“They get very excited and they love it” said Azlifa Adam parent of little 7 year old Ali who is one among many kids his age who has learnt how to use computers.

When the Kudafari ICT first opened just beside the pre-school, many of the kids were reticent and even afraid of the electronic gadgets while some were naturally curious.

“Now they are happy playing children’s games, learning the alphabet and coming up with drawings of their own” says Huma.

“Although the allocated time is small, it is still beneficial as they are getting an early start in education whilst learning how to use computers” adds Huma.

Computers are relatively new to the many islands of the Maldives. The Kudafari ICT Centre is the first computer centre sponsored by UNDP. So far 27 seven year olds have enrolled and are receiving training from two instructors on the basic functions of computers, and on how to use them for fun and education.

The idea was jointly conceived by UNDP and the NGO Initiate of Singapore. The island of Kudafari received 7 computers and 2 printers from Initiate and software donations that helped realise the project. UNDP Maldives offered financial help and technical assistance and helped them attract resources from other sponsors.

Most people in Kudafari, children included do not have access to computers in this Maldivian island where the average monthly salary is around US$ 100. Youngsters who are computer literate, or at least have access to computers, undoubtedly have an advantage in expanding their knowledge, while those who do not have less opportunity for learning. Educators believe that if children are not given the same opportunity to benefit from information technology, it widens the gap in knowledge and creates inequality.

When it was first started the aim of the computer centre was to provide computer and internet access to the community. Computer classes like these for kids seeks to bridge the digital divide, a challenge in a world that has been made smaller by the information and technological era. The aim is for the children to have an early start and grow up confidant and technology friendly thereby giving them the opportunity to become productive individuals.

“The children start out learning to play simple games that promote creative thinking and at the same time allow them to learn how to use computers. Before the conclusion of the school semester in November of that year, the kids move onto more challenging educational software that enables creative thinking and teach them English” says tutor Lim.

“It is certainly widening the children’s horizons beyond their little patch of sand” says Bari UNDP Programme Officer.

Such is the success of the computer classes for children. As one tutor said “they have become better and more familiar in the use of computers and the interactive nature of the educational software also promote a more interesting learning medium”.

“The challenge now is looking for more stimulating and interesting educational software that particularly promote leaning phonics, simple calculations and creative thinking” she adds.

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