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Five-year old Kofi Ejuku is having a rare opportunity that millions of children in Uganda may not be craving for but should be able to access as the world shapes into what many now refer to as a “global village”.

With many other children, he attends an after-school computer training course that is making them little computer ‘whiz kids’ that will - hopefully one day - bridge the digital divide glaringly experienced in today's corporate world.

Some schools in Uganda offer computer training as an examinable subject at O’ Level, but the Primary or A’ Levels are virtually without any computer courses.
I-Zone teaches children to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) with the ease of playing in a muddy playground.

I like playing games on the computer. It has a screen as big as that of a Television and I can see the letters large and clear. I also know the Internet," says Ejuku.

I-Zone Children's Computer Education and Entertainment (Edutainment) is promoting children and youths knowledge, skills and use of ICT as a step towards bridging the digital divide in the country. Located in Bandali Rise in Bugolobi, off Lithuli Avenue, the learning centre was founded in January 2007.

Novice
Another child, 10-year old Yannick Duyck who started his computer training at four says the experience at I-Zone has made him reach new levels with his computer skills.

"It is quite an experience being here. All I used to know on a computer was playing games, but since coming here I have learnt quite a lot; things like surfing the Internet, playing games online, how to write on MS Word, keyboarding, writing magazines and poems and searching for sports information," he says.

Assessment tests at I-Zone are compulsory, and these are carried out to assign the children to challenging levels according to their varying skills, and in so doing, it makes it easy to monitor the child's progress.

"Our programmes give children a positive jump start on computer technology while boosting self-confidence and traditional skills in reading, writing, arithmetic, creativity and problem solving. They also enable children to learn how to take advantage of the computer as a tool for homework, communication, research and self-expression, other than just using it for surfing the internet to play games, email and chat on-line," explains Amelo Ejalu the proprietor the school.

Content
"I hardly knew anything about a computer before coming here, but now I can colour pictures on it, send and receive e-mails, access games, learn English, Geography and Mathematics on the Internet," eight-year old Zachariah Kikule said.

Eight-year old Nick Rugsten says that besides computer basics, they are also taught subjects like "animated stories, Science, Geography and how to explore numbers, shapes and patterns."

Excitement
"The kids are interesting. At the very beginning of the training they are afraid of the computer, but after having a go at it they get so excited and don't want to leave, even when their time is up," says Emma Aguti, the school's administrator who also doubles as a teacher.

The silver lining for children learning computing skills might look far off the ICT and corporate horizon, however, for the proprietor of I-Zone, children are the key to unlocking digital illiteracy and facilitating social and economic development of this country.

 

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