Zimbabwe computer whizkid breaks barriers

Bongani Jubani in the NUST Computer lab
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THE nightmare for pupils with a rural background these days is dealing with college life that demands one to be computer literate as a pre-requisite for most learning activities like typing an assignment.

While their urban counterparts will be manoeuvring advanced essential graphic design software like Photoshop, Adobe Indesign, CorelDraw and Inkscape, pupils with rural academic background will be trying to figure out how “simple” Microsoft Word works.

But how does someone like Bongani Jubani, born and bred in the remote area of Zvegona in Zvishavane become computer literate when they have never used a computer, let alone switched on lights either at school or at home?

Few people can fathom how a poor 21-year-old rural boy who has never owned a cellphone until when he was at Advanced Level cope with the computerised atmosphere at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust).

Mostly pupils like Jubani are a victim of discouragement. Whenever they present their dreams, judging by their backgrounds, they are always told that they are building castles in the air.

Jubani’s rural home

On the other hand, a six-year-old at an up-market school in Bulawayo has access to a computer at school and at home. The boy has a tablet and a desktop in his own bedroom in the leafy suburb of Parklands.

In the past years information technology has undergone great progress, and that is why multimedia technologies have occupied a special place in today’s world. Electronic board, video spotlight and adaptive software all come under modern technologies which are to be used for educational purposes.

Many rural folks are pregnant with thick visions of becoming significant figures in life, but lack of exposure makes all their visions to become nothing but mere illusions.

It takes a strong visionary to put on different spectacles and become an owl that sees beyond an old thatched hut with a muddy floor.

It also takes an optimistic person like Jubani to see a ray of sunshine peeping through a dark village while his rural colleagues are moaning lack of access to computers.

This is how a poor rural boy who walked 26km to and from school every day, with no lunch box or pocket money but tattered books, has risen to be one of the best upcoming computer programmers at Nust.

Not that he was just a rural boy, but a boy whose father rejected at the age of two years. He was raised by her widowed mother who could not afford to send him for holiday even to the home town of Zvishavane, at least to have a feel of urban life.

Born and bred in the rural area, in his heart a pot of success was always boiling reminding him that his background is just a tissue paper covering him and does not define his destiny. Through determination and dedication he has defied all odds and climbed the ladder of success.

Jubani is now a third year Computer Science student at Nust. The rough diamond from the remote area is one of the best Computer Science students. Last semester, he bagged five distinctions out of the six courses he wrote.

In the comfort of his office at Nust, Jubani’s computer programming lecturer spoke proudly of him.

“Jubani is a good student, a hard worker and very passionate of his studies. You cannot tell that he only came to know a computer at A-level, his hunger to learn is an inspiration to people back home. I interact with him on a personal level. He told me his rural life experiences but one thing I noticed about him is that he manages everything, his background is not limiting him at all,” Mr Kernan Mzelikahle said.

Jubani shared his first encounter with computers when he got to Advanced Level.

In the computer laboratory at Dadaya High School, for some minutes Jubani tried to operate a computer by moving the mouse haphazardly.

He frowned and moved the desktop closer to him as he tried to figure out how the computer functions.

After a couple of minutes and several failed attempts to operate the computer, Jubani sat clueless, watching the desktop as if waiting for a miracle to happen.

While Jubani struggled to operate his computer, the laboratory was full of keyboard noise as other pupils were busy typing their assignments.

None of them including the teacher noticed that Jubani was having some challenges, perhaps, as A-level pupils they all assumed everyone can use a computer.

“With the assumption that every student is familiar with computers, my computer teacher had given us a ‘simple’ assignment of creating a word document using Microsoft Word. This was Greek to me. Straight from a rural school I had no idea of how a computer works,” recalls Jubani while laughing.

But, Jubani is one of the many students from rural areas in Zimbabwe who are introduced to computers at a very late stage.

