Computer-based Learning Teaches Mothers New Skills
It's 2pm and IRC Atlanta's computer lab is humming. Women ranging in age from their 20s to 50s are seated at laptop computers, while Charlie Curling, the computer instructor, hovers back and forth, guiding them in their tasks.
Habiba, a 49-year-old widowed mother of four from Somalia, is learning the alphabet. With headphones on, she moves the mouse over each letter and clicks, smiling when she hears it pronounced. She is too shy to say the words out loud.
"Now," says Charlie, coming over and giving her a pencil and paper, "I want you to write them down." He points his finger on the screen. "Capital A and small a." Habiba takes up the pencil and begins, working her way slowly through the 26 letters.
This is an afternoon session in IRC Atlanta's Women's Instruction for Lifetime Empowerment program, WILE, for short. All of the students in this class are single refugee mothers, most of whom have never held a formal job. Many are preliterate in their own language. They attend a variety of courses, ranging from job readiness training to literacy to these computer-based classes, at IRC Atlanta for 7 hours each day. Here they gain valuable skills that will help them to get and hold a job.
Uma, who is from Burma, is learning her numbers at a different laptop. The task is to select the correct amount of dollars and change to make the total at the top of the screen. "Twenty-five eighty six," she says out loud, and starts counting out the dollars with the computer mouse.
While computer-based instruction is just one of the ways that the WILE program teaches refugee mothers, it is essential for building their confidence to master new tasks. "These women are getting an education that they wouldn't get if this program didn't exist," says the proud instructor, "I think what we have here is really important."