From an early age, Shabwe realized that her family, along with others like hers in their village, were stuck in a cycle that left them with little hope.
“She was working hard, and I was still going to bed hungry. I still came home for lessons. I was still living in a house that was sinking,” Shabwe, now 29, said. Given society and the suffering, it became clear that I needed to do something.”
Shibui attended university on a scholarship in the United States, worked odd jobs to support her family, and discovered her passion for computer science. She credits computer literacy with her ability to find jobs and earn money doing what she loves. She knew she wanted to share it with her community back home.
Today, she is giving 4,000 children a chance for a brighter future through her non-profit organization TechLit Africa. The organisation, whose name is an acronym for tech-literate Africa, is using recycled computers to set up technology labs in schools in rural Kenya.
“I know the pains of poverty, which is why I am so excited about it,” said Shibuye, a software engineer who splits her time between the United States and Kenya. “I haven’t forgotten what it was like to have a ripple in my stomach from being hungry at night.”
In 2012, Shipui received a full scholarship at Augustana College in Illinois and began her studies with virtually no computer experience. She was handwriting the papers and struggling to copy them on a laptop. She said she never felt comfortable using a computer until her freshman year when she took the Java course required for her math major.
She said, “When I discovered computer science, I fell in love with it. I knew this was something I wanted to do as a career, and also bring it into my community.”
Shibuye converted to double major and earned a bachelor’s degree. However, she says skills like touch typing that came along smoothly for some still represent a steep learning curve for her. Post-college, she had to practice for six months before she could pass the coding interview. It is a skill that has now become an essential part of the TechLit curriculum.
“I feel so accomplished seeing 7-year-olds touch typing, knowing that I just learned how to touch less than five years ago,” she said.
Cheboi has had successes with companies in its profession, and in 2018 began accepting recycled computers from them. She started small, carrying machinery to Kenya in registry bags and handling customs duties and taxes herself.
“At one point, I was bringing in 44 computers, and I paid more for baggage than I paid for an airline ticket,” she said.
TechLit Africa is now working with carriers and couriers to move the donated PCs more cost-effectively. The donated devices are scanned, refurbished and distributed to partner schools in rural Kenya, where students aged 4-12 receive daily lessons and frequent opportunities to learn from professionals and gain skills that will help them improve their education and prepare them for future jobs.
“We have people who have a certain skill come in who are just inspiring kids (through) music production, video production, coding, and personal branding,” Shipui said. “They can go from a distance class with NASA to producing music with our artists.”
Cheboi maintains ownership of online and on-site computers, and provides technical support, software updates, and troubleshooting. TechLit Africa installs new customer operating systems geared towards children, and schools are required to pay a small fee for services, which include TechLit tutors on site from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The organization currently serves 10 schools, and by early next year, Shabwe hopes to partner with 100 other schools.
“I hope that when the TechLit boys graduate from high school, they will be able to land a job online because they will know how to code, they will know how to design graphic, and they know how to do marketing,” said Cheboy. . “The world becomes your oyster when you are educated. By bringing in resources, by bringing in these skills, we open the world to them.”
CNN’s Brianna Duggan contributed to this report.