Set up in the form of a small non-governmental organisation, the Chawama Youth Project helps young people in the disadvantaged township of Chawama on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia. When the project was initially launched in 2004, most of Chawama’s young people were unemployed, crime was rife and their future was bleak. So, in order to give the young people a better start in life, the project began by setting up a ‘Skills Training Centre’.
By Theresa Stanton, IICD
The idea of the centre was to offer Chawama’s young people a wide range of short ‘life skills’ courses – such as carpentry, joinery, car mechanics and electrical engineering – to improve their chances of either finding work or becoming self-employed. However, it is not just the young people in Chawama who have benefited from the ‘Skills Training Centre’; many other people in the community and the surrounding areas have benefited from the services it provides. In fact, the centre is now attracting young people from outside Chawama who also wish to make use of its services.
During the course of the project, it soon became apparent that music was the key to reaching Chawama’s youth. Many young people began dropping into the Skills Training Centre to ask if it was possible to have their ‘flows’ (raps in the local languages of Bemba and Nyanja) recorded on the computers so that they could promote their music on the radio and sell it on the streets. Helping young people record their music in this way and burn it on CDs was an ideal way to get them off the streets and involved in something constructive. The centre therefore decided to invest in a small recording studio for the whole community. These activities really took off and quickly led to the establishment of a second project: the ICT Integration, Multimedia & Recording Project – or ‘CYPRO’ for short.
The CYPRO project supports the artistic talent of local young people by offering them the opportunity to develop their recording and production skills. They learn to create CD-ROMs with their music, and from there, further assistance is offered to help them market their music. Another component of the project is information provision. Through the ‘Information Resource Centre’/Internet café, the staff of the Chawama Youth Project – the project owner – are helping the young people search for information. They also offer courses on how to use the Internet and benefit from it.
A milestone in the project was reached in March 2008, when – together with IICD – CYPRO Records released their first official CD. The ten-track compilation ‘Isubilo’, which means ‘hope’, brings together a handful of artists who have been discovered through the Chawama Youth Project. It is hoped that this is the first of many CDs. In fact, one of the musicians, Snaga, said that his group’s ambition is really to become international music superstars. “Of course… and actually, we are getting massive airplay on Zambian radio stations!” He went on to say that the project provided a good meeting space for local musicians. “We’re really like family…and we help one another”. It isn’t uncommon to see guest appearances from other artists on a number of recordings, and the project helps support that. Curious? Click on the link to download Chabota by RT and Snaga, or send an email for more information about the Isubilo CD.
Most of the songs composed by the young people with the help of the Chawama Youth Project are very poignant. They express their hopes and dreams for the future and describe the everyday hardships of life in Zambia. Music gives them the chance to channel their energy and express their feelings about the social issues affecting their community today such as the plight of elderly women who are taking care of HIV/AIDS orphans. In this way, the music component of the Chawama Youth Project, which happened by chance, has proved to be one of its most inspiring features.
Aside from motivating Chawama’s young people to come to the centre and resulting in the establishment of a second project to keep up with demand, the project has also attracted other members of the community, such as church choirs. The choirs use the recording studio to record their songs so they can sell their CDs to the congregation during the services. This helps them to generate extra income for church activities.
Another positive spin-off from the steady influx of young people who initially came for the recording studio was that it gave staff at the Skills Training Centre the chance to introduce them to other skills training programmes on offer at the centre such as car mechanics, electrical engineering and house wiring, tailoring and design, and ICT. This inspired many young people to try their hand at the other courses on offer. So far, the Skills Training Centre has trained a total of 400 young people.
The Skills Training Centre has also integrated ICT components into several of its courses to improve efficiency. Teachers are now using the Internet to find appropriate training material to enhance the content of their courses. For example, teachers of car mechanics now access diagrams of engines using Google Images instead of drawing and redrawing complex diagrams of engines on the blackboard by hand; student handouts can be produced quickly and easily; and existing lesson plans can be stored and reused. The Training Centre is also using ICT to streamline its administrative procedures, thereby improving its own efficiency. In addition, the project’s ‘Information Resource Centre’ provides easy access to the Internet and other computer-based secretarial and communication services geared towards young people
The work of the Chawama Youth Project has not gone unrecognised. In February 2007, it was one of five projects out of thirty to receive a Silver Award at the 2006/2007 Commonwealth Youth Developments Award. This was a great honour for the project, particularly as all the shortlisted projects had originally been nominated by the ministries responsible for youth in the member countries in the Africa Region. It is also a formal acknowledgement of the good work the project has carried out in Chawama.
The Ministry of Youth Development has also recognized the Chawama Youth project and has offered them a 5.6-hectare plot of land at Kanakantapa (70 km outside Lusaka) to replicate their current work with an extension in agriculture and tourism.
The future looks bright for both the project and the young people of Chawama!
Visit www.iicd.org for more information about Chawama, CYPRO and other ICT4E projects supported by IICD.
A comprehensive overview of the experiences of IICD and its local partners with developing ICT4E projects at the grassroots level, including lessons learned and examples of best practices, can be found in: ‘ICTs for Education: Impact and lessons learned from IICD-supported activities’ (December, 2007). See: http://www.iicd.org/articles/icts-for-education