Wema believes that providing disadvantaged young people with an education is a vital step in assisting them to access the skills, investment and inspiration they need to have a sustainable livelihood. To this end, Wema launched the “DreamCatcher”, a modified and refurbished Bus equipped with computers as a Mobile Computer School which street children and youth access regularly. The main objective of the project is to ensure a productive livelihood and improve the life chances of the young people.
As from February 2013, the DreamCatcher has been conducting frequent excursions to various areas where the children reside and/or frequent. Wema staff and volunteers mobilize and enrol street children and youth into the project and these beneficiaries have continuous access to computer based numeracy and literacy classes. The children who attend consistently will eventually be facilitated to enroll into public primary schools, or assisted to access vocational and Technical Training institutions. We envision that an upward of 2000 children and youth aged up to 25 years old shall access the benefits of information technology through this project by end of 2015.
The DreamCatcher Mobile Education Project is a relevant, meaningful and effective intervention for children living on the streets and for the Mombasa community. Firstly, because it uses computers as a mode of instruction, it is very attractive to street children and the general public. Because the school is located in the streets within the immediate environment of the child, the children also feel a sense of ownership of the project. Additionally, Wema signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Technical University of Mombasa in which students were embedded into the project as part of their academic internships, therefore offering the community an additional benefit.
The Numbers so Far
Wee conducted an evaluation of the first year of the Project running from February to December 2013. In the period, staff from Wema and 8 volunteers from the Technical University of Mombasa over 350 children on three basic subjects: Introduction to computers, Basic Numeracy skills and Basic Language skills. These were the key results of the project in the period:
- 81.6% of children who were enrolled into the project were boys;
- Boys also returned to visit the DreamCatcher significantly more often than girls;
- 14.6% of children claimed to come from the neighbouring Likoni Constituency;
- The average approximate age of children attending the DreamCatcher was 12.95 years and the approximate Range was 2 – 26.
- Boys are more likely to benefit from the project, and therefore there is need for a Boys Transitional Home/Rescue Centre. Currently, Wema Centre operates a Rescue Centre for Girls, from the original premise that girls are more vulnerable while living on the streets. From the project, it emerged that a street child is more likely to be a boy aged approximately 13 years, necessitating a Rescue Centre for boys
- A Computer based Mobile Education project is appropriate and effective. There is, however, need to cater for a large number of children who have a higher level of literacy than originally hypothesised; and, there is need to enrich the project to include a stronger remedial programme involving drug abuse, behaviour change management, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sexually Transmissible Diseases and HIV/AIDS;
- There is need to invest in a more sustainable approach than the existing system of Desktop computers. It was noted that Desktop computers faced the additional challenge of having to go for constant repairs, significantly raising the cost of maintenance in the project. Also, it was possible to have only 10 machines at any given time in the project, but the increasing number of street children interested in the project meant that many of them risked being locked out of the project altogether.
The Management decided that, to increase the reach of the project and to significantly reduce the cost of maintenance of the project, it was necessary to purchase at least 20 laptops. The laptops would be used to reach more children and also would be useful in reducing maintenance costs of the project. Wema identified Camara Kenya (http://camara.org/hubs/hub-kenya/) to provide 20 laptops for use in the DreamCatcher – Camara uses technology to improve education and livelihood skills in disadvantaged communities around the world. The 20 laptops were then purchased using funds availed to Wema by the Rotary Club of Burlington North. Additionally, the existing bus needed to be modified to improve accessibility within the bus and also to cater for the increased number of computers and children in the bus – we used part of the total funding to cater for the modification of the bus. The package from Camara came with the additional benefit of a specialized network based on Linux servers. This network will enable a more efficient monitoring system as teachers will have a better system of monitoring the progress of the children. This system will eventually be graduated to an online “Moodle” with a more efficient monitoring system – this is currently being modeled by Wema and Camara and should be up and running before end of June.