ICDL Gives School Children a Competitive Advantage at the Centro Educacional Njerenje - Mozambique
In 2003, Zimbabwean husband and wife team, Gideon and Nicole Benade, moved to the Manica Province of Mozambique with a plan to establish an international school in the area. With 38 and 30 years of teaching experience, respectively, the Benade’s used personal savings and a bank loan to purchase 64 hectares of land, using a plot to build the school. Offering the international curricula of Cambridge International Examinations and the vocational offering of City and Guilds, Centro Educacional Njerenje had excelled it pursuing its mission statement to “contribute to the development of Mozambique by offering international-standard education and training”.
Only a year after the school was first established, Gideon, Nicole, and their team realised that for their students to really compete internationally, they needed an international ICT certification to complement their existing certifications. From their teaching experience in Zimbabwe and South Africa, the Benade’s had a strong awareness of ICDL, and they had witnessed first-hand the positive impact that ICDL had on students.
Terri-Lee Palmer was an ICDL Accredited Tester at Hilcrest College, a secondary school in the nearby Zimbabwean border city of Mutare. In 2004, she introduced ICDL to Centro Educacional Njerenje. After less than a year in Mozambique, she returned to her native UK. The ICT trainer at the school, Katriena du Toit, worked closely with Terri-Lee. Over the years, Katriena has continued to train the students, and since Terri-Lee left, Katriena has been the ICDL Accredited Tester.
It was recognised that there was an expectation for graduating students to have a core set of basic end-user ICT skills. Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and universities stipulated ICT skills as a requirement for completion of many courses. Even where these skills were not a mandatory requirement, they still expressed a strong preference for entrants with these essential skills. It was found that employers locally, across Africa, and internationally shared the expectations of the educational institutions.
ICDL met the brief across all sectors. As well as enjoying strong recognition in the private and education sectors in Mozambique, the profile of ICDL in neighbouring Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa played a significant role. The success of ICDL in these countries of Southern Africa is testament to the sterling work of ICDL Africa – a tripartite cooperative initiative of ECDL Foundation, the Computer Society of Zimbabwe, and ICDL South Africa.
ICDL in the Classroom
At first, Njerenje only had 8 desktop PCs for ICDL training and testing. Now they have a dedicated computer lab with 30 laptops. ICDL is taught to all students from grade 8 to grade 13 (the seven years of secondary schooling in Zimbabwe). The students have between 5 and 6 classes each week to prepare for their module tests. To achieve the recommended level of digital competence: students study and complete tests for 7 modules.
A total of 80 students have completed ICDL since it was introduced at Njerenje. Ten students are expected to become ICDL certified this year, with 52 students expected to complete ICDL training and testing next year.
Specific Challenges Faced
The team at Njerenje had to convince both the students and their parents/guardians of the advantages of ICDL, which in many cases proved difficult. Also, as the school is in a remote area, there was initially no internet connectivity or reasonable cell-phone coverage. As a result, numerous trips to Chimoio (capital of Manica Province) were necessary to finalise all the components of the project.
The owners of the school, Gideon and Nicole Benade, have exclusively funded the setting up of the computer lab, first purchasing 8 laptops, and subsequently investing in 30 laptops. Funding has been and remains a huge challenge for the school. They receive many enquiries about adult training, however the computer lab facilities would need to be developed to make this possible, and they lack the funding to do so.
Students complete a diagnostic (practice) test before and after they complete training based on the ICDL syllabus. Consistently, results show a substantial improvement post-training. Their trainer, Katriena, adds that the students get a huge confidence boost from seeing the quantifiable improvement in their ICT skills.
On completing their secondary schooling, students who have sought employment in an office environment, have reported having a competitive edge on their co-workers who are not ICDL certified. As a result of being ICDL certified, one former student was employed in the capital, Maputo, by ‘MozAl’, the largest aluminium producer in Mozambique and the second-largest in Africa.
Many former students go to university elsewhere in Africa and overseas. ICDL has been a valuable asset to them, as cited by the experiences below.
- Two former students went to university in South Africa. Having ICDL certification made them exempt from mandatory ICT skills courses at the university. This exemption also applied to one former student who enrolled in a university in Finland
- Two former students applied to study at two separate UK universities. The admissions departments of both universities acknowledged that being ICDL certified had a positive influence on their entry application
Aside from the desire to develop the computer lab to facilitate adult training and testing, the school hopes to migrate to online testing, as all testing is currently manual. Even though the manual tests are assessed in a very timely manner, the students are anxious to see their results instantly. There has been feedback that more students would complete the ICDL programme if online testing were available. Also, seeing the benefits that achieving ICDL has had for the senior students, parents are also keen for the junior (primary) students to have access to a similar programme.