Reuben, 29 years old and currently assistant lecturer at the ICT Department at Mzuzu University, started at FAIR as a proud volunteer during his studies at Mzuzu University, and later became a staff member at the university. His experience at FAIR gave him the opportunity to put knowledge into practice, and ultimately shaped his career, by giving him important tools to work with ICT for development as well as inspiration to start a new initiative - he is now fighting to establish the NGO tMinds focused on secondary schools and hopes to work with FAIR as a partner. We are proud of his achievement and look forward to working together in the future. The following is a transcript of an interview with Reuben:
I work as assistant lecturer at Mzuzu University, in the ICT Department. I have been in the university since 2015 as an employee. I graduated from this University, studying ICT.
In my 3rd year, in 2012, I had the opportunity to participate in the activities of a FAIR project. I was among the first that volunteered for the project, setting up activities in secondary schools, participated in network layout in 3 Secondary schools, among others. So I was a proud volunteer. In class was theoretical most of the time, and volunteering was a chance to put things in practice, it was quite fun.
During the implementation of the activities, I learned a lot, because at thattime I had not interacted with Linux operating systems, it was the first time to see Edubuntu, and it was also the first time to see Benjamin [a FAIR volunteer from Denmark] coding in Python. There was a lot of troubleshooting during the time we tried to deploy this, as we worked on getting the client and server to communicate. Besides that, Benjamin trained us, gave us some basic tools on how to work with Linux and to code in Python. It was quite a good experience that I will not forget. I graduated in 2014, so I left the place, only to come back after a year not as a student, but as a staff member.
I tried finding a job after graduation but it was impossible. I tried also establishing an organization focused on ICTs for Development, but it was too hard to find funding and difficult to operate without a physical office in town. So when I saw the calling for staff associate, I applied and was selected. It is also an opportunity to upgrade later, through a doctorate maybe in the future.
The number has grown, it is now more than 2,500 students. I can't be exact on the numbers, but in the ICT Department I would estimate there are around 300 students, in both the weekend and generic program. The students come from all over Malawi, and also Tanzania and other neighbouring countries.
Having perceived a need to give continuity to some of the FAIR projects, a new society came to be. It is called t-Minds. As the volunteers come from the ICT Department where our focus is on innovation and technology, this name was then chosen to reflect our focus on technology. It has not been easy, as the bureaucracy to start an NGO is very long and complicated. The greatest challenge that we face at the moment is finding funding.
One of the activities we are planning now is to take students who are part of the society, and have them assist in implementing the FAIR projects. So we are planning to take some of the students to the Fair Denmark centres, so they can assist the teachers in using the ICT centres that we have set up, and assist them in motivating the students. But for now we don't have any resources. This is a very important activity. And we will be responding to a call from the head teachers from these centres, who have been asking for assistance in training in the students in how to use the libraries, and also the teachers themselves.
This society, the way we planned it, will play a vital role which is currently lacking to the community of the centres, and that will benefit the country as a whole. We believe that the society will always leave a legacy behind. And with assistance of partners, we will really grow. So this is an opening for potential partners, and this is a vehicle for development, especially for education. We are happy to have the society and we are energised to start operating. We would like to benefit from the already existing link between the society and FAIR, and develop projects together.