IESC Swaziland: Celebrating Technology Access with a Thousand New Friends

The Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) is a short-term service and career development opportunity for a select group of Intel employees to support the deployment of Intel Education Solutions in developing countries. In this blog, Eric Rodriguez, a Mechanical Facilities Group Leader at Intel, recaps his team’s work with NCM Africa in the Kingdom of Swaziland.

Swazi teacher, now a proud member of "Team Intel"

Early Monday morning on our first day in rural Swaziland, our team of four Intel employees were meeting the 21 teachers of Ndlalambi Primary School for the first time. During our six weeks of preparation these teachers were figments of our imagination, and all of sudden they were singing a beautiful song of gratitude in front of us. It was clear that the community had embraced us from the start. By the end of our two week education technology adventure, we were partying with 1,100 people at a celebration involving the sacrifice of multiple cows.

Swaziland is a country largely known for its devastating HIV epidemic, with an estimated 26% of adults living with the virus. But the people of Ndlalambi are looking to education to improve their future, and as the first IESC deployment in Swaziland, the school is eager to set an example for the entire country. This remote school with 755 students has had very little exposure to technology, but they have demonstrated a great passion for using computers to educate, learn and grow.

Candice introduces LEGO WeDo robotics program

Our training introduced basic computer concepts to the teachers and explained how they can use them to enhance their teaching. At the end of each day, the teachers stayed late to practice typing and creating documents. They were helping each other as they learned new tricks and challenged us to add new concepts for each subsequent day of our training.

As the teacher training was taking place, dozens of students stared through the windows. Little did they know, their opportunity to use the computers was right around the corner. The students were fascinated about the Intel classmate PC’s capabilities and grasped the basic concepts quickly. Our team had a special surprise for them: robotics kits from LEGO Education. This was not only their first experience with computers, but with LEGOs too! We introduced a “Be An Engineer” project which consisted of building alligators, airplanes, birds and soccer goal keepers with USB motors and sensors, and watching them come to life using a simple programming language.

Usher tries to silence huge celebration crowd

Our visit culminated in a celebration that brought together more than 1,100 people from the entire Ndlalambi community. We felt their gratitude, their smiles and hugs. And we thought of the Intel mission statement: “This decade we will create and extend computing technology to connect and enrich the lives of every person on earth.” As we saw the community come together, we felt the vision become a reality. The teachers were wearing Intel t-shirts, and a choir was singing a chorus with the words “Intel” and “Computers” mixed in with the Swati language. 

Our project team comes from different backgrounds and had never even met before, but we worked as one team towards a common goal. By the final day the kids were hugging us, introducing us to their parents, and asking us to take their pictures so we would not forget them.

Our assignment was to help the Ndlalambi school to launch their ICT initiative to “connect and enrich” the lives of this community. As we said our goodbyes we realized each one of us were enriched from this experience and will always have a connection with the teachers, the students, the community and the country. We are returning home with a renewed perspective of Intel’s vision and how we can contribute. This is just the first step for bringing technology to Swaziland schools. 

As our team drove back to South Africa to begin our route home, we knew that this might be the only time Intel brings us together in this capacity, but we knew the Ndlalambi School will always be our connection. Regardless of what roles, paths, future commitments we have, this school will always be our path back to each other.

IESC Team Swaziland (Saurabh, Eric, Adilia, Candice) taking in the beautiful Swazi landscape

For more photos and stories from the IESC Swaziland team, go to http://swazitech.tumblr.com

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