There was a time when one of the most important moments in a boy’s life was getting his first dog. These days that low-tech joy has been replaced by a kid getting his first computer.
When I went to college the pc was just being born; I graduated the year the Mac was introduced. So despite my dependence on computers for work now, and knowing in theory that even elementary school students use them, I couldn’t fully grasp Mtuseni’s dire need for one once he started college. I figured he could get by using the computers at school and in the public library. But his college has only a few computers for general use, and no access to printers (believe me, I’ve complained). And the nearby library in wealthy Sandton, steps from a mall full of designer goods, has all of two public computers. I set Mtuseni up with an open computer-use account at PostNet — which is like a Kinko’s — but his limited transportation (and the store being closed almost all weekend!) meant this provided little benefit.
Mtuseni kept lamenting that he needed a laptop. He could only borrow friends’ for short periods, and he couldn’t work well under the pressure. He wasn’t asking me for one; he never asked. But he complained about not having one. A lot. For a year I stalled, partly due to budget constraints. Laptops are more expensive in South Africa than in the US, then tack on a whopping 14% VAT. And I couldn’t send him one from here, as he can receive only two mail packages per year with very low monetary value. Plus, a laptop isn’t like a cellphone — he wouldn’t know how to set one up on his own. As any parent would say, “It’s not a toy!”
But after some very dicey grades last semester and with more substantive classes on the horizon, the writing was on the wall. He really did need a laptop. So I put out some feelers… along with some requests to the universe to help me solve this particularly tricky challenge. Amazingly, the universe listened. And responded.
I wrote a post not long ago that mentioned Mtuseni’s struggles with learning Excel and needing to repeat the class as it’s a graduation requirement. Another blogger in Johannesburg read it and commented that she runs free computer classes on the weekends and that Mtuseni was welcome to attend and learn Excel. Long story short… Jacquie has become an incredible ally and supporter of Mtuseni. Not only is he enjoying a far better quality of instruction in her Saturday classes than at school, but she did some research and found me a great quote on a laptop. Mtuseni received it last Saturday!
He is over the moon and having fun figuring out how to do all the administrative tasks and make it his own. When I asked how it felt to have his own computer he said, “It’s awesome, very awesome.” The laptop is worth almost two month’s salary for his mom; this was way out of reach for him. He said “It’s the greatest gift I’ve got.” As always, I’m happy when he’s happy. Little does he know that I now have much higher expectations for his grades — and he better step it up! (I have a feeling he will.)
So a tremendous thank you to Jacquie for all her assistance (and patience with my endless questions!) Please visit her blog and give her a good word. And thanks also to Fred, who I don’t know but who has been helping Mtuseni with all the technical stuff in getting set up.
As for me… I’m on to the next challenge. Finding Mtuseni a dentist. Somehow I don’t think he’ll find the experience to be “very awesome.”
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