A Spiritual Revolution Through Computers

My visit with students at ECWA International College of Technology in Jos, Nigeria.

My visit with students at ECWA International College of Technology in Jos, Nigeria.

I poked my head into a computer classroom at ECWA International College of Technology (EICT) and started snapping photos. Things got a little crazy from there. Pretty soon everyone wanted to take their picture with me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m a celebrity? Or not …

One of the young men I took a photo with is on the left in this image. His name is Simfa Peter and he is one of seven boys from a family who lives in Jos. His father works in Lagos, a distance of about 600 miles. Simfa told me he is undergoing a diploma program in information technology and is in his third module at EICT.

He hopes to attend Bingham University in Jos, but has yet to gain admission and at the moment his family can’t afford the fees. “But I’m hoping God will do something this year,” he said.

When I asked Simfa about his experience at EICT, he had an amazing response. “Sincerely EICT has made me know Christ and made my relationship with Christ so strong through the discipleship class we do have and life principles class,” he said. “And it taught me how to use my computer and gadgets perfectly.”

And there’s more from Simfa on EICT. “And seriously, EICT has really impacted knowledge in me physically and spiritually.”

I got more than I bargained for when I ducked into the classroom for some photos and videos of students in action. I got a testimony of the Lord’s work through a school founded by TEN3 President Anthony Petrillo more than 20 years ago. These young men and women in Nigeria are being equipped spiritually through Christ-centered teaching and practically through computer skills training and we’re seeing the fruits of the labors in transformed lives.

–Matt Sabo, TEN3 Communications Manager

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`To Reach Out In Diverse Ways’

Kwangs Dauda (right) speaks with Intensive Christian Training School founder Eric Black.

Kwangs Dauda (right) speaks with Intensive Christian Training School founder Eric Black.

Kwangs Dauda seems to have an easy peace about him. Young and strong with a military background, Dauda is 25 years old and a self-described changed man. After attending Intensive Christian Training School in Biliri, Nigeria, Dauda said he learned a lot.

“I learned how to live in peace with the community and how to love more and how to be humble,” he said with a smile in the school’s courtyard. He also learned how to tell somebody about Christ, he said. Evangelization is something he enjoys the most now.

In particular, Dauda enjoyed the Transformational Education Network (TEN3) program at the school. The Intensive Christian Training School was founded and operated by missionary Eric Black. The school trains students in using computers and in addition to Windows, teaches the Linux operating system and the open source platform Ubuntu.

Dauda said he would love for all of his friends and all the youth around to have the same experience. He would love to have more support, primarily technical support and materials for the program, Dauda said.

“It will go a long ways to help the Tangali people and the Christians in the community to reach out in diverse ways,” Dauda said. “When you learn how to use the computer you can preach through the computer, you can enlighten someone with the computer and get them to know Christ.”

For more information on the school and to see an interview with Dauda, go here: https://vimeo.com/114681648

–By Matt Sabo, TEN3 Communications Manager

Maximizing Learning In A U-Shaped Classroom

visiting a U-shaped classroom

I get a kick out of it when the Lord leads us into something, sometimes when we are asking for something else, which seems less and turns out to be more. One of those cases is our use in the Transformational Education Network of the U-shaped classroom.

The West is facing some difficulties as it moves to all-computerized classrooms, which we’ve been doing in Africa since the 1980s. Two of these difficulties are keeping the students on task and getting the students’ attention. Once the students have a computer in front of them, the teacher doesn’t know if they are doing their work or answering email. When the teacher wants to say something or explain something, they have a hard time keeping the students’ attention because their eyes and minds keep going back to the screen.

The West’s solution is more technology: programs that will help you manage or control the students. With this technology, the teacher can watch every student’s screen to make sure they are on task. They can also blank out all the screens to get the students’ attention. There are several problems with this:

  • The software takes up part of the budget that could be used for something else that adds learning value;
  • It requires a particular infrastructure that reduces the flexibility of the system;
  • It fosters the wrong type of character development.

The fostering of the wrong type of character development is the worst of the problems. We are not teaching our students self-control, but that we will control them. The result is that when the teacher is not watching, like when I’m home, I’m going to do whatever I want, even if it is bad for me. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that the U.S. culture was schizophrenic. That is, people would do opposing things that made no sense and hurt themselves. In the U.S., we call for character development, spending a lot looking for ways to teach it, and yet every day in the classroom we use tools that impede self-control.

The U-shaped class addresses the problems of keeping on task and getting students’ attention. At the same time, it encourages self-control. We designed the U-shaped class so the teacher could easily see all the students’ screens. We also allow for a W shape for a larger class, with a teacher’s assistant watching one group. We did not do this so the teacher could police what the students were doing. We did that so the teacher could easily help the student when they needed it. Besides, in a TEN3 course, the material is designed so that the student doesn’t even think of wasting their time on other things, because they want to learn what is being taught.

