The IT Cup centre in Miarinarivo reopens its doors

Publication date: Jun 10, 2020
After nearly two months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IT Cup centre cybercafé in Miarinarivo, Madagascar, reopened to the local community on May 11th. “I come to the IT Cup centre to revise and study with my tablet. When it was closed, I couldn’t continue my studies and revisions. Now I can connect to Wi-Fi and can start my work again,” explains Jonathan, a student from the region, among the first coming to the centre as soon as it reopened.
Users of the IT Centre cybercafé

The level of alert in the country remains high, due to the considerable increase in the number of COVID-19 cases reported during recent days. In view of the situation, all necessary measures have been put in place to protect the public, as well as our staff, and limit as much as possible the risks of contamination.

As Irinah, IT Cup centre Coordinator, explained, the role of the centre for the local community is essential. Reopening it as soon as possible was an absolute priority: “The main challenges the local community in Miarinarivo is facing are the difficulties to study, improve their conditions and find a job. The IT Cup centre meets these needs by providing access to information. It allows the local people to increase their knowledge and competences, with a significant impact on their daily life, be it for school or work.

Nekena, a student from the region, comes every Saturday to the centre to study. “When the centre was closed, I didn’t have Internet access, so I couldn’t download my homework and continue my research. I’m very happy the centre is open again.” The IT Cup centre aims at creating a social link through digital technologies, by encouraging their responsible use on locally relevant topics. Beyond education, the support for local professionals to carry out and develop their activities is very important. “I come here to communicate with my clients and suppliers. When the centre was closed I couldn’t fully carry out my work; now I’m helped with my communication activities and I can limit my travel, essential for my work, but impossible at the moment.” Jocelyn explains to us. 

The health crisis is not over yet but closely working in support of the local populations in Miarinarivo and the Itasy region, the IT Cup centre is gradually resuming its work. To ensure certain extracurricular activities for children and young people from the region can continue, the IT Cup centre team, in collaboration with the Alabri centre (a reception centre for children in Miarinarivo) and the local radio AMI, are remotely supporting these same activities. They include the sharing of Malagasy tales, the creation of board games, creative manual activities, as well as basic programming through Scratch. In order to make these activities more interactive, quizzes with questions on the different subjects are offered and shared through the radio and the Facebook page of the IT Cup centre. The participants can send their answers via SMS or through the center’s Facebook page. They can also take pictures of their creations and post them on the Facebook page or go to the centre so that its staff can take a picture and share it on Facebook. 

These activities are especially important for the children from the region, who are living a difficult and unpredictable situation and who cannot participate in the extracurricular activities, still on hold due to the pandemic. These distance activities give them the opportunity to learn in an interactive way and maintain a close link with the local culture, while waiting for the resumption of these same activities in person at the centre. In addition, the use of online and offline communication means, that as well as the collaboration with several local participants,  it allows TSF to reach a higher number of children and to fully integrate this work in the existing local network.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, it was important for TSF to reopen the IT Cup centre as soon as the health situation and the governmental instructions allowed it. In several areas of the world, such as the Itasy region in Madagascar, COVID-19 and the related restrictions have not only disrupted the lives of their inhabitants; they have completely paralysed their activities, worsening already difficult living conditions. Despite this challenging and unprecedented health crisis the Internet connection and the support the local population can find at the IT Cup centre allows them to regain control of their lives.