We got to Thika late Monday night after traveling all day from Rusinga Island and encountering the dreaded Nairobi rush hour traffic on Thika Road. We spent four days at the Karibu Centre run by Orphan’s Overseas. Karibu Centre has a pre-school for children from surrounding slums, and a support program for pregnant girls from the community.The first day was spent installing software on Intel powered classmate PCs which Karibu Center purchased or received as donations. After a long day of mounting and installing one CD after the next, on one computer after another, hearing the jingles of preschool computer games playing over and over and over, the team could barely talk. Our communication skills were reduced to grunts. It was a welcome relief to spend much of the next day training the preschool teachers. Before long, the computer game jingles were back on as the teachers got used to the software they would use to enhance their classrooms. We also spent some time working with the social worker who counsels the young girls, to help her integrate computer training to her curriculum. Some of the teachers were very serious when we worked with them and it was a surprise to see their faces light up as they interacted with and taught the preschool students. The students were so happy to see the laptops (or small TVs as they first called them) and all wanted to touch the screens as the jingles started all over again. Karibu Centre staff had visited the surrounding slums to inform parents and grand-parents that computers would be used in class, and many were skeptical about the value of teaching computers to children who had limited opportunities anyway. Some parents expected to see bulky desktops when they visited the class and were shocked to see how child-friendly the classmate PCs are. Many were surprised that their children were not afraid of pounding away at the keyboards and by the end of the week, saw the potential of exposing their children to computers. It was heart-wrenching to hear some students tell their teachers that they’d slept hungry the night before and I wondered if there was any value to providing them with laptops when there were seemingly more immediate needs. But when I watched the teachers work with the students, I saw role models that the students would ordinarily not have if they stayed at their homes all day. When I saw the students drawn to a popular TV puppet teaching them their ABCs from the laptop, I thought of the new world the children would be exposed to. They have acess to basic computer training that many 4 year olds in Kenya don’t have, and this is hopefully an opportunity for them to look beyond their living conditions and aspire to more than they see. Since we were here for only a few days, we barely had enough time to train the teachers and social workers on all the capabilities available to them. We look forward to communicating with them to make sure that the students get the most out of the laptops. The IESC Kenya team started out as strangers who met for the first time 2 weeks ago, but we’ve had an amazing time working together, getting to know one another, laughing together late into the night, and listening to our fearless leader share her very amusing stories. We thank Intel for this opportunity of a lifetime to work with recipients of the computer chips we work on from our grey cubicles. Back to the cubicle it is!
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