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World Communications Day

Monday, 17 May 2010

Camara, an award-winning Irish charity, is offering Irish schools
which are under serious funding pressure, the opportunity to access an ICT (Information Communication Technology) package of high quality training, software and hardware at an affordable price.

World Telecommunication Day has been celebrated annually on 17th May
since 1969. This year the leading United Nations agency for information and Communication technology issues (the ITU - Information and Technology Union) has issued a call for action. A vital part of this is to connect all institutions, in particular schools, in urban areas. 'Schools are community hubs, a place of learning and accessibility. By connecting schools we connect
youth as well as others in the community to knowledge and information, leading to employment and social and economic development'.

Camara Ireland are answering this call to action with a recently launched initiative offering disadvantaged Irish schools, the opportunity to gain access to a level and quality of ICT hardware and training unattainable to many in the current market and with current funding levels.

Camara provides a creative educational solution that includes hardware, software, and training packages tailored to individual schools needs.
Camara believes that using computers as an educational tool in the classroom can complement, energise and enhance the way education is delivered to Irish learners. According to the Department of Education, 'the potential of ICT as a
motivational tool to engage students and to enrich and enliven teaching across the curriculum is well recognised'. ICT integration into the education system has been shown to improve attendance, application and results across subject areas.

In a recent report on early school leaving in Ireland the ESRI issued a call for change. It argued that, 'active teaching methods, flexible ability grouping and positive school climate, enhance student engagement in learning, an engagement in learning which can serve to promote both retention and
achievement equally.'

Irish businesses dispose of 200,000 computers each year, which is as much a waste of good technology as it is bad for the environment. The UN states that the re-use of a computer is 20 times more beneficial to the environment than
recycling it. Camara refurbishes computers, and ships them to African and Irish schools, where they are set up in schools and colleges, extending the life of each computer by 5 years. The charity packs them with educational software and ensures that teachers are trained to use and maintain the equipment.

Schools can contact Camara Ireland to arrange a pre vetting meeting.

Cormac Lynch CEO Camara

Cormac Lynch is the Founder and Chief Executive of Camara Education. He has an engineering and finance background having spent 5 years as a petroleum engineer in the North Sea and 12 years as an investment banker in London, New York and Moscow. Prior to starting Camara, he was Chief Executive of NIKoil, a medium-sized Russian Investment Bank. In addition to his undergraduate degree from Trinity College Dublin (1st Class Engineering Science), he has an MSc from Imperial College London, an MBA from Stanford University and a MSc in Development Studies from University College Dublin

How did this organisation get started?

Well I was out in Ethiopia in 2005 and part of a thesis-lead project that I was doing and I was looking at schools and their teaching training set up.. What I found that there was a lot of colleges where there was no computers.. I made a vague promise to some people out there that I would try and send out some computers to them. by the end on 2005, I managed to get 100 computers out to Ethiopia.. I didn't really know all that much about computers and technology and I had to get people to help me out.

What do Camara essentially do?

We take in used computers from Irish companies and individuals, wipe their hard drives of data (in line with US Department of Defense standards), refurbish and load them with educational software before setting them up as Learning Centers in schools in Africa and Ireland. We train teachers to use these computers as tools to improve the delivery of education to their students. We produce computer training and educational multimedia materials for use by teachers and children.

How do you go about getting the computers from companies?

Irish businesses dispose of 200,000 computers each year, which is as much a waste of good technology and it can be difficult to get companies on board.. So we do a number of things, we advertise in various places.. We try and ring companies up and tell them about what we're doing.. I find that companies have their set procedure their and it can be hard for them to change that. The companies that we do have on board however, they're very happy about what we're doing and the service that we have done to schools in Africa.

You employ people in Dublin to take in the computers and then clear out the existing data and to update the computers with educational software and packages before the computers are shipped out?

Yes, we run a very professional operation. We employ people to clear the existing data.. this is called data erosion, they then upgrade the computers with educational packages and make sure that the computers are fully operational etc. We go through rigorous checks so that data erosion is completely covered.

You also have a number of hubs (learning centres in Africa) and Irish volunteers go over to help out?

Yes, we have Irish teachers and people with a background in technology who go out there during the summer.

Can you tell us a bit about what the work that Camara has done in Africa?
We work in seven African countries - Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania, and Uganda and have set up local Technology Hubs that act as partners in delivering the Camara educational model directly to schools. Camara's European headquarters is in the Digital Hub, Dublin and our African headquarters is in Kampala, Uganda.

What kind of difference does it make for children/students /teachers in Africa? Would some of the students would have even heard of a mouse or a key board?

Yes, it makes a real difference to their live. We would have delivered computers to about 750 schools in Africa since 2005 and this would have made a difference to 370,000 teachers and students in teaching to become computer literate.
I feel that computer literacy is almost as important as general literacy and when teachers and their pupils are getting the benefit from this, it can make a huge difference in may areas of their lives. They can then go on the internet and search online, communicate and find employment etc.

You now are helping disadvantaged schools in Ireland?

Yes, this wasn't really part of the plan. It was always to help out in Africa, but we got a number of calls from schools in Ireland and we're targeting disadvantaged schools who do not have a great level of technology and support.

How can schools contact Camara?

Schools can contact Camara Ireland to arrange a pre vetting meeting and there is details available for that on our website.
Camara Education Limited is a registered Irish Charity supported by the Irish Government and by charitable donations.

To Contact Camara:
tel : +353 (0)1 65 22 665