WHEN William Makgaba (32) started a project in his community teaching people basic computer skills, little did he know that many people from rural communities would be empowered to learn more about Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Born and bred in Ga-Dikgale, outside Polokwane, Limpopo, William worked as a gardener after completing matric due to a lack of resources.
Like any other child, William had big dreams of becoming a doctor while growing up, but things did not go according to plan after he matriculated in 2003 from Morutwa Secondary School.
“I’m the fourth of six children and we were all raised by a single mother, who had to leave us with our grandmother to work as a domestic worker. Life was not rosy at all, especially as our mother was not around to ensure we had everything we needed for school,” says William.
He says with the little that his mother made, he registered for Computer Science through Unisa, but unfortunately had to drop out when she passed away.
“I didn’t give up though, the person who had employed me as a gardener gave me a computer as she could see I was keen to learn and share my knowledge with others,” he says.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
William registered his project, Vexospark Community Technology Centre in 2012 with the aim to alleviate poverty in rural communities.
Today communities from villages such as Ga-Mamabolo, Ga-Sekgopo, Tikilaene, Sekeming and Ga-Matlala in Limpopo are benefiting from this project.
He says Vexospark aims to alleviate poverty in rural communities as he believes education is the only tool that can save many people, especially from rural areas.
“We believe that education is the best way out of poverty, that is why we are using ICT in rural communities to reach equal and quality
education. We are moving from one village to another, trying to give children, youth, women and people living with disabilities hope for a better future,” says William.
William says while he was doing his first year, people laughed at him as he could not open Microsoft Word to type an assignment.
“This is when I realised that improving access to information technology for people in ruarl areas will have economic and social benefits for them,” explains William.
He says he found the need to develop the social capabilities that could bring the power of information technology to marginalised communities. To date, his project has created permanent employment for seven people, while 15 are volunteers.
“My vision is to create a nation in which society can actively participate in decisions affecting their lives and can equally have access to information and opportunities. With the support from Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), we are now going to build a digital college, where people from marginalised communities will have access to information and opportunities,” he says.
RUNNING THE CENTRE
William says they have not encountered any challenges as many of their programmes are for free.
“This should encourage people to come in numbers and use this opportunity to empower themselves,” he says. He says even though people sometimes think that anything that is offered for free does not have value, he would like to correct this as many people have benefited from his project.
“There will always be people who would like to see others fail, but I don’t dwell on that as my aim is to see our people having the knowledge that they need in order to better their lives,” he says.
“We are busy helping learners from pre-school to foundation phase with numeracy and literature using edu-station programmes. We are also helping Grade 10 to 12 learners with extra lessons in mathematics, mathematics literacy, physical science, economics and life science using ICT.”
He says they also offer programmes such as She will Connect Project, which aims to reduce the internet gender gap by helping to put the internet in the grasp of women in Africa.
Women and girls will benefit from the information, knowledge and connections available on the web and so far about 17 233 women have benefited from this.
“We also offer entrepreneurial business skills where we teach women business theory, market research, financial and business management, sales and marketing, computer literacy, business funding as well as management and other practical skills,” says William.
“Other programmes include 3D virtual learning, which aids learners living with disabilities to have access to computer literacy and Unisa Telecentre, which helps registered Unisa students access the internet, do assignments and change their modules.”