When the teacher wants to present something, the students turn in their seats to see the teacher and the board. Hence, the screen is not a deterrent or in the way at all. This is also much more conducive to student discussion than desks placed in rows.

In this case, no longer is the teacher seen as a policeman keeping the students from doing what they want, but as someone who is helping them to develop. There is also a physical move made that enhances the fact that they are giving their students respect. As educators, we know that the more learning categories we can involve in the learning process, the more students we will reach. That is, some students learn better by hearing, others by seeing, others by movement and so forth. There is a real significant difference in a military where physical signs of respect are used, for example a salute, or standing when a superior officer comes in and so forth. That physical sign of respect in still giving the students control of the computers and helps character development far more than if the teacher always controlled them.

There is an adage to “give credit where credit is due.” We are not pretending we thought of this when we decided on the U shape. As we started out, we are thanking the Lord for the ways he has used what we thought were limitations to give us better concepts.

Principle: More technology does not mean better.

Not only is more technology not necessarily better, but if we study technological history, we see that technology often has a detrimental impact on learning. People that purposefully and prayerfully select their technology are the ones that end up the best in the long run.

–Anthony Petrillo, TEN3 President

On The Outside Looking In

Boys at an African school.

The two little boys were outside the classroom peering in. Surely intrigued by the white guys in the classroom, the boys were trying to get a look at what was going on. To me, though, the photo is symbolic of the things we’re trying to accomplish in the Transformational Education Network.

The photo is dark, the boys essentially silhouettes. You can’t see their eyes, or even get a glimpse of the expressions on their faces. The details in the classroom are featureless and you can’t see any students.

Here’s another photo of that classroom.

Kubacha classroom

What a difference some illumination makes, eh? Our work in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa and the Caribbean brings the light of the gospel to dark places. In Nigeria, in particular, where we are working the darkness of Islam pervades the country. I met many dedicated, faithful Christians intent on sharing the love and hope of Jesus and we pray for these people fervently.

In addition to teaching a world view centered on Jesus Christ, we are equipping students with computer knowledge. This knowledge is a means to not only obtain employment skills for jobs, but also to use that technological ability to further the gospel message. These young students pictured here in the Nigerian city of Kubacha, we pray, as they advance in school will someday become the students in post-secondary classrooms receiving the Christ-centered knowledge from our Transformational Education Network curriculum.

I was blown away when I visited this class of 44 young students at Christian school operated by the Evangelical Church Winning All denomination. The kids were unfailingly polite, knowledgeable, inquisitive and eager. There’s a tremendous amount of potential for the kingdom among these students and our prayer in TEN3 is that we will be able to be a part of equipping them for further Kingdom work personally and corporately.

If you’d like to see some videos of the work we are doing around the world, go here: https://vimeo.com/home/myvideos

For more on TEN3, visit our website at http://www.ten3.org.

God bless you.

–Matt Sabo, TEN3 Communications Manager

The Cost Of A Former Muslim’s Faith

Abubakar Yusuf (right) at Intensive Christian Training School in Nigeria

I met Abubakar Yusuf after a long journey by car across hot, dusty central Nigeria. Along with American missionary Eric Black, the two of us had traveled from Jos to Biliri — a journey of about 5 hours over rutted, narrow highways — with a pause for a brief lunch at an open-air “eatery” at a highway crossroads, where hungry little boys pounced on our leftovers of fish and rice we left at our tables. Our destination was a school started by Eric in Biliri called Intensive Christian Training School.

Eric is using Christ-centered Transformational Education Network (TEN3) curriculum as part of his school’s teaching regimen. Eric has done an amazing job with little resources in training up young men and women, giving them an in-depth, Christ-centered education as they learn practical computer skills.

Abubakar is a young man who had come from a Muslim family. He has essentially left everything behind to follow Jesus. The vast majority of good government jobs in the area are controlled by Muslims. Abubakar’s family had offered him one of those good jobs if he left the school and his Christian faith, but he refused.

Abubakar is a soft-spoken young man of 20 years with a quick, broad smile and an easy demeanor. Yet behind that smile and the quick laugh and beaming face is a young man who understands that faith, at least in his case, doesn’t come cheaply. There’s a cost to Abubakar’s faith — a good job, his family, basically everything he’s known. But the reward of eternity with Jesus is well worth it.

I am humbled by Abubakar’s faith. I’m honored to have met him. I’m thrilled for the young men and women like him at Eric’s school and other schools in Africa that use TEN3 curriculum and have seen young Muslim men and women come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Consider partnering with us financially. Our schools are open to anyone. In Nigeria, where the population in the northern states where we primarily are operating is a Muslim majority, that means students receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the schools we are working with the students are taught the Bible in addition to computer skills that help them get jobs, enter the workforce, start businesses and help their families financially. We’re seeing lives changed and a fruitful harvest.

Pray for us. Consider supporting us.

