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Implementation

 

Summer'09

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© Summer 2009

Summary Report on Schools Visited in Taita Hills

Out of five schools visited in Taita Hills, all of them had computers, used to varied degrees. Bura Girls had a computer lab with about 10 computers. Some were out of function and generally, the lab was in little use.
Bura Girls High School

Bura High School girls
taking a study break in the field

With classes of about 45 students each, there was very little equipment to accommodate a full class. Because of the administration's interest and presence of a lab, there was potential to equip the school with functional computers and Internet connection. The school had access to the Internet at the administration computer which they used to access email only. The Headmistress, Mrs. Lilian Mwalekwa, expressed a desire to connect the computer lab with Internet. Bura Girls has about 600 students.




Bura Girls High School,
Headmistress,
Mrs. Lilian Mwalekwa

Ngami Secondary, a neighboring mixed boys and girls school, had computers that were all out of function except one that was used by the administration for word processing only. They had no lab. The Headmistress, Ms Patience Mwacharo said they have no Internet connection and cannot afford it but would gladly welcome it if its donated. Ngami has about 300 students.

When we visited Mwakiwiwi Secondary School, we found a computer lab with a CCK-Safaricom donated Internet connection. They were also equipped with 2 Computer Studies teacher, Mr. Farrell Mwakamba and Mr. Augustin Dodoy. It was so far the most technologically advanced of the schools visited, in spite of the fact that the connection was down when we got there.
Mwakiwiwi Secondary School Computer Lab

In fact, it may well be the only Internet connected school computer lab in the District. But they faced a daunting challenge in that 5 months ago, they had come to the end of their two-year free-trial period with the CCK Internet for Schools program. They now had a huge bill waiting to be paid. The connection fees ranged between KES10,000 to 15,000 a month. For a school in the remote areas struggling with the most basic necessities, this is an almost impossible fee. The Deputy Headmaster indicated a need for continuation of the program or similar services. A mixed boys and girls school, it has just over 170 students.

Dr. Aggrey High School is right on the outskirts of Wundanyi township, the district headquarters that houses most of the local government offices. An all-boys school with over 590 students, it has a computer lab with just about 2 or 3 functional computers and almost 10 out-of-function computers.

The only Internet connection comes from two teachers with personal Safaricom modems who do not lend this device for classroom use. Computer Lab Rules, Bura Girls High School After more than an hour of discussion on the SpotBeam project with the Headmaster, Mr. F. Kitolome, and two computer studies teachers, they expressed concerns on the financial and technical sustainability of an Internet project. They questioned how Internet in schools would be controlled to avoid abuse or personal extra-curricula use to the detriment of studies. They also asked what employment opportunities were available in the rural areas to computer studies students. The trend, they said, was for students to flock into the cities to find white collar jobs if they were trained in areas like Information Technology.

These are issues that were well considered in advance in the SpotBeam proposal. We were glad to hear them expressed.

Dr. Aggrey Secondary School, Taita Hills, Kenya

Dr. Aggrey Secondary School Mission:
To Equip Students with Knowledge and
Skills to Become Innovative and Self-Reliant

Please refer to spotbeam.org for comprehensive answers to these questions. On financial sustainability, we learned from them that the Ministry of Education allows the school to charge up to KES1,000/student per year for participation in the computer studies class. The curriculum, therefore, operates like a privileged club for the few whom can afford it. In the rural areas, this narrows it down to exceedingly few. Mwambonu Secondary School is located off the Wundanyi-Mwatate road. A small mixed boys and girls school, it has a number of donated computers, some out of use, but all stored up in a classroom for lack of a computer lab. The deputy headteacher mentioned that they have been trying to raise funds for a long time to build the lab, but other pressing expenses keep defeating this goal. She showed us the only two computers in the school's administration block that were functional, used only for word processing. The headmaster, Mr. David Mchana, indicated that they would very much want to be considered for an Internet connectivity program.

Our visit to the District Education office in Wundanyi was met with enthusiasm by the District Education Officer, Mr. Geoffrey Ochieng. Initially, he was a bit hesitant, not knowing if the services proposed by SpotBeam required a fee. Rural schools are cash-strapped and cannot afford any more projects that are not within the set curricula. Even if our proposal would assist in teaching the approved Computer Studies course, the subject has been compromised by lack of equipment and teachers long enough to consider it unnecessary.
Mr. Geoffrey Ochieng and Mr. Preston Hall

Geoffrey Ochieng,
District Education Officer, Taita District
Preston Hall,
Technical Director, SpotBeam Project

But we allayed the DEO's fears by letting him know it is a 100% non-profit initiative for schools; that it would need the Ministry of Education, key players in the Information and Telecommunications sector, and private and corporate donors in order to succeed. The schools must however commit to building their computer labs and acquiring the computers needed. He expressed gratitude for the inspiring project and insisted that we make every effort to make it come to fruition for the schools. He gave official permission to visit as many schools in the district as we needed to help our research.

