Saturday, January 29, 2011

Maasai village turned into an ICT centre

By Isaiah Lucheli
Pastoralist communities are known more for cattle rustling, possession of illegal firearms and retrogressive cultures such as early marriages and female genital mutilation.
However, in a tiny village in Kajiado North, the situation is different. The community has embraced Information Communication Technology (ICT) that has changed their way of life.
On any given day you are likely to find men and women, some with children strapped on their backs, trooping to Oloshibor community centre in Kajiado County where they undergo training in computer skills.
The principal of Kenya Methodist University Prof Robert Gateru shows Janet Sukuru how to use a computer. [PICTURES: JONAH ONYANGO]
For visitors, Oloshibor may pass as a normal sleepy pastoralist village littered with manyattas and men herding livestock but it is a business hub for the community and source of livelihood for many.
"Initially, I used to walk more than 15km to Ngong town to send mails to my children and charge my cell phone but since the establishment of the centre, life has changed for the better," says Hellen Pulei.
Pulei says she can use the Internet and Word, which has enabled her to communicate with her relatives in other parts of the country.
Young men who would have otherwise been morans engaging in cattle rustling have joined other villagers in honing their skills in computer.
Satellite television
Two metallic containers have been converted into an office, hall, workshop, powerhouse and a cyber cafe. In addition to the cyber cafÈ the centre supplies power to the neighbouring school and health centre. It also runs a barber’s shop and a mobile charging facility.
The centre has also installed a digital satellite television for the pastoralists to watch the premier league. According to the manager of the centre, Simon Parkesian, they have acquired 11 computers and established the centre through the help of United Nations Industrial Development (Unido).
Unido, adds Parkesian, constructed a Sh8 million energy centre, targeting more than 2,000 households through the Ewangan Oloshibor Community Based Organisation.
"The centre boasts of solar, generator and wind power supply. The centre generates 15 kilowatts from the three sources. The generator gives ten kilowatts, while solar and wind generate two and three kilowatts respectively," he says.
Parkesian says the ICT centre has, so far, trained more than 60 people.
"Training for the first group was conducted by Microsoft Company while the second lot was done by Computer Aid International," he says.
Parkesian says villagers interested in the training register with them and after attaining the required, number training begins.
"Some of the trainees come from as far as Engaroch, Kisames, Enkisero and Segeri villages, about 20km away," he says.
High illiteracy
The Principal of Kenya Methodist University (Kemu) Prof Robert Gateru says the university will partner with Ewangan Oloshibor to train the locals.
"One of the setbacks facing the centre is lack of trainers but Kemu has stepped in and will train some of the locals," he said.
Gateru adds that the college will donate a tent because the hall the trainees are using is small and cannot accommodate all of them.
The packages offered include Microsoft Word, Excel and Internet.
Illiteracy among the locals and lack of adequate facilities are some of the challenges the centre is experiencing.
The head teacher of Oloshibor Primary School Paul Sakuda, who is a beneficiary of the computer-training programme, is happy about the skills he has acquired.
"I can carry out my duties as a teacher more competently. I am able to type and access the Internet without assistance," he says.
The centre has offered employment opportunity for five villagers and it has a committee that runs the centre.

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