Rupununi small business making big impact during COVID-19

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By Isanella Patoir

Two Brothers Technology Center located in Annai, North Rupununi is one of the small businesses making a big impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. The business was launched four years ago and initially only provided printing and photocopying services.

The business, which is owned and operated by two brothers – Bernie Robertson and Joel Ali – has now grown into a much-needed training research and information technology centre for teachers and students.

Robertson, during an interview with the News Room on Thursday, said for many years students and teachers in the Rupununi struggled to access basic technology. While internet service is also being provided, Robertson explained that the bandwidth and connection are extremely slow.

Inside of the center

For students writing the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) exams, the services offered by Two Brothers is a welcome relief. Previously, parents had to travel miles to Lethem to be able to access these services.

But due to COVID-19, Robertson explained that they had to cut back on how many persons can use the centre.

“At the moment only grades 10 and 11 [are] going back to school and those are students who are using the service at the moment,” Robertson said.

Bernie Roberston

He stated that with the residents’ eagerness to learn basic typewriting skills, the business was transformed into a teaching and learning centre two years ago. Robertson explained that a six-month training programme was developed and so far two batches of students have graduated.

“After a year of doing the business parents, teachers and students from across the North Rupununi approached us and said why we can’t offer a training programme for students and teachers or for those persons who wants to learn to use computers and we thought about it. So, afterwards, we developed a programme and launched it.

The centre not only benefits residents in Annai but also neighbouring villages as well.

“…it has changed a lot of things here and the way students do their schoolwork and teachers as well.”

A student during one of the sessions

After the pandemic hit Guyana in March 2020, the brothers closed their business for six months but reopened in November. Robertson said the training programme continues but they had to adapt to the protocols of COVID-19 and they now offer two sessions per day.

In addition to information technology training, the centre also offers training in leadership skills, gender equality and women empowerment. Robertson said they have also provided educational tours for primary schools across the North Rupununi but this has since been put on hold due to COVID-19. A typewriting competition was also held among the first two batches of students last year.

Students involved in outdoor learning

The centre works in collaboration with the Ministries of Amerindian Affairs and Education as well as the Regional Democratic Councilof Region Nine.

Both Robertson and Ali are trained in video production, photography and information technology and share their knowledge with the students.

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