Key Peninsula Fire Department firefighter/EMT volunteer Chance Gower, a Wauna resident who teaches computer technology at South Kitsap High School, will be part of a group that will travel in June to Uganda to deliver computers for the country’s education system.

John Nsambu will be traveling to Uganda with Chance Gower (in background) Photo by Hugh McMillan

Gower, together with SKHS staff members Sean and Cathy Duttry and a group of students, collected surplus computers from local businesses and organizations. The students, from South Kitsap, Forest Ridge and Mount Si high schools in Kitsap County, collected 400 computers, refurbished them, and designed a refurbishing center that will soon be established in Uganda’s capital, Kampala to house the machines as well as serve as a teaching center.

Recently, John Nsambu, the youngest Ugandan minister of information and communication technology in the country’s history, visited the area with fellow Ugandans, Sofia Nantongo, Mathias Muko, and Nicholas Nyombi. They toured the Puget Sound area, met with South Kitsap High students and teachers, and enjoyed local cuisine.

Nsambu has visited SKHS several times in the past. This is the fifth year of an ongoing mission by “Computers for Uganda” to refurbish, install, and train Ugandan students in the operation of computers. To date the program has given many hours of learning experience to Ugandan students and staff helping to speed the progress of technology in Ugandan schools.

Gower said, “The Honorable Nsambu’s efforts in this program have helped to elevate Uganda’s emerging technology market and shown a marked increase in the math and science scores of Ugandan students, thereby demonstrating this to be a successful ongoing program … Nsambu described how, as he travels throughout Uganda, he comes across children walking away from school. When he asks why, the reply invariably is, ‘The teacher sent me home as I have no pencil.’ This smallest of things can forfeit a child’s education in Uganda. Pencils are almost unaffordable luxury. Pencil sharpeners are even less available and children have to use razor blades to sharpen pencils.”

“Pencils, paper, and other essentials are rare sights in any of the schools of Kampala,” Nsambu told the gathering of student volunteers assembled in the SKHS computer lab. “Local Rotary clubs are working together with our students in association with the Computers for Uganda and Computers for the World programs to help touch children’s lives with a reusable resource for years to come. With the original intent to spread technological skill among female students, the initiative grew into an international connection. Associated schools refurbish and install computers in the indigent schools in Uganda.”

The program requires chosen Ugandan schools to have at least 50 percent female students and to continue to involve young women in technology. The program has worked with some 25 schools and 1,500 computers.

This June, SKHS’ and Forest Ridge’s 16 selected students will be led to Uganda by a small group of chaperones including Gower and Janet Graeber, former principal of Forest Ridge High School. The plan exceeds that of previous years. The main initiative is to establish the refurbishing center that will be used by in-country businesses to refurbish, recycle, and repair computers, thus eliminating the step of refurbishing them before transport from the United States. It will also sustain computers and create more self-sufficiency in Uganda. The count of computers installed each year has been between 200 and 300; this year will be the largest with 400.

U.S students and chaperones spend three weeks of summer in Uganda teaching and installing computers and sharing technological education with impoverished communities. Students who volunteer for the program are selected on the basis of desire to educate and to experience Uganda’s culture. While there, they also meet the president and members of Uganda’s parliament — and even experience a three-day Safari. Their mission is made a little easier because the national language in Uganda is English.

Anyone seeking information on the Computers for Uganda Program or wishing to donate regular lead pencils and handheld plastic pencil sharpeners to the children of Uganda may contact Gower at 360-874-5680.

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