A major success
"I can't wait to send a full report on Silanga," said Vesel member Souleymane Camara in a message sent the day after delivering a Macbook laptop to Silanga School in Kambu. "But for what it is worth, this was a major success. Instead of just three teachers, we had ten of them. Also, two of the teaching staff have a very good ICT skills. This ensures and facilitates knowledge transfer," he said. "They only needed to be introduced to Mac."
"The headteacher and assistant headteacher have been so upbeat about the kit, and have done so well in mobilising the whole school for the event and training. They understood our ideas and expectations."
He reported that the school is eager to conduct the activities the Vesel educational researchers have designed for them, which will help familiarise students with the technology by incorporating it into their curriculum. These include a student competition to tell the best stories using text and digital photos, which will be posted to the school's blog, which was set up by Vesel's Josh Underwood. The competition idea was conceptualised and refined at the last Vesel meeting in London. "They are preparing the competitions," said Souleymane, "and setting up a day when the best stories get chosen for the web.
"As for the training day, the school preferred to start with most joyful content for their site. Poems, mini-theatres, songs and dances were organised to get some content for the web. We have full video clips and pictures of teachers as they themselves record the full event (training and activities)." These clips and photos will be uploaded soon.
Teacher Rose taking Silanga pupils a photo after being trained on how
to use digital camera.
Rose Masila, the school's Assistant Head Teacher, is in charge of the kit. "She is so determined to master it," said Souleymane, "that she calls the attention of anybody who is around and has a few skills to offer when I am busy with other trainees. My assistant Peter [from the University of Nairobi] did not have a rest from her, and John, another teacher (who is IT literate). It is impressive to see how she does not let her colleague dominate the kit as she tries to get to the same level. She is still in the office right now and it is 6.47pm (form 10am). Every time I come around to show her something she is already on another level (browsing the BBC website for schools, sending a post to the blog, changing the desktop backgroup and other properties of the computer).
"The solar kit was actually the easy part to my surprise. Once I explained the idea of input and output then warned them of the danger of not selecting the right voltage, the whole team was on board. We deployed, charged devices, tried and tried again with at least four different teachers to get it right. They took notes and could easily assist each other in charging the devices."
Souleymane reported that the local minister of parliament was so encouraged by the delivery of the laptop to the school that he would like to get another one there, and would like to get electricity to the school.
"Silanga is so concerned with bringing the level to the national standard that they did not take a break this term," continued Souleymane. "They call this 'vacational coaching.' All teachers have volunteered to train pupils continuously. So the new ICT is a very good motivational tool for them and the students."
"We also met a group of farmers to find out their view on the kit. It was not urprising that most of them have heard of the kit but not used it yet or do not know how to use it. After the session with them, I believe there will be more and more interest."
According to Peter, farmers are too busy at this time of the year to spare time and use the system. Also, some of them are only semi literate or illiterate.
The kit in MDI seems to be generally fine. All computers are working fine despite some virus infections we are now trying to clean. The network between them is off and seemed to have stopped working since the day UoN trainers left the place. However, there seem to be no problem with the network except that the hub was switched off. One of the desktops network port is not working.
Souleymane also delivered some hardware to Radio Mang'elete, and some of its staff attended the training at MDI. The radio station has also broadcast the delivery of Vesel hardware to Silanga School. "They see great potential in these activities," reported Souleymane, and "they are totally onboard as they see this as an end to their long sufferance of getting content."
"One major problem though," reports Souleymane, "as we demonstrate charging other devices with the solar kit, mobile devices worked fine. But we may have damaged all digital cameras. After plugging them to the universal battery, they never worked again... I thought I was one step ahead.
So now we are with no digital camera as I even mine seem to be gone. I am using my phone at the moment."