IESC Kenya: Week 1 Solar Powered Classmate PCs

Our journey started on Saturday morning US time, arriving in Kenya on Sunday night Kenya time, after 3 plane transfers, missed connections and lost baggage. Flew to Kisumu on Monday morning to be received by Alphonce Okuku, Director of Kageno Trust, at the Kisumu airport and arrived at Rusinga Island, on Lake Victoria, on Monday afternoon (after a car and ferry ride).

KagenoCar.jpgKageno Trust has a solar equipped vehicle that’s used to charge up to 14 classmate PCs (they only have 7), a teacher’s PC and also powers a wireless router which connects the teacher’s computer to the Classmate PCs. Rusinga Island has no electricity or running water, so the Computer Program facilitators, Nguka and Justus, drive the vehicle to schools around the island to give students an opportunity to have hands on computer training.

Our team’s goal was to train Nguka and Justus to effectively use the Classmate PCs in the classrooms. We were all very impressed at how respectful the students were. The moment we entered their classrooms they would stand up, get chairs for their honored guests (us) and even called us Sir/Madam. Elizabeth Njenga perfected the art of elaborate introductions whenever we met the School Principals who were very gracious and welcoming.

Thumbnail image for KamasengreSecStudents.jpgThere were 6-12 students sharing 1 Classmate PC, but the students made sure that each one had a turn on it. It was interesting how the students were too shy to ask questions at the beginning of class, but would send more questions than their teacher could handle on the chat tool of the collaboration software.

At the end of every class, the students would always plead with us to stay another hour or visit them at least one more time. Some went as far as offering to go to class on Saturday AND Sunday for a chance to learn something new on the computer. We gave in to their request and the tired lot of us made it through two classes on Saturday.

We’ll miss the students from Kamasengre Primary and Secondary, Kamayoge Primary, Uya Primary and Dr. Williams Primary schools. All the students we met asked us to send our regards to everyone in America. So if you are reading this from the U.S, wamosi.

We have so many fond memories of Rusinga Island: sitting and chatting in Alphonce’s living room each night after a scrumptious dinner; watching the women dry their fish at Kolunga Beach; encouraging the students to study hard in spite of their circumstances; bravely using the latrine in the dead of night; watching the students’ faces light up as they learnt how to type; watching the lake light up each night with hundreds of kerosene lamps of fishermen, two of whom unfortunately died on the lake on our first night here and their bodies recovered three days later (the lake was dark on Friday night as fishermen stayed home in honor of their lost colleagues).

Thumbnail image for TeamPicture.jpgLooking forward to our trip to Karibu Center in Thika next week!

Team (left to right): Keegan Wincewitz, Elizabeth Njenga, Lucy Kuria, Lisa Robinson Spader, Amanuel Abebaw

2 Responses to IESC Kenya: Week 1 Solar Powered Classmate PCs

  1. elaine cohen says:

    hi, fabulous story from the intel team (which i picked up via Suzanne Fallender on Justmeans.com ), showing how corporate involvement makes a real difference in the daily lives of people. I am sure that the intel team feels wonderful about their oportunity to contribute. this is the good news of csr that gets so little airtime in the press, or that most people dont know exists, but it is this type of engegement that is changing communities. great to see you all blogging about this.

  2. Hello Kuria,
    I am so impressed at your Solar powered laptop for Schools. Its very interesting thing especially in Kenya.
    I would actually be interested to know more about it . We have a project that is using solar power to power satellite services for schools may be we can consolidate this in it