The community of Manhiça and its Telecentre:
Background report: An evaluation study of two telecentres after three years of operation. It includes a participaory needs assessment of young people’s and women’s learning needs.
The town of Manhiça is a district capital situated about 80-km north of Maputo where the National Highway (EN1) from Maputo crosses the Nkomati river. The town is a busy traffic junction for people and goods. The local Telecentre is situated at the main road next to popular roadside rest places and restaurants.
The Telecentre of Manhiça
The telecentre was established in 1999 with the support of UNESCO and the Centre for Information and Communication at the University Eduardo Mondlane (CIUEM).
It has developed into a dynamic centre of the village and has a full-time Manager, and a dynamic local management committee (CAL).
The CAL includes representatives from all major governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in the community, from youth organizations, women’s groups to local council representatives, schools and cultural/religious groups.
Services and equipment
The Telecentre has a basic set-up of 3 PCs (PII) for public use, 1 PC for administration, PC LAN, Internet Hub for Internet sharing, telephone modem, photocopier, telephone & fax and a very small library. It offers computer courses, photocopying, telephone and fax services, access to computers and Internet as well as document binding services. The town of Manhiça has a repeater station for microwave communication, which should guarantee good quality phone lines. A suitcase radio station is planned to be set up at the Telecentre in the near future.
The Telecentre is visited by over 100 users each day, but so far it is neither financially nor technically sustainable. Prices for Internet access are not at cost recovery level and the national coordination team at the CIUEM is servicing the PCs every 3 weeks. The CIUEM is planning to install a leased line in Manhiça, as an attempt to reduce costs and increase the speed of the service. For the time being it provides emergency subsidies to the phone bills of the centre. Viable solutions for sustainability have so far not been found, but are being considered as a main concern by the management team.
The insufficient size of the Telecentre building is also a growing concern, which the local management committee is discussing with different partners to find a solution and possibly move into another building.
Gender divide of users
There is a gender divide with regard to the use of different services: girls and women mainly come to the Telecentre to use the telephone, while boys tend to be the main users of the computers. Moreover girls tend not to complete computer-training courses, a problem the CAL has not yet been able to tackle.
Special user groups
Educational institutions :
Manhiça town has 5 primary schools and one secondary school. The language of instruction is Portuguese, even though the local languages (Shangana and Ronga) are widely spoken and used. There is one teacher training college and free literacy programmes are offered for adults, especially women.
The Telecentre has signed agreements with the local secondary school and the teacher training college to seek and compile information on selected topics and prepare a weekly news-wall with information downloaded from the Internet. The agreement includes the provision of an e-mail account to the Secondary school and arrangements for teachers to develop worksheets for their classes. The Telecentre also provides photocopy services to these schools. So far the Telecentre is not used to support literacy or other non-formal education programs, even if this has been identified by the CAL as a potential possibility.
Two youth groups are active in Manhiça, one supported by the governing socialist party (FRELIMO) and one created by secondary school students. They are both involved in cultural activities. The group from the secondary school has experience in theatre plays, performed sometimes upon the request of community members. They use the Telecentre to write the plays and design, print and photocopy their leaflets. Some of the older teenage boys come to the centre upon their own initiative to use the (modest) library or find information on the Internet. So far the Telecentre is not involved in specific youth programmes or activities.
Some other characteristics of the community
The main sources of income in the community come from agriculture, in particular sugar cane as well as informal trading. A large group of the Manhiça male population spends a lot of time as migrant workers in South Africa. Women tend to be the heads of households involved in family upbringing and income generating activities.
The large majority of the community is religious. Catholics form the largest religious group and Muslims the second largest, but much smaller.
The major cultural events of the town are Manhiça Day, May 18 and “Natal,” December 31.
Manhiça hosts a camp of about 200 Burundi refugees. Some of the refugees use the Telecentre facilities for distance education purposes.
Manhiça faces many of the problems typical for small towns in southern Africa such as unemployment, Malaria and HIV/AIDS, lack of relevant learning opportunities, illiteracy, male migration, lack of access to information and communication facilities etc. The application developed in Manhiça will therefore be equally relevant for other communities in the region.