Small Screen, Big Im­pact

Focac’s free satel­lite tv project to vil­lages across Uganda launched

ChinAfrica - - OPINION - By God­frey Olukya

over 200 chil­dren and adults gave a rous­ing re­cep­tion to Uganda’s Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion and Sports Janet Mu­sev­eni and Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to Uganda Zheng Zhuqiang, ac­com­pa­nied by Star­times TV per­son­nel, when they switched on a satel­lite TV at a sym­bolic launch cer­e­mony held on July 22. The venue was the Kakiri SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lage School in Uganda’s cen­tral district of Wak­iso and for this school it was the dream come true.

The launch is part of a wider project funded by the Chi­nese Govern­ment to en­able ac­cess to satel­lite TV in Uganda and Africa at large, aimed at ex­pand­ing in­for­ma­tion through tech­nol­ogy.

The Kakiri SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lage School is lo­cated in a re­mote area and is for or­phans whose par­ents died mostly from HIV/AIDS or chil­dren aban­doned by their par­ents. For many of these chil­dren and vil­lagers re­sid­ing near the school who at­tended the cer­e­mony, this was their first time they had ever watched tele­vi­sion.

Pos­i­tive im­pact

Speak­ing at the launch cer­e­mony, the guest of honor Mu­sev­eni, who is also the coun­try’s First Lady, thanked the Chi­nese Govern­ment for do­nat­ing satel­lite TV sets and dishes, say­ing it would have a pos­i­tive im­pact on so­ci­ety.

“I thank China for do­nat­ing satel­lite TVS to our peo­ple. Apart from pro­vid­ing en­ter­tain­ment to mem­bers of so­ci­ety, the project will sup­port ed­u­ca­tion and en­cour­age dig­i­tal learn­ing in schools by pro­vid­ing dig­i­tal

aid in the form of projects,” she said, adding that lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties will have the op­por­tu­nity to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tional con­tent fo­cus­ing on sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy.

Mu­sev­eni noted that the satel­lite TVS will help in im­ple­ment­ing les­son plans and demon­stra­tive ed­u­ca­tion and will also boost the govern­ment’s drive to im­prove all as­pects of tech­nol­ogy.

One of the school stu­dents, 14 year-old Ruth Namyalo said that it was the first time she had ever watched TV and was very thank­ful for the do­na­tions which would en­rich her life.

An el­der at the func­tion, Nel­son Mukasa said that the satel­lite TVS will keep the stu­dents busy and in­ter­ested so they will have no time to get in­volved in neg­a­tive ac­tiv­i­ties like drink­ing al­co­hol, smok­ing ci­garettes or bunk­ing school. The TVS will help with peo­ple-to-peo­ple cul­tural ex­changes by cre­at­ing mu­tual un­der­stand­ing through en­ter­tain­ment and in­for­ma­tion shared be­tween Ugan­dans and Chi­nese. Where the TVS have al­ready been in­stalled as pi­lots, they were an in­stant hit with lo­cal vil­lage farm­ers be­cause of the agri­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy used by Chi­nese seen on some ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams.

’I watched on the satel­lite TV do­nated to us by China and was amazed at how the Chi­nese farm­ers rear fish in rice gar­dens. I was sur­prised at the size of the big fish which feed on par­ti­cles that come from the rice plants. I am go­ing to try to do the same in my rice gar­den,’’ said 50-year-old Abdu Kabugutu, a Kakiri farmer.

Star­times, a Chi­nese multi­na­tional me­dia com­pany broad­cast­ing across Africa, has been con­tracted to roll out the project, which is pow­ered by so­lar en­ergy to en­sure sus­tain­abil­ity. Apart from homes, the satel­lite TVS will also be in­stalled in com­mu­nal vil­lage halls. Along with the free TV sets and satel­lite dishes, the pack­age al­lows ben­e­fi­cia­ries free ac­cess to at least 20 lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional chan­nels broad­cast­ing news, sports en­ter­tain­ment, ed­u­ca­tion doc­u­men­taries, and mu­sic.

FOCAC pledge

Speak­ing at the launch­ing cer­e­mony, Am­bas­sador Zheng said, “China will con­tinue to sup­port Uganda and other African coun­tries in their de­vel­op­ment pro­grams.”

He said the $12-mil­lion project is funded by the As­sis­tance Fund for South-south Co­op­er­a­tion es­tab­lished by China, adding that the dona­tion of free satel­lite TVS is an out­come of the Fo­rum on China-africa Co­op­er­a­tion (FOCAC).

Dur­ing the FOCAC Jo­han­nes­burg Sum­mit held in South Africa in late 2015, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said that to build a China-africa com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic and co­op­er­a­tive part­ner­ship, China would im­ple­ment 10 co­op­er­a­tion plans with Africa in the fol­low­ing three years. The ninth plan was to im­ple­ment a China-africa cul­tural and peo­ple-to-peo­ple plan. He noted that China would build five cul­tural cen­ters in Africa and pro­vide satel­lite TV re­cep­tion to 10,000 African vil­lages. That pledge is ma­te­ri­al­iz­ing with the launch of the project in Uganda. Zheng said the satel­lite TV re­cep­tion project is the sec­ond aid project im­ple­mented by the Chi­nese Govern­ment in Uganda us­ing the As­sis­tance Fund for South-south Co­op­er­a­tion.

“Pre­vi­ously, in or­der to help the Ugan­dan peo­ple solve their food prob­lems and ease the re­lief pres­sure of the Ugan­dan Govern­ment, the Chi­nese Govern­ment had co­op­er­ated with World Food Pro­gram to pro­vide the emer­gency food aid to Karamoja re­gion with the con­tri­bu­tion of $5 mil­lion by the As­sis­tance Fund for South-south Co­op­er­a­tion,” he said.

Uganda is one of the pioneer coun­tries in Africa to ben­e­fit from the satel­lite TV project. At least 10,000 fam­i­lies in 500 vil­lages across Uganda will soon have ac­cess to free satel­lite TV as con­nec­tions con­tinue. The Coun­try Di­rec­tor of SOS Uganda that man­ages Kakira SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lage School Olive Lu­monya said that the im­pact of China’s dona­tion of satel­lite TVS to the school will be long last­ing, say­ing they will im­prove the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment for less priv­i­leged chil­dren who are un­der the care of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Our teach­ers and stu­dents will def­i­nitely ben­e­fit a lot from the do­nated satel­lite TVS. The im­pact is long last­ing. Our teach­ers will be able to teach us­ing tele­vi­sions, and our stu­dents will ac­cess news and em­brace in­ter­ac­tive learn­ing,’’ said Lu­monya.

uganda is one of the pioneer coun­tries in Africa to ben­e­fit from the satel­lite TV project. At least 10,000 fam­i­lies in 500 vil­lages across uganda will soon have ac­cess to free satel­lite TV as con­nec­tions con­tinue.

* re­port­ing from uganda * Com­ments to niyan­shuo@chi­

Two work­ers of Star­times in­stall a satel­lite TV disc in a vil­lage in Kenya. China’s satel­lite project en­ables more and more African peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas to ac­cess to satel­lite TV ser­vices

Fam­ily mem­bers in a vil­lage out­side Abuja, Nige­ria, watch satel­lite TV

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