Internet capacity in sub-Saharan Africa is growing, but not very quickly. According to the International Telecommunications Union, many African countries have a low 1 kilobyte of international internet bandwidth per user, and this creates challenges for those who are planning their #YALILearns session and need to access course materials online.
Fortunately, there are many ways to work around slow or nonexistent internet service, a lack of computers and limited access to social media. Here are some stories and ideas from your fellow YALI Networkers and Mandela Washington Fellows.
DOWNLOAD AND/OR PRINT ALL COURSE MATERIALS IN ADVANCE
If you have enough space on your computer, flash drive or DVD, why take a chance on a slow or unreliable network?
Obinna Ebirim from Nigeria downloaded all his course materials onto a flash drive and found a television with a USB input for a smaller-size class. He was also able to find a projector that would work with the drive for another class that took place in a large hall. He didn’t have computers available for the students, so he encouraged those with mobile phones to take the test at the end of the course immediately, or else go home and use a laptop or personal computer and to report back to him when they earned their certificates.
Charlene Chekenya also downloaded the online videos from YouTube using her personal Wi-Fi connectivity and saved them. For her session, she simply played the saved videos. To download, she simply searched the name of the YALI expert speaker she wanted and the name of the course and downloaded the video either on YouTube or straight from the website.
Because she did not have enough computers, “I used a projector for the presentation and circulated two laptops that were connected to mobile internet devices for the online tests … until a greater number of them had completed. The rest completed after the event on their personal time,” she said.
Personalizing the course materials for the audience takes much more preparation, but that can pay off by making the event even more effective.
Fatouma Elmi from Djibouti said: “I made time to download. It takes a long time because the internet is not that fast. This is the first thing. The second is for the presentation on climate change we added specific information about our country and how climate change has affected it.” She said it took her about a month to get these materials together, but it was a very successful session, with 60 people attending, and “they loved the topic.”
NO SOCIAL MEDIA? SPREAD THE WORD THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY
There’s no question that applications like Facebook make organizing easier and create a network you can use to follow up with your course participants. But in Jaka Kabba’s community in Sierra Leone, social media is still not widely used.
Her #YALILearns session was targeted toward women and focused on climate change. To tell people about her event, she said, “I used the ‘woman channel.’”
“I went house to house. I spoke to people about the event. I called the community chairlady. The chairlady called other stakeholders, and they passed on the message. Even if I couldn’t reach all of the houses, they helped the message go out,” she said.
She also prepared by printing out the materials in advance and divided her group into their specific areas of interest. In her case, it was cleaning up garbage in the community, addressing deforestation, and how flooding was affecting local sewage.
“You don’t need to have all the papers to do something. As long as you have the vision, have the passion, you can do something and raise awareness in your community. You will see a change, even if it starts with one person. That person will pass on the message. I started door to door and people heard me and saw the passion I had,” she said.
RURAL AREAS PRESENT EVEN MORE CHALLENGES
The YALI Network online course on climate change convinced Awo Abdi Elmi from Djibouti that women in rural areas of her country would especially benefit from it because their livelihoods are already being affected by dying trees and desertification. She also wanted her #YALILearns session to promote the use of clean cooking stoves that burn much less wood. She knew it would be a challenge. Not only were there no computers or internet service in the village where she was going, but most of her audience could neither read nor write. With advance planning, she was able to overcome these challenges.
Elmi downloaded the entire course ahead of time and borrowed a projector from work. She also contacted a local NGO that worked in the village to help spread the word.
“We told the ladies who had phones one week before that we were going to come that day. ‘We’re going to train you and raise awareness about this issue.’ And they said, ‘OK, please come,’ and promised to spread news of the event to others … They live far away from each other, so they needed at least a week to let each other know about the event,” she said.
Elmi designed her own PowerPoint presentation using course materials, made posters to use in the classroom, and brought a model of the clean cooking stove.
By designing a lighter version of the climate change course that emphasized the practical solutions the women could take every day, Elmi was able to reach an audience that is often overlooked. She was even able to convince many of them to start using the new cooking stove.
Elmi adds that for rural sessions where many are impoverished, it is important not to raise expectations. “In some areas when they hear people are coming to see them they expect things. They expect maybe donations, maybe gifts. So take small tokens. Not really a proper gift, but bring something with you,” she said.
Interested in learning more about #YALILearns? Learn how you can facilitate your own session on our #YALILearns page.