It is impossible to foretell the future. Nelly Cheboi’s destiny was directed by her desire to improve the lives of others around her; she had no idea that technology would serve as the catalyst for such a transformation…
Nelly Cheboi, a resident of Mogotio, Kenya, grew up in a cottage with a tin roof, walked barefoot to school every day, and went to bed hungry every night, which was not uncommon in her town.
“I used to lie on the floor, observe the light bouncing about, and consider what I could accomplish,” recounted Cheboi. When I was just 11 years old, I contemplated constructing housing complexes and assisting individuals in obtaining business loans.
Cheboi asserts that the lack of upward mobility in Kenya is remarkable. Cheboi, who is now 29 years old, stated, “Someone who ran a business selling tomatoes when I was in the second grade is still doing so today.”
She explained that the fact that locals use their money to support the community as a whole rather to simply their family makes it considerably more difficult for businesses to develop.
Cheboi worked very hard in school with the goal of one day being able to provide for her family and pull her community out of poverty. Cheboi’s drive and exceptional work ethic got her a full scholarship at Augustana College in Illinois.,
“As I grew up in the village, I frequently wondered, ‘What is life like elsewhere?’ Does every child have to worry about food and their younger sibling? Arriving in America was truly eye-opening. “I witnessed the wealth,” remarked Cheboi.
Cheboi was introduced to the world of technology in the United States. She recalls reading several books as a child, but not knowing anything about computers. Cheboi would chose to handwrite a ten-page assignment in college because she types too slowly.
Only in her third year of college did Cheboi discover computer science, a topic that piqued her interest but necessitated an understanding of technology.
Even after graduating from college, Cheboi had to practice typing for six months in order to obtain an engineering position, where she learnt how technology could benefit the economy.
Cheboi discovered that she could inspire her community to work online in order to reform the structures in Kenya that kept people trapped in a cycle of poverty. This became the driving force for TechLit Africa.
TechLit Africa, an organization founded by Cheboi in 2018 and short for Technologically Literate Africa, offers kids in rural Kenya with access to technology and the opportunity to learn core digital skills. Donated computers are shipped to Kenya and reconditioned locally.
TechLit Africa provides the schools with computers and content, while the schools provide the physical classrooms. Schools and parents finance the costs of local operations, which contributes to the sustainability of the project.
Three primary skills are taught to students: self-efficacy, troubleshooting, and online skills. Internet skills educate pupils how to communicate online, advertise themselves, and remain secure on the internet.
Cheboi desires that children acquire intrinsic motivation through the curriculum by working with fervent specialists.
A specialist in audio production, for instance, might also be a musician. In addition to learning that the subject can be interesting and enjoyable, students also comprehend how it may be used to a job.
Although most educators are local, children can also learn from foreign experts. Recently, students have been allowed to communicate with NASA interns via Zoom.
Children inquired, “Can a child travel to space?” and “Can I call my parents from space?” After studying about NASA, one student told Cheboi that he plans to purchase his own rocket and travel to space as an adult.
“What I admire about projects like that is that it really broadens their horizons,” said Cheboi. “What I wouldn’t have given to have that as a child…so it’s empowering, and to think about what their life would be like now that they have access to all of this – it’s truly so great.”
Cheboi also said that an 8-year-old girl is currently teaching her mother how to touch-type, a skill she acquired through TechLit Africa.
Cheboi marvels at the fact that children from her own neighborhood will no longer have to endure the same difficulties she experienced when coming into the IT industry with no prior experience, since they will be able to acquire valuable digital skills from a young age.
Today, Cheboi is trying to ensure the sustainability of TechLit Africa, particularly in terms of funding.
She asserts that TechLit Africa’s programs are the highlight of students’ days, but it is difficult to persuade parents, teachers, and the county government of the importance of the digital economy and the ways in which technology can support people financially.
Cheboi continues to speak to as many school principals as possible and mobilize parents to keep TechLit Africa operating despite these obstacles. Her next goal is to work with 100 additional schools.
In a sense, [TechLit Africa] is a method to connect two worlds – children interact, ask questions, and visualize what life is like outside while learning the significance of the internet.
In doing so, children gain access to worldwide opportunities and a second chance at a more satisfying existence.
Cheboi has traveled a great distance from her Mogotio roots to become a CNN Hero for 2022 and a member of the Forbes 30 under 30. She encourages others to reflect on their own origins, which is one of the things that keeps her going.
“It is quite simple to become disheartened when you consider where you need to be. Instead of looking forward, consider how far you’ve come; progress is exhilarating.”