To see more of Abubakar’s story, go here: https://vimeo.com/116589234

To donate to the Transformational Education Network, go here: http://ten3.org/#donate

–Matt Sabo, TEN3 communications manager

`Waiting On The Protection Of The Lord From Ebola’

Sierra Leone Ebola orphans

In Sierra Leone, the recent Christmas and the New Year observances passed with a whimper. The traditional public celebrations were muted on orders of the government in the face of the Ebola crisis that has ravaged its residents.

An estimated 3,000 people of Sierra Leone have succumbed to the deadly disease out of a population of 6 million. By comparison, that would be the equivalent of 158,000 people in America dying of Ebola. That’s roughly the population of the city of Eugene, Oregon, home to the University of Oregon.

Imagine the terror that would strike this country if 158,000 people had died of Ebola, with the disease continuing to claim victims. The disease has left thousands of children orphaned, among them those pictured above in a Freetown neighborhood.

In the summer of 2014, we in the Transformational Education Network were partnering with Rev. Samuel Kargbo in operating a Christ-centered Computer Training Outreach school in Freetown, Sierra Leone. That abruptly came to a halt when the Ebola crisis brought the country to its knees and he had to close the school that was operating in his garage.

We have had sporadic contact with Rev. Kargbo since then, understandable given the horrifying circumstances he and his family are enduring in the West African country. In a recent email, Rev. Kargbo wrote that while in church on Dec. 14, 2014, two of their close neighbors died. Those left behind included four more orphans.

For a while this past summer, Rev. Kargbo’s community was holding 15 funerals a day for the victims of Ebola. Since the wave of Ebola deaths has taken its deadly toll on his community, Rev. Kargbo and his wife, Mary, have been tending to the orphans and widows of his neighborhood.

“My wife and I want to kick off an orphanage home but it will involve a lot of funding and has to be continued,” Rev. Kargbo wrote in a December email. “The sustainability is the problem we are envisioning. If we cannot get partners to start the orphanage, we will embark on providing some assistance in addressing their basic needs such as education, medical and food items.”

One the Ebola crisis passes and Rev. Kargbo is able to open the TEN3 school, he envisions some of the orphans from the upper secondary school enrolling in the computer training school.

“We could provide skills for the widows using my wife’s knitting, soap making, gara tie dye and literacy program,” Rev. Kargbo wrote. “We can assist the widowers with some form of training and capital for business. We can send some to various skills training programs.”

We believe Rev. Kargbo is a bright, compassionate light in a country of darkness. From his emails his faith remains resolute, his hope strong.

“We are just waiting on the protection of the Lord from the Ebola virus disease,” Rev. Kargbo wrote. “Our family gives God the glory but frankly speaking, things are very hard for us.”

We are working on partnering with the Wesleyan Denomination to provide assistance in the form of supplies such as food, chlorine, soap and buckets, and funds to assist Rev. Kargbo. Please keep in prayer Rev. Kargbo and the church leadership as they meet next week to consider assisting him in channeling resources through the Wesleyan Mission in Freetown.

If you feel led to help in some manner, please send an email to info@ten3.org for additional information.

–Matt Sabo, TEN3 communications manager

Computers, The Gospel And Africa

Computer classes

This year in central Nigerian communities, we in the Transformational Education Network are hoping to launch at least seven computer training outreaches. Partnering with ECWA International College of Technology, the computer training outreaches are key components of our plans to elevate lives through the spreading of the gospel and Christ-centered computer education.

So what’s a computer training outreach? Essentially it involves setting up computer classrooms, ideally of 20 to 25 computers to give students the essential hands-on work with the laptops. In many schools in Nigeria, students can acquire a certificate or diploma related to computer studies without ever touching a computer.

At our computer training outreach (CTO), the students learn God’s story from the beginning of creation and how it applies to their lives. They are given tools to help them study the Bible and strengthen their walk with Jesus long after they graduate.

They also learn how to operate computers, from basic keyboarding, to spreadsheets, to word processing and other uses. We teach them how to produce documents and presentations — creating graphics and manipulating photos are included in the instruction — and even simple websites.

As computers are always changing, we’ll teach the students what it takes to keep up with the changes that affect them. They also develop their own manuals on how to use the features of the common computers programs and they learn, for example, how to apply spreadsheets to real-life situations such as analyzing small businesses.

In going beyond knowing what keystrokes to use, we give the students the foundation of the computer to better understand how computer applications work. Along the way they are taught what are good and harmful aspects of computers and technology and the Internet so they can be discerning.

In addition to teaching them a thorough understanding of the power of computers, we give them hope to get jobs, start businesses, have an entrepreneurial mindset and even use computers to spread the gospel.

If you would like to partner with us to help launch the CTOs in Nigeria, go here: http://ten3.org/index.php/get-involved/financially

To see a short video about our work in Nigeria, go here: https://vimeo.com/113946746