|Preserving Tonga culture online|
|Friday, 18 May 2012 21:04|
Initially funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and Horizont 3000, the project changed hands in May 2010 when the funders shifted base to South Africa as Zimbabwe was faced with challenges.
Now run by the ably managed Basilwizi Trust, the Tonga Online project has shifted gears and its upward trajectory seems to know no bounds.
“Of course, the initial funders of the project had challenges in 2010 and could not continue with the project and because it served the interest of the people they then approached us to host the project and look for funding.
Basilwizi then took over the project in May 2010 through a memorandum of understanding that we signed through the ADA,” explains Basilwizi director Frank Mudimba.
The major thrust is information access and sharing for the community in Binga, IT skills transfer to the community and schoolchildren is an addition to the main emphasis of the project. They are running 12 centres in schools Binga.
They are also subscribing five weekly newspapers per centre so that the children and the community can be kept informed about what is happening around the world and in Zimbabwe in general.
“We also run computer centres in those schools where we encourage schoolchildren to form media clubs and they do basic story writing.
“We have students from NUST that are doing journalism that are assisting the children to write those stories and publish a newsletter which we called Twabane Times which means sharing,
“We are also still doing outreach training on basic IT skills, we get stories through those IT centres and that we publish on our website as well as the newsletter.
“We also do documentation of Tonga culture, we support traditional dance groups as we record and archive their material to try and save the Tonga heritage,” he said.
The eloquent Mudimba pointed out that since they took over there was a slight shift in the focus areas of the project because prior to their taking over it was almost 90 percent IT skills-based meaning the focus was on teaching computers and maintenance of computers in the schools.
For them, however, they believe that computers are just tools that help them to disseminate the Tonga’s cultural heritage and also to archive their cultural practices.
“They are tools that help them share information and access information so they shifted focus to say the Tonga Online Project must actually concentrate on information access.
“As you know the Zambezi Valley rarely get radio transmission, it’s a blackout in the Zambezi Valley, we are trying to complement Government efforts, where they can’t reach the people we try and get whatever means to get the get the people to be part of Zimbabwe.
“Our work is to complement what Government has already done or what it says should be the way forward for example we have been active in schools that benefited from the Presidential Computer Programme in schools.
“We already have projects in those schools, we have assisted in connecting those computers and getting power to those schools,” said Mr Mudimba.
He said his organisation donated a 7- megawatt solar grid to Siabuwa High School, a school that had received computers 10 years ago and they were still not being used.
They also installed e-books and children are also able to read and use the light for evening study.
All the 10 secondary schools in Binga received 10 computers each.
“Our purpose is to identify problems in the community and seek proper partnerships that will assist in sorting out some of the problems. We had been courting the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) for a long time even for the Siabuwa project.
“We had courted REA for a long time to try and install their solar grid project but they didn’t come on board but after we did it ourselves and they saw that it was a success they have moved in to set a similar grid in Chunga and another one in Lubimbi.
“We’re very glad that the expressed needs of the community are being addressed although it’s taking time we know the challenges of resources that the Government is facing but we are now able to get information to those areas and they are able to use the computers that the president donated,” he said.
When Basilwizi was formed by the chiefs the mandate it had was that of education and cultural support, it was hugely supported by the chiefs.
There was a chiefs’ council in 2005 that called for the formation of the trust and they were unanimous that their language and culture were at risk from the national policy of only supporting three languages in the country.