On October 5, 2015, Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) sent a group of Intel employee volunteers to a school in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, on a mission to change the lives of students and teachers using education and Intel technology. Together with the teachers of Kicukiro General School (GS Kicukiro), our team was able to create a true digital classroom, giving the students of the school an educational advantage that cannot be understated.
The IESC team was chosen for their technical and educational skills as well as their cross-cultural fluency and sense of adventure. These compassionate individuals came together from diverse backgrounds to make our goal of improving the quality of education through technology into a reality. Project Manager Michael Hall led the team, consisting of two Teacher Trainers, two Technical leads, and a Social Media Journalist. Each brought their own energy and passion to the project, which they approached with careful planning and understanding that their goal was not just to give computers to the school, but to create a self-sustaining program that could continue functioning for years to come.
When our team arrived in Rwanda, they were struck by the exceptional beauty of the country and the cleanliness of Kigali. However, once they got to GS Kicukiro, they were able to see the challenge that lay before them. The city’s infrastructure could not continually supply power to the school, leaving the classrooms to make due with natural lighting from makeshift skylights, and limiting their ability to use technology in any practical way. Many of the older teachers had never interacted with a computer before, and would have to be taught things as fundamental as how to use a mouse and keyboard. However, the realities of the classroom also showed the team the importance of their mission. Getting even basic school supplies like text books is a challenge in Rwanda, and the teachers must painstakingly copy their lessons from a single textbook onto a chalkboard to share the material with the students. The students, in turn, copy all of the information by hand in order to have reference material to study. The benefits our team could give these classrooms by integrating practical technology into their daily lessons was apparent.
The team’s first task on arriving at GS Kicukiro was to hear first-hand from the Rwandan teachers exactly what their daily needs entailed. With an understanding of the community they sought to aid, the IESC team launched a rigorous plan to not only provide practical and useful technology to the school, but to train the teachers to use and maintain the systems. They presented the school with fifty specially prepared laptop computers, featuring rugged reinforcement to improve longevity, long lasting batteries and energy efficient hardware to ensure they could be used all day without recharging, and a suite of software designed by Intel Education Software to give the teachers all the tools they needed to present the lessons they wanted to teach. To ensure these machines continued to be useful long after the team left Rwanda, they created and trained the school’s first IT department to manage the upkeep of the computers over time. They empowered a system that would allow the benefits of their mission to take root and to propagate to other areas, creating lasting changes for the community.
Making a Difference
The teachers quickly saw how the computers could help them spend less time on bookkeeping and more time teaching. Jose, one of the Intel lead teacher trainers, remarked, “They really liked how fast the quiz grading process was. They immediately saw the value.”
But the real payoff for the Intel volunteers was seeing the computers brought into the classroom for the first time. “It was the most rewarding experience… seeing the kids’ faces light up when the computers were brought into the classroom and they were shown lessons with video for the first time. You could really see them become engaged,” remarked Project Manager Michael Hall when asked about the impact the team had on the school. After seeing what the teachers could do with the technology they had been given, it became apparent that something special had been brought to GS Kicukiro. Using the library of books installed on the machines meant teachers no longer had to spend tedious hours copying material onto the chalkboard. Lessons that might have taken as much as five hours could be done in thirty minutes, allowing the teachers to spend more time interacting with the students and covering a greater amount of material. The teachers in Rwanda enthusiastically embraced both the technology and the Intel volunteers who brought it to them. When the time came for our team to return home, The Rwandan teachers had this to say about the program, “The Intel team was here as part of their job, but they did more than that. They were up late at night and away from their families. They engaged with the teachers & the kids. It was much more than a job.”
To find out more about the opportunities available to Intel Employees through the Intel Education Service Corps, visit http://intel.ly/iesc.