Impact and sustainability of computer schools in South Africa
Since 1997, HomePlan Foundation provides low-cost housing to poor groups of people in South Africa to support them out of poverty. Having a house is seen as a sine qua non for achieving upward social mobility and escaping poverty, as it grants beneficiaries (formerly living in shacks) safe shelter and protection and uplifts their self-esteem. Additionally, since 2015, HomePlan has been sponsoring three computer schools, set up to enable young people in selected communities to acquire the skills necessary to advance towards their ambitions in an ever-increasing technology-centred South Africa.
In 2018, HomePlan and Shared Value Foundation jointly set out to assess the impact and sustainability of three computer schools supported by HomePlan in the communities of Pomeroy, Tzaneen and Wasbank, South Africa. SVF conducted semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with close to 100 past and current students on their experiences with the computer schools; 30 in-depth interviews with the schools’ staff, community leaders, and potential employers; and we organized an exchange meeting between the managers, teachers, and graduates from the three schools.
During interviews, graduates recalled the strong sense of achievement and empowerment felt after acquiring the courses offered in the computer schools. They also reported that this had encouraged several of their friends and family members to join the schools as well. Attending the computer course does a lot to uplift the confidence of both younger and older students. For those who were also housing beneficiaries of HomePlan, the combination of a safe home and computer skills which increased their chances of employment, presented them with a more hopeful future. Attending the computer course also offered a productive use of free time, a close and affordable education for vulnerable people, and created a diversion from involvement in detrimental activities.