Beyond Word, Excel, and Power Point: Computer Maintenance and IT Teacher Training in by Volunteer Ethan Heppner

group shotBeing technologically savvy is becoming an extremely important trait for Burkinabe youth hoping to succeed in the workforce, travel abroad, or advance in higher education. You can see their popularity in the exploding number of computer stores in Ouagadougou. Anyone that can use one enjoys big advantages in almost any endeavor, and those that can help repair and service them are at a premium.

When Ethan Heppner first arrived at his high school in Koudougou as an education volunteer, he was the only IT teacher, so his first year (2012-2013) was mainly focused on lesson planning and learning to navigate the computer lab. With the increasingly better grasp of his job that came with his second year of service (2013-2014), Ethan started selling and fixing computers with his counterpart.  Demand for their services was so great that their workload soon became overwhelming between just the two of them. They noticed there were teachers that often hung out in computer lab. Nine teachers (of which three remain) started being trained in computer service and repair. Once the teachers got going, Ethan and his counterparts expanded the program by getting more advanced students involved as TAs. Each teacher in training has two TAs to help them out in class; explaining the more difficult and complex concepts to students. These TAs have set hours for maintenance and cleaning of the computers, and at any other time they are available to help with repairs. This computer servicing brings money that helps finance the computer lab.

What this program really teaches youth to do is to think outside the box. They learn that you sometimes have to buck conventional wisdom because the new way of doing things is more effective. Knowledge is important, but what’s most important is knowing how to ask the right questions. With a computer, sometimes it is obvious what to do, or sometimes you must do specific research and ask a specific question (in French and in English). Ethan also incorporates English into his trainings, as there are so many more technology resources available in English.