At exactly 4:15 the door bangs open and the Form 1 students run into the room, dashing into their seats. They squeeze as many people as possible into the front row, nobody wants to sit in the back during computer class.
More than a third of the students in this class have never been exposed to or interacted with computers and many have a limited idea of how computers can be used. When asked what a civil engineer might use a computer for, one student replied “answering emails.” This is the magic of computer classes at Daraja: when students come in with zero exposure, every moment is a realization of a possibility.
Teacher Denis is methodical in his introductory courses. Instead of handing out laptops right away he demonstrates how to properly hold a mouse, what the different keys are for, and the purpose of each button and port. Class moves slowly, but the students are enthralled. When you’re not quite sure what the computer can do, those first steps feel like opening an infinite number of doors.
Beyond the sheer fascination with the technology, the Form 1s are motivated by the social challenges they’ve already met not knowing how to use computers. “It’s not only how it might help you,” one student describes. “You see, sometimes you might go somewhere where many people know how to use a computer. If you don’t know, you feel you are the odd one out, or even shameful.”
Computers are a part of life at Daraja like at any high school. Daraja girls have regular computer classes and use them for research and in several extracurricular clubs, such as media and journalism. The older students, who have been using the computers at Daraja for a few years now, have a much better understanding of the technology. They can rattle off uses for the computers, like research, calculations, security, communication, medical imaging, design, video editing — the list goes on. Like any teenager, you can see them moving between internet tabs as they work, flipping through YouTube channels to find the right background music for their research.
Even though many of them have only been using computers for, at most, three years now, they’re so comfortable with the technology that you can’t tell who had used a computer before Daraja and who hadn’t. Their level of ease with the technology is beyond impressive, but it also makes sense. They grew up in a world of technology, whether or not they had the chance to access it. Daraja is simply a bridge. Now that they’re on the side with computers, there’s no stopping them.