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IT Corporates Invest in Education: Corporate Social Investment by Players and Shakers in the ICT Industry.

By Margaret Sevume

Microsoft and Multichoice are corporations that have invested in education. Microsoft says that their programme is a way of connecting people and organi¬zations in the software ecosystem and giving them access to resources, experts and facilities for collaboration and skills development. Their technology centers are offering a comprehensive set of programs and services to foster innovation and grow sustainable local software economies.
MultiChoice, as a business operating on the African continent, is very conscious of its responsibility to the sustainable social and economic development of the people of Africa. The company's flagship Corporate Social Investment (CSI) project - the MultiChoice Resource Centre (MRC) programme plays an important role in providing access to information to mainly rural schools.

Microsoft Innovative Schools
With help from other education experts from around the world, Microsoft has developed new approaches and materials that any school or school system can use to help students attain their full potential.
To connect school leaders around the world, Microsoft has created a global community on the Partners in Learning Network found at http://www.microsoft.com/education/ww/partners-in-learning/Pages/innovative-schools.aspx. Here, school leaders with common interests share their experiences and connect with each other, organize local school communities and hold discussions.

Multichoice Resource Centres

Under this programme selected schools are given audio-visual equipment, training and free access to MultiChoice’s educative channels such as The National Geographic, Discovery, History, SABC Africa, BBC World, Animal Planet and Activate.
Trained facilitators are deployed at each centre to develop the effective educational use of facilities provided by running both technical and educational training for teachers.
They also conduct a monitoring and evaluation process that assesses the qualitative and quantitative impact of the project.
Over 800 schools are now part of the programme in more than 24 countries in Africa. Details can be found here http://www.naspers.org/education-skills-dev-multi-choice-centres.php

Activities in Uganda

Launched at Gayaza High School, the online tutoring platform enables students to access academic resources online.It involves the use of the Internet to prepare tests, notes and marking guides while providing quick feedback to students. The website is an initiative by Microsoft and Gayaza High School, the pathfinder partner school in East and Central Africa.

The school has already partnered with MTN-Uganda to promote and roll out this e-learning program to the rest of the country to ensure that quality educational resources reach remote and disadvantaged communities. Under this partnership the School has managed to introduce and demonstrate the e-learning platform to at least 23 schools and hoped to reach 50 schools by Uganda’s 50th Independence Anniversary in October 2012.
Discussions with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) are underway to develop and provide content for the over 800 computers it (UCC) issued to schools under the "Rural Communications Development Fund". UCC has also promised to train teachers  in producing content that can be run on basic mobile phones something that would facilitate learning wherever one is (Mobile learning).
Busoga College Mwiri, Mvara, Bweranyangi Girls’ School, St. Charles Serwanga Lwanga, Kalangala and Mengo Senior School are part of the beneficiaries of this project.
For those schools that want to engage at a deeper level, Microsoft Partners in Learning has created the Pathfinder and Mentor School Programs.  
Information on how to apply is available at http://www.pil-network.com/pd/school and for details on the program at http://www.gayazahs.sc.ug/news/gayaza-high-school-to-spearhead-e-learning-in-uganda

Steven Musoke, the company chairman in Uganda, stated that they have opened nine resource centres in the country to enhance the teaching process. Although the number of schools participating in Uganda is limited, Musoke hopes the programme will expand to more schools once progress is registered. “As MultiChoice, we encourage use of information technology as a teaching aid,” he said.

Nine old and historical Secondary Schools in the Karamoja region are some of the beneficiaries of this programme.
These include Moroto High, Kangole Girls School, Abim S.S.S, Namalu Seed S.S.S, Pokot S.S.S, Arengsiep S.S.S, Kaaabong S.S.S, Kotido S.S.S and Morulem S.S.S.
When Samson Wambuzi, a Physics teacher at Mackay Memorial College, wants to diversify his teaching methods, he switches on DStv.


On DStv’s Channel Learn, they show teachers experimenting in laboratories. Since most of the lessons are taught by women, Wambuzi believes his students, especially the girls, will not only develop an interest in studying physics, but will also be inspired into taking science subjects further in their studies.
However, students like Peter Odongkara in S.4, find the language complex.
“Tutors here have an accent I cannot understand; I still prefer my teachers,” he says.
This and a host of other challenges like connectivity, power, computer illiteracy are what needs to be addressed in order to push the initiatives further.


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