Through our case studies, we learned that many schools in Taita Hills, and indeed across the country, had received used computer donations from non-profit and business outfits. Unfortunately, most of these computers turned out to be hazardous waste donated to third-world countries and really ought to have been disposed of properly. It is dangerous that many of them are beyond repair and gathering dust in classrooms. SpotBeam will endeavor to work with donors who can provide new or refurbished computers as these are primary to the success of the project.

Dr. Aggrey High School,
Mr. F. Kitolome, Headmaster (white shirt),
Computer Studies teachers and
Mkawasi Mcharo Hall,
Administrative Director, SpotBeam Project

We also learned that there was an acute shortage of Computer Studies teachers. The secondary school Computer Studies curriculum makes it possible to use the schools as grounds for a digital renaissance. SpotBeam proposes an e-learning solution that works excellently in teaching and training without the need of a physical presence. This method is also unrivaled in its ability to reach multiple schools at a time. It includes on-camera training for Computer Studies teachers. The total e-learning and video-conferencing package introduces to schools exciting technology that is in line with SpotBeam's goal to inspire innovation.

Nairobi Meetings and Projections

Communications Commission of Kenya

Preston Hall, Technical Director, SpotBeam Project
Susan N. Mochache,
CCK Asst. Director, Universal Service Obligation
Perimnus J. Karungu,
CCK Manager - Telecom Licensing

We held several meetings with officials from Safaricom, Telkom Kenya, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), a Member of Parliament from Meru region with keen interest in acquiring Internet connectivity for schools in his constituency, and Pwani Foundation, all of whom are potential players in the success of SpotBeam.

Member of Pariament from Meru

Hon. Silas Muriuki, MP for Imenti North,
holding SpotBeam proposal

"I truly believe that the Internet and education
are the two great equalizers in life, leveling
the playing field for people, companies and
countries worldwide."

~ President Nelson Mandela ~



The meetings were very informative and encouraging. We continue to follow-up and build alliances with persons and organizations with technology, youth and education.

An important development in Kenya that will allow SpotBeam the advantage of high bandwidth capacity is the arrival of fibre optics. While we seek the satellite technology option to connect the last-mile zone schools that will not be reached through fibre optics, we will take advantage of established fibre to run the video conferencing lab and provide high quality educational content for schools.

In Kenya, we propose that the Ministry of Education, together with the ICT sector, provide bandwidth for schools to enable the teaching of the Computer Studies course using video-conferencing technology. Currently, only 2% of secondary schools have access to Computer Studies instruction, an imbalance that needs to be addressed. Availing the hands-on tools to teach the approved syllabus gives opportunity to thousands of marginalized students to compete and transform their societies. The SpotBeam team will act as the program implementers and advisers for the Ministry.

As for the part concerning building a video conferencing facility to train instructors and broadcast inspirational and educational programming via Internet, we plan to collaborate with a Kenya-based NGO with established financial experience to oversee the administrative and fiscal part of the project for accountability reasons. This will allow the SpotBeam founders and partners to grow the VC lab and its programming without the impediments of bureaucracy.

US-Europe Participants

It is now time to regroup with our US and Europe based partners, revise the notes from the Kenya trip and take the next step forward. In the coming days, we shall be meeting with the network solutions team, INO Solutions and The People MEDIA Center; and the

Kenyan NGO, Pwani Foundation. We have already been in contact with a key participant in Europe concerning technical equipment for the project. SpotBeam is on the move; the digital renaissance is afoot.

Immediate Challenge

The research trip to Kenya was fully self-sponsored by the SpotBeam founding team of Preston and Mkawasi Hall. These are sacrifices we continue to make in order to get up the second rung of the ladder where others can give us a hand. We have ahead of us a huge fundraising task to facilitate the administrative operations that include

international communication, local US travels to raise awareness and support for the project, purchase the technical equipment for the project, cover shipping expenses, and set up an operations base in Kenya for the project. We therefore need immediate assistance with grant writing. Kindly contact us through director@spotbeam.org

SpotBeam Project ™
Washington, D.C. (202) 247-5660
Nairobi, Kenya   (254) 0727-170-037
director@spotbeam.org

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