Before coming to Williams College, I had always been passionate about transforming the educational system in my home country, Zimbabwe. That is why during my gap year, after completing high school in 2014, I started an educational non-profit organization called ExcelAfrica that has supported more than 5,000 underprivileged high school students in Zimbabwe. In 2016, I launched ZimCode with a group of friends using funds from the Davis Projects for Peace. ZimCode is a mobile coding school in Bulawayo Zimbabwe which selects an average of 100 students, per semester, from different backgrounds and teaches them an introductory level programming class for free. We have laptops and a team of college students who go to the schools to conduct the lessons three days a week.
Although my studies at Williams isolated me from my projects back at home; through my internship, I spent my summer of 2018 working as a web software developer for GoDigital Zimbabwe (now the biggest privately owned web services business in Zimbabwe.) As a developer, I was deeply involved in the company’s main projects. One such project was “The National Digital Transformation of the Primary and Secondary Education.”
The goal was to digitize all school management processes which are currently being done manually, which is inefficient and labor intensive for both the staff and the students (imagine Williams College without GLOW.) When complete, the project will put 2,000 Zimbabwean schools online by creating learning platforms for every school (similar to how GLOW works for Williams College students.) It will digitize the school management processes by connecting students, parents, teachers, and stakeholders via online platforms integrated within the school websites. After two months, we managed to create online platforms for 500 schools and we have conducted more than 20 workshops, at a provincial level, to educate schoolteachers on how to adopt this technology into the current education system.
The systems allow schools to manage all processes such as checking attendance, uploading class note and videos, and directly communicating with parents via the SMS platforms. Parents can also pay tuition and fees from anywhere in the world, and they can receive official school announcements directly via SMS.
Participating in a national project that will transform the country’s educational system and benefit millions of school children is something that I could have ever predicted. Personally, I built school online platforms for 20 schools within the course of my internship and was able to demo one of the platforms to the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavima, at the National Launch of the “National Digitization of Schools Program.” Before our project, students were isolated at the end of every school day because the schools had no online platforms where they could access academic resources (most public schools don’t have enough funding to buy students personal textbooks.) But after the Digitizing Schools Project, students now have access to an e-library with limitless resources and they now participate in online discussions. This internship has brought me so much joy to be able to witness the impact of a project that I directly participated in. I managed to travel to remote provinces all over the country’s ten provinces to talk to the teachers who will be helping students adopt a better way of assimilating knowledge.
I also plan to give back to my country using the tech skills that I have acquired during my two-year journey at Williams and I cannot wait to see what I will be able to achieve when I graduate in 2020. Because of ASIP, I was able to interact and contribute to a great team that has made history in the Zimbabwean education system by completely revolutionizing the way students and teachers exchange information. As someone who did not grow up in a developed country, I truly appreciate the value this project brought. I know that it will impact generations of Zimbabwean students and I would like to thank the Mr. and Mrs. Edward P. Palmer ’71 for their generous support. Their generosity offered me practical experience that most people dream of getting and I was so lucky to have people who can support me and my passion for positive change. Because of them, I have made history in my country.