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Nairobi’s Mobile, Solar-Powered Computer Lab Helps Thousands

In Kawangware, one of Nairobi's poorest and fastest-growing slums, 20-year-old Allan Mideva intently goes through the digital paces. Just one of some 20 students being taught basic computer skills, he has attended the free daily lessons without fail for nearly three months.

It’s an opportunity he normally could not afford. His mother earns about $2 a day washing clothes, and similar training usually costs as much as $100 at traditional learning institutions. But Mideva said he only had to pay a one-time fee of $2.20 to show he was serious about studying.

“The tutor is very friendly; he enables us to understand more, [and] it’s cost effective, only 200 shillings compared to the other colleges," he said. "This project enables us to have computer skills.”

Craft Silicon Foundation — a Narobi-based non-profit group — began offering the free information and communication technology courses to under-privileged young people five years ago.

The training takes 10 weeks. If students pass the final exam, they receive certificates of graduation. But this is no traditional class setting. It is in a bus with 12 computers powered by solar panels.

In a community where the majority of residents try to survive on less than $1 a day with little hope of improving their futures, this $100,000 mobile computer lab has helped close to 7,000 students.

With offices in Kenya, Tanzania, India and the United States, the financial software company that supports the program also promotes computer literacy as part of its corporate philosophy of social responsibility.

“Education is still a luxury at some of these slums, so we believe that as much as it’s so important we must go to slum areas where they cannot afford to get technological education,” says CEO Kamal Budhabhatti.

The Kenyan government also plans to increase Internet literacy and access to information by providing free Internet in 2015 to all the informal settlements in Nairobi.

For now, these students from Kawangware look forward to completing their course and working toward a better tomorrow.