Many things can cause a project to stall. During my visit to Kenya in April 2014 I discovered various problems that had caused projects to stall, each was fixable, and the fix will enable the schools to continue getting the benefit of their respective projects. These things, are similar to speedbumps on the roads, ubiquitous in Kenya and many other countries. If we stop when we reach a speedbump, because they take a little more energy to cross, we’d be blocked indefinitely. Instead we’ve learned to keep going, albeit slowly, to cross the speedbump and continue our journey.
The schools need to commit to crossing speedbumps in their respective projects by taking ownership and committing to get problems resolved. I, and others, are very willing to help people who make the effort.
Here are examples of some of the problems that had caused projects to stall:
A Server computer wouldn’t start in a recently commissioned computer lab in a secondary school. The school was waiting for an engineer who hadn’t arrived in the last few months. The problem was related to the power supply in that computer. There are at least a dozen similar computers available and the hard disk from the server computer could be installed in one of these computers to restore service to the computer lab. It hasn’t been used for the last 5 months because of this relatively simple problem. Apparently the schools were offered free training when the lab was commissioned but declined. If they’d taken the training, perhaps they’d have had the skills and confidence to diagnose and fix the problem far earlier rather than waiting indefinitely.
Another school’s computer lab had no internet connection any more. Apparently the SIM card had disappeared from the Safaricom network router. There seemed a lack of curiosity or interest to understand what had happened. A replacement SIM card, with data credit, would cost less than 2,000 Kenyan Shillings (KES) around $25 USD, a sum that the school can probably afford. The lack of Internet access severely limited how the computers were being used by the pupils and staff. Of course, it’d be wise to protect the replacement SIM card so it doesn’t disappear too.
The schools have reopened on 2nd September 2013 after the truncated summer break (some schools extended their previous term into August to help the pupils catch up after the Teachers’ strike finished).
In Oyugis our schools liaison person will be visiting each of the 7 schools to meet face-to-face with the teachers to discuss their progress to date and to agree on how to improve the ways the kindles are used to help the teachers and the pupils.
To prepare for these discussions we reviewed all the purchases made to date.
There were 74 items ordered, these include free books, the bible, occasional newspapers, text and reference books, and various novels including various crime novels
Roughly 14 books were directly related to Swahili and/or the Kenyan curriculum
Most of the items seem to be feasibly relevant to the schooling however we’re concerned about some of the seemingly irrelevant purchases, particularly once schools had become more familiar with using the devices.
We aim to help the teachers and the schools to limit the amount of irrelevant items in future. One of the safeguards is the relatively limited funds made available to each Amazon account. When the funds are spent they are spent and the school needs to account for their purchases. Schools who spend wisely are able to buy more relevant books and receive top-ups more easily than schools who’ve spent unwisely. The unwise schools are asked to commit to buying more relevant items before they receive a top-up to their account.
Here is an initial report from the team at the Fishermen Trust. They installed and commissioned their first school with the Zoombinis software in early August 2013.
“Greetings from The Fishermen Trust. We trust you are doing well.
We arrived at the school today and asked the Headmistress to send the 7th grade students according to their roll number. We taught two batches of four students, with each batch taking different lengths of time to grasp the concepts of the game. We were forced to stop due to a power outage.
We then asked a teacher and the Headmistress to form computer period for the students in which they can try out the game fully. We also selected two boys from the seventh grade who seemed adept in the concepts of the game and showed ability to teach others.”
And here are some photos of the team working with the pupils and with one of their teachers:
We launched another school, Apondo Secondary School, Oyugis as part of the visit of the youth team from Hazlemere Church. They are the seventh school to participate in the project.
They now have 3 Kindles, a 3G WiFi router to connect the Kindles to the Internet, and various sources of power to keep everything up-and-running. The local team in Kenya will provide a suitable 3G SIM card for the WiFi router and help commission the devices.
This is the second of the schools to try using a WiFi router. We hope the router will prove to be reliable and cost-effective. Routers enable the schools to use a wider variety of Kindles and devices and help to reduce the costs of the equipment for schools with 3 or more devices.
helping teachers to help each other, and their pupils in Kenya and beyond