Stakeholders Update April 2006

School holidays started in April just before the Easter holidays, which were closely followed by the Independence Day holiday. Rains have fallen back, giving people time to harvest their crops. Elephants and pests are a perpetual problem in the district that are destroying those crops that survived the heavy rains. Nevertheless Binga Chiefs and their communities are determined to face the challenges for survival and are already planning for their harvest thanksgiving ceremony, Matenta.

Binga ITC: The management committee met at end of term to assess progress and prepare for the coming term where the revival of Internet services was a key topic. The committee is also undergoing restructuring since some members have left the district for other commitments.

Technical services are ongoing with the assistance of the Horizont3000 IT technical expert, Mr Uwe Allgauer who has already made a huge step towards bringing hardware up to standard, troubleshooting technical problems and sharing his knowledge with IT teachers 'Muchie' Muchineripi and BZ Siasweka and other team members. He is specifically working towards improved internet connection at Binga ITC.

Two of the 16 computers at the centre suffered hardware failure. A number of spare parts are needed, and Uwe has already met and discussed with project partners World Links to find solutions. The school is planning to apply for more computers from the government's computer program to backup the ITC with new equipment. Basic computer training courses are attracting more trainees, and 17 people (5 men, 12 women) were trained during this period with thirteen (13) taking the advanced level.

Siachilaba ITC: All 45 grade sevens attended the Introduction to Computer course and 6 community members (3 men, 3 women) completed the course at the end of the first week of April. The general use of the centre by the public has decreased since the printer has no cartridge. The centre has realized the need for very strict controls. Special effort is being made by Tonga.Online to assist in this special circumstance.

Arrangements for the cultural Matenta ceremony (harvest thanksgiving) that will be celebrated with a traditional music and dance festival by Simonga Cultural Group, are gaining ground with the Chief's committee receiving grains from community members for beer brewing. The community is seeking support with additional food and refreshments for the 1-day ceremony.

Syanzyundu ITC: The headmaster brought back the printer from Education offices in Bulawayo, still not repaired. The local technician will assess and recommend a solution. Computer lessons are well attended by students but find time allocated for computers very limiting. There were three adult trainees over the month of April. The IT trainer visited Chief Saba where he was warmly welcomed, and the Chief's son given lessons on the operation of the AlphaSmart for the Chief's official business. An invitation was once again extended to his secretary to come to Syanzyundu ITC for further training on the desktop computer on a regular basis.

Twiimbilane Studio: There was less recording of raw materials as the focus turns to editing for purposes of getting some completed outputs and assisting some artists to prepare for live shows. With some speakers for possible hire identified, the studio is negotiating for some assistance to make the live Performance a success. DAAC budgets were reported to be inadequate to support the artists' move against HIV and AIDS jointly with ZNFPC based on prevention with condom promotion. Some artists like Kasambabezi Rhythms from Siabuwa, Katuya Basa Orchestra from Pashu, Kankobela music from Siachilaba, Kantimbwa music and Kula Ubone from Sikalenge managed to join Lumvwano Brothers and Lusumpuko Sounds at Binga centre. The rural artists made an effort to transport themselves from places over 120km. Tonga.Online staff facilitated a two days workshop with the artists to come up with a strong joint performance against HIV and AIDS, going with the theme: "KEEP THE PROMISE". The open-air performances were staged in two venues in Binga growth point on 27 April and over 400 people attended each show. Some fund-raising shows to cover some costs of hired equipment that Twiimbilane studio does not have, followed over the weekend of 28th to 1st May, still echoing the awareness messages in Binga social venues Sportlite and Milandu Gardens. An average of 100 people attended each of the four closed shows. staff and some local artists have supported the visiting artists with accommodation and food. Binga High School accommodated some artists while Save the Children Fund provided some HIV and AIDS reading materials for distribution. The Binga District AIDS Action Committee (DAAC) financed part of the transport and promised to support the furtherance of the awareness program with its next budgets. The music groups have taken the opportunity to record for their album production. We are grateful to the support given by the Binga authorities, ZRP and the audience, and hope that some concerned members of the globe will be able to reach us with the necessary support.

Simonga Cultural Group: In preparation for the upcoming cultural festival, the group had a chance to perform Ngoma Buntibe music for a German visitor who came through Chief Siachilaba. Their CDs - reproduced with the assistance of Tonga.Online and funded by the Zimbabwe Culture Fund - are slowly selling, and advertising the group and promoting BaTonga culture.

Sinazongwe, Zambia: After a short delay for electrical installation, the Sinazongwe ITC is fully operational after the ZamBeef Company donated the necessary armored cable. The Sinazongwe Basic School Parents Teachers Association (PTA) employed a night watchman immediately after the installation of computers. One of the fifteen computers soon developed problems and is awaiting service. Training has started with familiarization on main computer, working with individuals and a group of church members. We have received a number of positive comments and applications for computers from other Zambian schools. Local authorities are assisting with advertising for the ITC, at the request of the Hon Chief Sinazongwe. Plans are now in progress for Uwe to assist with the setup of the much-needed printer.

T.O trainer Theo Sianyuka, who is assisting and advising the setup phase, was introduced to Mr Shatis Vlahakis, the owner of Lwengu School in Monze, which has an ITC that is operating on Ubuntu Linux system. Shatis was happy to hear that Sinazongwe is also on Linux and further invited the ITC staff to Lwengu School ITC for a project exchange visit. Lwengu is a good school with good pass rates every year. From Harare, Penny Yon is also making contacts with Zambian IT organizations to setup a network of support for the Sinazongwe ITC in Zambia.

The Sinazongwe community is preparing and contributing food materials for the Lwiindi ceremony called by the Hon Chief Sinazongwe, which will be held on July 30 this year. The Lwiindi is a ceremony for thanksgiving that is held annually, and the invitation has been extended to Simonga Group and the Tonga.Online project.

The project is growing with extension of ITCs, the arts and HIV and AIDS activities but is constantly faced with the challenge of assisting centers to provide and maintain access to the Internet. Now that the Binga community has enjoyed access to information and communication, it is a much-needed service that must be maintained.

Thanks to all Binga authorities, community and stakeholders for their continued valuable support.

David Mungombe project