Austin Tunnell & William Campara, Youth Technical Center
Austin Tunnell, a former CPA turned Peace Corps Volunteer, and co-leader William Campara, are starting a youth Computer Lab and Learning Center that offers courses in computers, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and design. The Lab is intended to provide practical skills that can increase a student’s employability, but more importantly, its goal is to instill in each student a hunger for knowledge. In this spirit, the Lab will also tap into the rich world of online education and make thousands of University courses, from Khan Academy to Harvard University, available to students to pursue on their own.
Uganda is the second youngest population in the world with 78% of the population under 30 and a median age of 15. With such a fast growing population, Uganda is desperate to create new markets and industries in order to provide jobs for its young people. Unfortunately, lack of basic computer skills and an education system that suppresses creative thinking and new ideas are stifling economic growth and innovation, leaving most of these young people unemployed.
This is the inspiration for the Lab. Their model focuses on the individual, encouraging each student to pursue their own interests, at their own pace, in their own way. Even the basic curriculum for computer skills, such as Excel, is compiled from various online resources with written text, video tutorials and work-along examples that students pursue at their own pace with the guidance of an instructor. This ensures each student gets an individualized learning experience, but most importantly, it encourages self-directed learning. The founders believe this is a real skill that must be developed and nurtured, and is of vital importance to Uganda’s development. If a student can’t figure out an Excel formula, they are encouraged to Google it and problem solve, rather than simply ask the instructor. Of course, the instructor is there to help if needed. But they believe the process of self-directed learning expands a student’s creative, critical thinking and problem solving abilities—in addition to empowering them. They want each student to leave with the unequivocal belief, “I can pursue knowledge on my own.” This is why they named the Lab “Kuchunguza”, the Swahili word for “explore”.
GRANT AWARD DATE: February 4, 2015