A major challenge facing the inhabitants of City of God, one of Rio de Janeiro's most notoriously poor and violent slums, is the dearth of both jobs and skills. In today's increasingly digital world, lack of access to computers and lack of basic information technology training is further marginalizing underprivileged populations and limiting their entry into the job market.
The Technology and Civic Engagement School in City of God, established in partnership with CDI, will provide courses to community youth in basic and advanced computer skills. As part of the curriculum, the students will be required to use their newly acquired technical skills to identify a problem facing their community, devise an action plan addressing the problem, and mobilize their communities to solve the problem. The digital literacy component of the curriculum will expand educational and employment opportunities for City of God inhabitants and the civic education component will empower the students to use their education as a tool for social change and community involvement.
The Sanam Vaziri Quraishi Foundation's (SVQF) 2008 Commitment to Action - Technology and Civic Engagement School in Brazil - adds to its previous work in education and poverty alleviation. In 2006, SVQF committed to a community development project in Kenya, of which an integral component was the construction and furnishing of 8 one-classroom schools, as well as the provision of teachers' salaries, training, and living quarters. This year's commitment to establishing a Technology and Civil Engagement School similarly focuses on providing educational opportunities to disadvantaged youth.
SVQF seeks to alleviate extreme poverty through focused investment in practical targeted solutions. Those living in extreme poverty are unable to meet their basic needs of safe water, adequate nutrition, education, income-generating opportunities, and health care. Addressing each of these needs is essential not only to lifting individuals and communities out of extreme poverty, but to enabling them to sustain their progress independently. SVQF concentrates on providing solutions in each of these five areas with the ultimate goal of eradicating extreme poverty.
The school will be located on the premises of an existing community center, originally established by a City of God inhabitant to provide after-school activities to local children, that has already developed a strong relationship with the community. Each quarter, 80 students will be trained in basic information technology skills, with some of the students continuing to more advanced courses. At the end of every quarter, students will have used technology to plan and implement a grassroots social advocacy project. Over the course of one year, 240 students will be trained in basic information technology skills and civic engagement, skills that will help them become agents of social change as well as find better jobs, open their own small businesses, or continue their education.
The school will operate on a grassroots level. The students as well as the educators, who will be trained to implement the CDI curriculum, are City of God inhabitants, and the school will be managed by community members. In the civic engagement portion of the curriculum, it is the community members themselves who will identify the problems facing their communities and who will decide how to resolve them. The school will develop a business plan contributing to its sustainability, which will strengthen local shared responsibility for the program.
Not only the students themselves will benefit from the school. Community members will have access to the technology at the school, and examples of other indirect beneficiaries include students' families, who will benefit from the students' new skills as well as from their improved economic and educational potential. Above all, it is the community itself that benefits as a whole from the provision of an alternative to the drug trade and from the students' efforts to mobilize and empower their communities to face the challenges confronting them.
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