Thank you to our guest Eric Ham for this post. We were thrilled to have Eric as part of our CU group traveling to Tanzania this summer. Without him we would have not been able to bring this revolutionary education system to Mwaya Secondary School.
In my first guest blog post, I shared about the technology piece for the Tanzania trip. I felt a little blind going into the project, but we had some really good information provided to from the school on building layouts and measurements in addition to some nice aerial shots from Google Maps and pictures from a previous trip. I had laid out placement of the generator and power lines based on some of the feedback received from our contacts in country. I remember Kelsey Esther, one of our tech team members, asking me if I had a detailed schedule for implementation. I think I said something like I have a plan but we better be ready for anything.
Well, the anything happened. We hit the school on Monday, July 2nd and met with the school officials. They had a different plan than what we came in with. After much discussion, it was decided to make some changes while still providing teachers maximum flexibility in how they used the equipment. So, we redrew the plans and came in from the opposite end of the building. Then the tech team jumped into action. They were unable to provide a ladder, so our high school students stacked desks to get themselves up into the rafters to run the cables. I’m pretty sure the Mwaya students thought they were crazy.
That same day and for the rest of the week we ran those laptops in different parts of the school. The Mwaya students just flocked to those things and watched until the batteries died. They were so excited to see everything that was packed into the Khan Academy videos. We spent the rest of the week setting up and training teachers and students on the systems. The teachers really started thinking about different ways they could use these tools to accomplish their teaching plans. They started working with the Open Office Presentation software, which really got their heads thinking. See, up to now they would start in the upper left corner of a chalk board that stretched across the front of the class and hand write all their lessons. Now they can build their lessons on the computers and save them for future use. The most amazing thing about this project was the fact we could take gigabytes of knowledge and bring to a school that a year ago didn’t even have textbooks.
The Mwaya teachers and students have an amazing spirit and drive. They shared with us their dreams of the future and what they want to accomplish in life. They want to be doctors, business owners, husbands, and wives. They have the same dreams that kids all around the world have but the only thing they lacked was the accesses to information so many of us take for granted. What we did is miniscule to the need that is out there but it is a start and for those kids at Mwaya it was huge. It was so huge that it drew the attention of a local politician who told use that helping with education was the greatest act of generosity we could provide. This local leader, who was educated in the USA, promised to help bring power to the Mwaya School to help with this project be a success. This will make Mwaya the first school in the region of 26 schools to not only be the first to have computers but the first to have electricity.
The trip was a blessing for all of us, and I can say without a doubt that I learned and gained so much more from it than I could ever give. The people of Tanzania are truly inspirational in everything they do, and I thank them for allowing me to be a part of their lives for that week.