Many schools in rural Zimbabwe are still without electricity making it difficult to introduce pupils to computers right from infancy to secondary level. Hundreds of computers that were donated by the former president, Robert Mugabe, are gathering dust in many rural schools.

However, lack of exposure to computers did not deter Jubani from pursuing his dream career.

The 21-year-old student was born in a family of four – two boys and two girls.

Sitting at the door of a small hut made of dagga with a wooden door and an old grass thatched room, his 45-year-old mother related how it was difficult to single- handedly raise her children.

“You know life has never been smooth. Imagine at the age of two Jubani’s father went just like that,” she said emotionally struggling to hold her tears.

While feeding the chickens, her only source of income, she said whenever Jubani said he wanted to be a computer programmer; she thought he was building castles in the air.

“There is no a single day he went for a holiday in town where l could hope that at least he is using computers. All he had was a vision of becoming a computer programmer,” she said.

Dressed in white formal pants and a black blazer in a Computer Lab at NUST, Jubani explained that his mother’s experiences are his source of motivation.

“I looked at my mother, the way she struggled even to bring food on the table, and that was just a bitter pill for me to swallow. I also considered the 26kilometre distance I covered to school every day, and then I focused on my dream,’ he said with his eyes fixed on his computer.

“Imagine today I am even competing with some students who have never tasted the bitter pill of life. That’s life for you,’’ he said with a smile of success.

After attaining 13 units at his grade seven, his single mother could not afford sending him to secondary school. Luckily the Apostolic Faith Mission church members assisted with some money.

“I foresaw my dream becoming a nightmare as my life continued to evolve within my village but I still held the hope though I didn’t know the day I will be at a better school with computer facilities,” said Jubani.

He went to Ngomeyebani Secondary School where he attained ten As at Zimsec Ordinary Level subjects he sat for in 2013 and set a record that will be difficult to surpass at his rural school.

“Imagine attaining 10As but not knowing how to use a computer. This is an insult for rural schools and Government has to do something to ensure that rural schools are not lagging behind in terms of technology,” said Jubani.

With the assistance of Mr Maxwell Chidakwa, a local business man in Zvishavane, Jubani secured a CG Msipa Scholarship, which has been paying for his Advanced Level and university fees.

He said Mr Chidakwa provided uniforms, books, food and other essentials while he was at Dadaya High boarding school.

“I see a father in him; he has been with me through thick and thin. He is still taking care of my rentals and food at college,’’ Jubani said.
Jubani recalls how he felt victorious when he got a place at Dadaya.

“Just by stepping at Dadaya, I felt an aroma of success. I told myself that this is the dream manifesting in reality,” he said with a smile glowing on his face.

According to the Deputy Headmistress of Dadaya, Mrs Sithembiso Sikhosana, it took Jubani time to adjust with computers but by the end of his Lower Six he was the top computer student and has a record for scoring 98% in one of the toughest exams.

“He was a hard worker; he was doing four subjects at A-Level, Mathematics, Computers, Accounting and Business Studies but he balanced them all,” Mrs Sikhosana said.

Jubani is grateful to his high school computer teacher, unfortunately, she passed on last year.

“The wound in my heart is still fresh. I feel painful when I think of the effort she put on us but she could not live to eat the fruits of her dedication,” said Jubani commenting on his teacher’s death.

Bongani said he owes Dadaya a great debt particularly the church and his teacher who grounded him without segregating him because of his rural background.

For now, NUST is Jubani’s second home and he sees himself becoming a prominent computer programmer.

“I find NUST to be my home. I have computers at my disposal and in our computer laboratory there is a reliable internet access throughout the day. This helps me to study and pass,” he said.

For at least half of his week, Jubani does zero nights, a study system where students spend the whole night studying on campus.

He does not just befriend people but those he calls his friends are the “vision helpers.”
Jubani had some wise words of advice to his peers.

“Success will never lower its standard to suit you but you have to upgrade yourself to fit in the standard of success. It’s not a crime to be born poor but to die poor is worse than suicide,” he said. – Sunday News