The Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC@UKZN) and the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s CompLit4U outreach project aims to empower cleaning staff with basic computer literacy skills.
The project was the brain child of Dr Tanja Reinhardt (Co-ordinator of STEC@UKZN) and was born out of a conversation with colleague Mr Sashlin Girraj. ‘Sashlin and I were at an event and we discussed how cleaning staff did not know how to use a computer. We realised that there was willingness to learn and there were resources available, but someone needed to bring them together,’ recalled Reinhardt.
Reinhardt and Girraj developed the curriculum, enlisted participants, obtained resources and taught the content. The course was run as a pilot project over five days with 10 cleaning staff. It covered computer basics, Microsoft Word, how to use the Internet, how to send an email and computer/online security.
While many assume that people in the 21st century have basic computer skills, this is not always the case for the cleaning staff. ‘We went in expecting to teach Computers 101, but it was more like Computers 0.1. I never expected that moving the cursor with a mouse would bring so much joy to someone,’ said Girraj.
This project would not have been possible without the support of the Information and Communication Services (ICS) division that donated 15 laptops to train the participants. ‘ICS jumped at the opportunity to support this initiative as it aligns with our strategy to strengthen the use of IT and improve digital literacy across the University,’ said Mr Abdullah Shariff, Head of the Division.
On the final day, the classroom was flipped and participants were given topics to teach back to the class. Shariff presented certificates to each participant with their managers in attendance to cheer them on.
Ms Busisiwe Buthelezi has been a cleaner at UKZN since 2009. She was grateful for the opportunity and was confidant to practice what she has learned. ‘I am so thankful to the University for teaching us how to use a computer. With what I learned, I can now go on the Internet and help my child with her school projects,’ said Buthelezi.
Special thanks are extended to Mr Stanley Govender, Mr Sifiso Cele, Mr Bheki Mthembu, Ms Nokwethaba Biyela, Ms Samantha Ngcongo, Dr Sally Frost, Mr Abdullah Shariff, ICS and the College for supporting this project.
Since the project was launched, much interest has been expressed by other staff. Plans are afoot to run further CompLit4u trainings across the campuses.
A gallery of images can be found here
Words: Sashlin Girraj