Don’t chuck your old computers out willy nilly says Cheltenham charity

Photo shows: Student, Kapanda Secondary School, Nkhata Bay, Malawi
IT for Africa

One of the biggest issues of Covid-19 has been of the potential effect on our children’s educations.

And they are realising that too. In fact, rather than complaining about school, many young people are now saying all they really want is to go back to school, to continue with their education and to reconnect with friends.

While many might say it’s not enough, the UK government has invested in supporting students, including with computer tablets to help those pupils who don’t have them to study, and in a tutoring programme, and our teachers have gone above and beyond in their support for pupils.

Despite everything, the UK has a good education system, but imagine if your government didn’t put education at the top of your priority list, that the technology which we all take for granted here just wasn’t available?

The Cheltenham based charity IT Schools Africa was founded 15 years ago to bridge the digital divide and give school children the opportunity to access an IT education, to improve life opportunities and fulfil their dreams.

The idea for the charity was sown when an old computer was thrown into a skip. Monis Khalifa, IT Schools Africa’s IT Manager watched as the computer was dumped and thought to himself, is there not a better way to recycle old computers?

To date the charity has collected more than 100,000 donated computers and laptops in the UK that potentially could have gone to landfill. This has enabled five million school children in Africa to access IT.

But it’s not just African pupils that benefit. IT Schools Africa has a UK community programme which has supported more than 1,000 volunteers, including long-term unemployed, people with special needs and school students. Locally, the charity is committed to improving digital inclusion, getting more people connected and online with improved digital skills. Since 2017 the charity has supported more than 50 local charities and community groups with donations of IT equipment and given over 14,000 learners digital skills support.

The majority of donated IT equipment IT Schools Africa receives comes from businesses, schools and universities. Major donors include University of Oxford, engineering company Renishaw, energy supplier Ecotricity and builders merchant Travis Perkins. Donations of computers and laptops are the foundation of the charity and make the aim of the charity possible. IT Schools Africa is always in need of IT equipment and they encourage potential donors to get in touch and welcome people to visit to see the work they do and impact they make.

Andy Davies, Inter-Faculty Head of IT, Oxford University, said: “I work at Oxford University and I have donated computer equipment to IT Schools Africa several times now. The process of donating is extremely easy and the staff are very helpful. Data is professionally and securely wiped and the charity is WEEE compliant.”

Donated IT equipment is refurbished and upgraded in the UK which includes loading of Windows 10 and educational software. IT Schools Africa places the highest priority in data security which is the number one concern of equipment donors and they use specialist data erasure software to wipe the hard drives. ITSA is registered with the Environment Agency, is WEEE compliant and provides Certificates of Data Erasure on request.

IT Schools Africa was established in 2004 and the following year the first used computers were shipped in a container to Africa. The charity works with partner NGO charities in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In each country the NGOs have a technical centre where they re-test the equipment before distribution. They are able to provide technical support, advice and training to schools and teachers.

Through the sustainable reuse of donated IT equipment IT Schools Africa aims to give the equipment at least another five years of life and improving life opportunities for school students and local communities in both Africa and the UK.