While teaching in Luxembourg under the International Baccalaureate Program, my wife organized student community service projects in Moshi, Tanzania for seven years. Her students helped fund raise and build dormitories for girls at rural secondary schools and while there, interacted with their local counterparts. My wife established friendships with the community leaders and school staffs.
Now that we are retired and living back in the United States, we would like to help the rural Moshi primary and secondary school headmasters and teachers with a Workshop for Teacher Capacity Building.
This past September, we spent four weeks in Tanzania to evaluate the feasibility of a such a teacher workshop. With a local committee of community leaders and ten headmasters/head teachers, we visited 22 rural Moshi schools. All faculty with whom we met agreed that this support to demonstrate modern pedagogical methods was urgently needed. The committee also briefed the Kilimanjaro Regional Education Officer.
While in country, we also vetted projects for a NGO; these visits reaffirmed our conviction that technology is lacking and a new approach is desperately needed. Tanzania has many attributes and is further developed and peaceful than some other African nations, based on its history and independence in 1964 under Julius Nyere.
An immediate problem for families is the availability of water, as we witnessed people moving water uphill in buckets on their heads or on bicycles; a condition made worse by this year's drought. However, looking forward and long-term, one would agree that the reeducation of rural teachers and the consequent better education for their students is the most important task for future Tanzanian improvements.
I am not a computer software/hardware or education expert, but I have used computers in professional capacities for simulations and business for many years. I worry that the OLPC idea, with great potential, is not being proactive in coordinating its efforts to achieve the best results possible from modern IT capabilities.
The Educational Technology Debate on OLPC seems to avoid the mention of what I would consider the major OLPC security problem even if it is a green color. With 1.4 million XO-1s distributed with a monetary value of about $200 each (3 months average family income in Tanzania), no mention is made of how many XO-1's have disappeared for parts or resale.
Furthermore, to operate a laptop, batteries must be recharged and most of the rural schools do not have electricity. I see no evidence that OLPC is coordinating with a solar power or alternate energy NGO. Why not?
Apparently, USAID is also involved in the effort to provide IT to developing nations. This organization is looking at details such as teacher development and continuous project assessment to promote student learning. Instead of standalone laptops, why isn't OLPC focusing on "Thin Client Laboratories" that require less power, cost, rework, and is the cheapest way for using IT for learning?
We are seeking funding and technology for the Moshi Rural Teacher Capacity Building Workshop. We plan to use the Second Chance Education Centre as the hub for the workshop which would include training of the teachers in the use of IT for their specific subject fields and for an overall English language immersion course. Sustainability is built into the project with the follow-up peer training by the Moshi teachers for their colleagues, for networking, and for resources.
As a result of the initiative in September, Second Chance Education Centre has opened their small library as a resource for the local school teachers. This library can also become a secure center for the issuing and signing out of laptops and projectors on a rotational basis according to the lesson plans of the primary and secondary school teachers.
We would appreciate contributions and donations from the OLPC community.
Tim Russell has applied for XO's from to the Contributors Program