The value of internet technology and education to remote Bwindi communities

CTPH Telecentre Officer, Diana Neunje with Bwindi tourist using the internet to share her gorilla tracking experience 

 We were pleasantly surprised and greatly encouraged when during filming of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) work last Saturday 12th September 2009, by a PBS Frontline World film crew, Richard Ngabirano whose father, Mr. Bernard Mugabirwe is a local leader and Chairperson Local Council 1 in Buhoma Central Village, came to visit us at our CTPH office in Kampala and gave a great testimony of how he had benefitted from the computer training at the CTPH Telecentre. PBS Frontline World film crew wanted to find out how the CTPH Telecentre had changed the life of Richard and his community, a program started by CTPH Founder and Director of ICT for Development, Lawrence Zikusoka.

Richard said that since the telecentre was set up in June 2005 many members of the Bwindi community can now use the internet. Because of the email communication with potential sponsors, as many as 8 students living around the remote Bwindi Impenetrable Forest have gone to university, including him, at Nkumba University near Kampala doing a Bachelor in Business Administration. To top it all, one of these students, Brain Turindwamukama, who started Bwindi Kindness Club, a youth community based organization, was recently accepted in Scattergood School in USA through support from Linda Greenberg, Founder of 4Uganda Inc.

Richard also said that the community was appreciative that CTPH provided employment for the telecentre graduates, of which the most prominent was David Matsiko, CTPH Community Telecentre Officer, a former teacher of Rugando Primary School and former teacher and Director of Studies at King’s High School, both near Bwindi.

Richard eagerly recollected the time when he was taught by Diana Neunje, CTPH’s first Telecentre Officer, who had graduated from the Makerere University Department of Women and Gender Studies Gender and Technology Outreach Program. Diana who comes from Tororo in eastern Uganda went onto pursue a Masters in Information Technology at Makerere University and was replaced by David Matsiko.

PBS Frontline World asked whether the telecentre had made the communities more positive about conservation. Richard said that the TB program has had a great impact; he is pleased to see community members coming to the CTPH offices in Buhoma for follow up testing while in the Community Based Direct Observation of Treatments (CBDOTS) program. He also felt that people in his community were becoming more hygienic because of the CTPH brochures and posters displayed in the community, which link improved public health to gorilla conservation.

Lawrence Zikusoka asked Richard what he would like to do after graduation. He said that he plans to return to his community after he graduates and aspires to get a well paid job in the local institutions, such as, Uganda Wildlife Authority, NGOs like CTPH or tour operators based in Bwindi.

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