaches we have designed for beginners as well as advanced computer education across the country … going forward,” she asserted.

THE FINDINGS

UG Computer Science Lecturer & Researcher, Lenandlar Singh
UG Computer Science Lecturer & Researcher, Lenandlar Singh

Computer Science Lecturer Lenandlar Singh, presented the findings from the Code Camps. 120 youths from Berbice, Linden and Essequibo participated in the Camps at the LTI, the ETI and UG’s Tain Campus. There were 40 females in total. Singh pointed out that the researchers found that practical work was more appealing to the students along with the modules that produced tangible products, as opposed to the software that required critical thinking. However, many of the students proved that they were determined to resolve problems irrespective of the time it took.

Another presenter, Lecturer Juanelle Marks said that the graphic user interface had more appeal for the participants. She pointed out that the BBC:Microbit software was the more popular software among the children perhaps because of its capacity to easily produce colourful results, as opposed to the Python software which is largely text-based and requires more computing skills and knowledge of Code (computer languages).

The training programmes were designed to increase our young people’s appreciation and understanding of computer languages, software, applications, web design, writing code and designing programmes from basic through intermediate to advanced and university level ICT education.

The Researchers found that the Camps worked well on the element of Fun, and that the curricula for the next round will be infused with more results-oriented tutelage.
Penelope DeFreitas and Alicia Layne also from the CS department presented findings from the analyses of the Guyanese Girls Code classes. De Freitas said that her research can dispute the generally held view that females are ‘afraid’ of technology and thus are less likely to pursue it as a career.

However, she quoted from the World Economic Forum 2016 which stated that only 24% of women globally enter jobs in the digital sector. The CS department aims to find out why this was so in the local context.

Fifty-six girls, from Grades Seven to Nine, participated in the initial 12-week programme that taught them to understand Scratch programming and basic web development. The girls also learned to infused technology with creativity and innovation, and in the end, the MoPT along with our collaborators developed an appreciable level of interest in ICT among the participating girls.

The Researchers did find that girls do have a vested interest in ICTs (are not afraid of it at all), but perhaps lack access to the Internet. The two representatives who were also facilitators on the programme, said that the limitations of the model of the programme would be studied further, and over time would be used to track how the girls develop in the field.

Both studies showed that the young participants were very receptive to learning computer skills, so much so that one pre-teen student was able to develop an interactive website for a local business.

Adapted from: http://guyanachronicle.com/2019/01/14/ict-programmes-to-expand-benefit-hinterland-youth