Reaching kids minds and hearts at the shore of Lake Victoria!

Foundation, Uganda

The Webale Team continues their journey as an Intel Education Service Corp volunteer in Uganda working with the NGO BRAC and the Maendeleo Foundation to support Intel-powered classmate PCs (CMPCs) deployment and training at Ntinkalu Day and Boarding Primary School near the shores of Lake Victoria. Enrique Acuna, a Webale team member from Intel Costa Rica, shares their unforgettable experiences and memories.

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Reaching kids minds and hearts at the shore of Lake Victoria!

by Enrique Acuna

IESC Uganda arrival at Ntinkalu School.jpgReady with a walkie talkie in each of the two Maendeleo Foundation cars, we leave from our Jinja Apartment Hotel towards the Ntinkalu Day and Boarding Primary School, “our school”. This second week the Webale Team is accompanied by Bena and her sister, Asia, who leads the caravan. After turning into a dusty road we finally found our school in a hill behind large sugar cane fields with a magnificent view of the Lake Victoria.

We were received by Mr. Patrick, the headmaster, and a few teachers while the children are in their first classes of the day and week. We walk around the school to identify a place to install the tent where we will be teaching. Among a few trees and near a building of two classrooms we decided to unload the car which holds the three solar panels, the tent and the wooden chairs and tables. The team divides into two sub-groups, four people that will stay in the tent and the other four that will teach in one of the closer classrooms that was made available for this occasion.

IESC Uganda mobile classroom training.jpgInstalling the mobile classroom is a first special experience for all the Webale team. 5 tables with two chairs each received 10 students under the blue pre-built tent’s roof. Ten Intel-powered Classmate PCs (CMPCs) are connected to power supplies that are fed by one inverter connected to a 12 V battery and the solar sources. These CMPCs have their batteries removed to optimize the solar energy consumption.

While groups of 10 students were sent to the tent every 50 minutes, 9 students were sent and received simultaneously synchronized using the walkie talkies at the same time to the classroom. Here there were 9 CMPCs working only with their batteries, which had their spare batteries ready to be replaced after approximately 3 hours.

IESC Uganda in line waiting.jpgWe started with the students of the P7 level, and expected to have taught all 1000 students of the other three levels P4, P5 and P6. After the boom boom chica boom led by Carla, and the introduction of the basic computer concepts, the two sub-groups will teach the same exercises from the Maendeleo Software: the mouse games, to teach the movements to use the mouse; the keyboard games, to teach how to type; the Paint and the Puzzles.

The kids are the ones that determine how far they can go within the limited period of time they have to play with the computer. If a student can master the mouse games, then he or she can move to the next level: the keyboard games. If these are mastered too, then the student can start with Paint. The Maendaleo Foundation Software will tell the student when he or she has completed successfully a game by displaying a “You win!” sign.

IESC Uganda training.jpgGetting a “You win!” sign is a fruit of each student’s work and effort. For instance, a mouse game will reward the sign to the student after popping 25 balloons. However getting the first balloons popped may be a huge task for someone that meets a computer and a mouse for first time in his or her life. It is an unforgettable and wonderfully surprising experience to see how the eyes of one child shine and her voice erupts in screams of happiness, while jumping from her chair when she is able to pop her first balloon. This girl has tried popping the balloons for 40 of her 50 minutes with the CMPC. But amazingly as soon as she pops the first one, she transforms and starts not only popping all the balloons but finishing all the games just in 10 minutes, a record time among her peers! A mix of patience from the teacher and persistence of the student will make this moment one that the student will keep for all her life and, as pinpointed by Asia, will ensure that the student will not leave the school after experiencing the satisfaction and joy of conquering a new challenge of knowledge achievement.

Another deeply emotional moment happened when another student obtains enough confidence with his relation with the computer to write his first and middle names in Paint. But his mastery does not stop there. He takes a bird from Paint’s farm landscape template and moves it as if the bird was flying and shares his new game and story with his teacher, which marveled laughs with him.

Finally by the end of the week all the teachers of the school received the same training delivered to the kids and also some exposure to the Word processing. These teachers had not used a computer before.

IESC Uganda with kids cheering.jpgThese days will remain in our memories forever. Moments like sharing tea during the 11 am breaks and enjoying lunch, when we ate matooke (a banana delicious dish), posho (a delicious dish made of corn), embodi (sweet potato), muwogo (Cassava), vakedo (avocado), enkoko (chicken), enanas (pineapple), engege (tilapia) and enputa (Nile perch fish). To the moments of unexpected emergency like smoke from the burning and melting cables that fell on the battery due to the movement of the car caused by the unpaved road. To the moments when the kids that were outside kept trying to look through the windows of the classroom and the teachers would try to get some time out of their classes to also learn and watch the training of the kids.

Bonga!

Congratulations to all the team and to Intel for this unique and invaluable opportunity!

Thanks very much! Webale, nyo!

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