Through an initiative called “The Transcend Project,” Youth Action International (YAI) proposes to bridge the digital divide in Liberia and Sierra Leone by putting a computer lab in every high school. With availability of funding, the program can readily scale to other African countries.
Many well-intentioned organizations have donated computers to schools with the intent of providing computer literacy, however these efforts have seen mixed results. Drawbacks include lack of adequate facilities, electricity, trained teachers, equipment repair/replacement plan, and/or operational support. Alternatively, there exist more equipped privately run computer programs, but it is often not affordable for families to pay the cost of school tuition and a separate tuition to attend a private computer program.
The Transcend Project delivers fully functional labs efficiently and at a low cost while addressing the aforementioned impediments. Our holistic approach includes:
Full labs at a fraction of the cost: YAI delivers each lab at under $20,000. Each lab integrates space renovation including painting; installation of windows, doors, electrical outlets, furnishings including desks, chairs, whiteboard, equipment including desktop CPUs, monitors, a server, surge protector, solar; and theft prevention.
Training & Collaborative Operations: YAI supports teacher recruitment and training and provides a standardized curriculum for each lab. Key members of the administration are familiarized with the daily operation and maintenance of the labs. Over the course of the first year, we run the lab collaboratively with the school. The cost of each lab includes a year of teachers salaries.
School/Community-Based: For greater impact, the labs remain open during the evenings and weekends to provide computer training classes and access to computers and internet to the local community.
Sustainable Funding: YAI funds labs through a mix of grants and donations. Three track options are offered to schools based on their needs. In Track A, schools repay setup costs interest-free over two to five years. Track B supports economically challenged schools, allowing them to avoid repaying lab costs but collect minimal fees for sustainability. Government-owned schools fall into Track C, with allocations from the national budget covering setup and maintenance costs. Community members pay a small access fee for training or lab use.
Real Time Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E): YAI’s digital M&E program allows for real-time updates of each school's activities and progress. It not only allows for robust data collection and transparent reporting, but also allows us to easily red-flag and follow up on schools that have either not reported or those that have reported issues while implementing the program. 3.
Our target population:
Beneficiaries of this project are multi-tiered and are as follows:
High School Students: Students benefit the most from participation as they are the population most impacted by the problem. They gain crucial computer training and digital skills that are essential for future success, opening new possibilities for employment, entrepreneurship and learning.
Schools: Schools benefit through enhanced educational offerings including online supplemental resources, distance learning for teachers, boost in morale, and improvement in overall education quality.
Communities: Beyond schools, the project extends its impact to communities, offering after-school training and access to computer labs for community members.