Walking bus to develop women’s skills

Mavis Mdyoyolo in green and in the red coat is Nombulelo Mkupa enjoying themselves.

There was joy as the City of Cape Town’s project aimed at developing and strengthening the skills and abilities of the community it serves, saw Mfuleni women receiving much-needed computer skills through the walking bus initiative and the Digital Literacy Programme.

The excitement and camaraderie among the women was palpable as they were compiling their CVs.

The walking bus initiative is a daily support system run by a group of 30 women from the community who make sure that children from the neighbourhood walk safely to and from school.

According to the City a few men have also decided to join the walking-bus initiative and the Digital Literacy Programme.

The City’s mayoral committee member for corporate services, Raelene Arendse said the group had been split into three smaller groups of ten each and would be trained in basic computer skills over the next three weeks.

“It may seem like an old adage but one is never too old to learn a new skill. I applaud the women of Mfuleni for taking this bold step to enter the digital space which is unfamiliar to them.

“The programme forms part of a digital literacy pilot project that focuses on enhancing participants’ digital skills. Developing these skills will help not only to improve their access to technology but will also open doors to future entrepreneurial or employment opportunities,” she said.

The Digital Literacy Programme originally encompassed training in computer hardware and embedded software, Basic Writer (open source Word equivalent), Basic Calc (open source Excel equivalent) and internet security.

Ms Arendse said the group of women should serve as a source of inspiration to their peers in the community and encouraged young and old residents and community organisations to make use of these excellent learning opportunities.

Andre Ford, senior project administrator from the IS&T Digital Inclusion Department said the challenge was that most of the women had not even laid hands on a computer previously.

Mr Ford said in addition, the language was a barrier as almost every single one of them is fluent in Xhosa but speaks very little English, if at all.

He said that presented the City’s Information Systems and Technology Department (IS&T) with a challenge.

“We have come to realise that a programme has to be flexible to cater for varying levels of digital literacy.

“It was a great opportunity to tailor the content to suit the needs of quite literally each woman on the programme.

“This is the only way to make it as inclusive as possible and ensure residents get onto the digital highway successfully. IT cannot be a one size fits all solution,” he said.

Busisiwe Mrataza, who completed the programme during the first intake of participants, has volunteered her time to teach the enthusiastic women the basics of computer literacy while she is searching for employment.

Ms Mrataza also plays a critical role in translating the programme instructions into Xhosa to make it easier for the women to follow. Although she only recently acquired the skills as well, her
passion shines through and makes it seem like she’s an old hand at this.

When asked what would they do next with this newly learnt skill, it was unanimous; they want to finalise their CVs and apply for job opportunities to improve their lives.

The programme allowed for easy access to the LibreOffice package available on SmartCape computers located in the City’s libraries and is an important learning experience where participants gain a better understanding of the digital world.