Togo citizens flock to learn ICT use

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, Lomé, Togo

Signs posted at street corners, bus stations and marketplaces that read Initiation à l’Informatique have in the past few years become a common sight in Togo’s capital Lomé and other cities.

Translated from French, this simply means ‘Computer Training’. The training’s components includes MS Office and Internet.

“This is the best most of us can do for now to help this ICT-illiterate nation, especially the youth, speak at least a bit of digital language,” Madjé Atayi told Biztechafrica.

“The training is cheap and could last up to one month, and after that if a student is not satisfied, he or she can register for another session by paying an additional fee,” he explained.

Registration at most of these makeshift ICT learning centres costs 1000 FCFA (US$2) and the training fee is set at 5000 FCFA (US$10).

Training premises include internet cafés, backyards, church grounds, rundown buildings and even open areas.

“The government has not done enough in terms developing ICT in education, so we have stepped in to help our folks get to grip with ICT in this fast-changing world,” Ginette Agbobli, former university student turned businesswoman, said.

Students come from all walks of life: government and private sector employees, high school and tertiary students, primary school pupils and school leavers, high school and university graduates.

Biztechafrica also found boys and girls aged between six and nine being taught computer basics in one ‘training centre’ of Lomé.

“I’ll tell you something: most tertiary and high school graduates in Togo have finished school without touching a computer,” Agbobli said.

“So they are looking to get some ICT training to enhance their chances of getting a job, bearing in mind that their degrees and diplomas are worthless without any knowledge of computers.”

One student agreed. “I’m one of those, I have a bac [high school diploma] but not a single bit of computer knowledge, and I’m hoping this training will position me to move my life one step further.”

Atayi said: “There is a huge market here because demand for ICT training is increasingly overwhelming supply. I wish I can have the resources to open one or two more centres to bring more people in.

“But with nobody to help you, you do a bit of buying and selling here and there to get some money to buy at least one computer, a table and install the internet.”

The other big challenge is many families’ lack of finance to pay for the training.

“Some parents come to you with teary eyes, begging you to reduce the training fee,” training centre manager Desmond Kalipe said.

“I understand we are a poor country and parents desperately want to see their kids become computer literate,” Kalipe added.

“But, I’m sorry I cannot do that because the amount I charge is already low. You have to pay the teachers, electricity and rent of the premises, and make a bit of profit.”

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