At end of 2015, Neema International was selected by Arrow Electronics as the first ever recipient of a Digitruck.
First of it's Kind
The Digitruck is an eco-friendly classroom that promotes students’ learning through the use of technology. It was constructed from a 40-foot shipping container converted into a fully insulated, solar-powered classroom, equipped with 20-networked laptops, a printer, and a TV. The Neema International team and adolescents of Uru were beyond excited to get started. However, moving the Digitruck into the village was a challenge. Co-directors, Mandy and Ali, worked alongside dozens of inspired adolescents who for one reason or another were no longer enrolled in school. They expanded the roads, laboring for months to open this innovative classroom. Finally, in October of 2015, the Digitruck program began. The inaugural class included 18 teenagers off the street, attending class daily with Ali and Mandy as the first teachers.
“The road that Ali, the kids, and I worked on was a total length of 1.2 kilometers. When we tried to offer the kids some sort of payment or even lunch during the days they worked with us, one of the boys looked at us and said, ‘The only thing I want is to be able to be one of the students who gets to study in your classroom once the truck arrives.” He mentioned not wanting to go down the same path as his older siblings and thought there was something better out there for him. The other children all agreed and said that they too would give anything to get the chance to go to school. There was no doubt in my mind that these 6 individuals would be the first students on the roster for the Digitruck class.” — Mandy Stein
Bridging the Gap
With 64% of Tanzania’s 55.57 million people being under the age of 24 and a secondary school enrollment rate of less than 50%, the Digitruck constantly receives applications. The curriculum focuses on English literacy, STEM concepts and life skills, giving adolescents the intellectual toolbox they need to return to school. Technology-based learning is possible through an additional donation from the Brisbane Rotary called Teacher-in-a-Box. Teacher-in-a-Box allows the computers to access a wide collection of academic materials offline. The Digitruck continues to provide remedial education to adolescents from fourteen to twenty. Having this phenomenal classroom in the middle of an impoverished village gives these adolescents a second chance at a bright future.
“These students are bright and want SO badly to succeed and get an education… and that was immediately apparent to us when we first put them in the Digitruck classroom—They didn’t fail the PSLE because they were lazy or because they weren’t smart… Instead it seems that the fault lies in the hands of the education system (the teachers, classrooms, schools, resources, etc)—these students had hardly learned anything in their 7 years of primary school education… and now, at 13 or 14 years old, their academic career is over— unless we could do something about it…” –Ali Hanson, Neema Assistant Director
An Innovative Program
Digitruck students are required to attend class daily, refrain from pregnancy, drugs or alcohol and show exceptional behavior for one year. It is student’s chance to prove their commitment to school to the Neema International team. Digitruck graduates who perform well on exams are matched with sponsors and sent to private secondary schools. Many Digitruck graduates go to Kilimahewa, a remedial school in the Kilimanjaro region supported by EducationEmpowerment. NIESP students attend other high-quality schools in the region such as Bendel Memorial Secondary, Feza Secondary, Kibosho Girls’ or Edumund Rice Secondary. Digitruck students who do not perform well on exams are offered the opportunity to repeat the Digitruck program or attend vocational school.
Kay was fifteen years old when he met the Neema International team. He was one of the adolescents who helped move the Digitruck, determined to return to school. Kay is the youngest of 6 siblings, all of which whose educational career ended after Primary School. His two older sisters are both married with children, still living in poverty. Two of his older brothers, both under the age of 24, have multiple children, suffer from alcoholism and have served time in jail. His other brother, a victim of rape himself, has gone on to rape two younger girls in the village at the age of 17. When the Neema International team first met Kay, he was living in a two-room hut with his parents and brothers as well as his brother’s wives and offspring. Kay was deep in the cycle of poverty, and he wanted out. After the first day of class, when all the students were leaving, he looked Ali and Mandy in the eyes and said in the most sincere way possible, “Thank you so much….” Kay is currently in the NIESP program, where he attends boarding school and sees a bright future for himself.
*names are changed for identity protection