It's exciting to have 28 computers in a rural village for the 18,000 school children in our 55 partner schools---It's not a ratio many would imagine in the U.S., but Kenya Connect has worked hard to provide access to computers and to offer introductory computer classes to students and teachers. Students in the U.S. have created an international book group with the goal of having "skyped" book sessions with their friends in Kenya. It all sounds great, but the Internet technology remains a major hurdle yet to cross.
Thanks to the support of so many donors, we were able to network 22 of the computers in the LRC through a cable. This has greatly aided our instructional courses since all computers are connected and can work together in course instruction. We believed this connection would also aid in all computers sharing internet from a single Internet connection. But alas, it didn't work due to the slow bandwidth currently available.
Kenya Connect then contacted Safaricom, the biggest internet service provider in Kenya. They tried connecting the cable to their infrastructure on a trial basis. Sadly, there is not enough bandwith in Wamunyu to allow a clear connection to the U.S.-- especially during peak usage periods.
However, we are not giving up! Kenya Connect is committed to making the internet part of instructional learning. We have reached out to the Governor of our district to see if he can help bring a stronger signal to Wamunyu. If Kenya is to grow, all students and teachers need to have access to the immense resources available on the Internet.
Some may believe we have not achieved our initial goals. However, we are persistent and are confident that we will eventually have our computers fully connected to the internet providing so many rich and varied resources to our community.
The cable installation at the Learning Resource Center is now complete! All 20 mac mini computers at the computer lab are now connected and can share information. We have additional 7 laptops that will come in hardy in our training program. There are also more connection points in the computer lab and also within the offices to allow more computers to be connected in future. All these computers can access the Internet through a GPRS router connected to the ethernet switch.
A group of 120 students and teachers who have been learning computer literacy skills were among the first to benefit from the cable connection. These students were able to learn the use of Internet as a communication tool and also for research. They were also able to learn how to send and receive email messages. Some of the teachers had the opportunity to create their own email accounts! Another group of 200 5th grade students from 5 different schools benefitted from the cable through a online tailored learning resource (Exceed Academy) developed by Avallain Africa and Jacarada designs.
"I am happy to learn how to use the Internet for research and communication. I will now be able to access more teaching materials for my students and also to communicate with my friends" Mrs. Alice, Teacher Makaalu Primary School
We also had our The School Fund (TSF) Secondary students use the Internet for their geocaching club to log in caches, check GPS coordinates and to follow some of their "trackable" items. This would not have been possible without the Internet at the LRC. Just this past week, TSF students met with college students from the U.S. to learn about entrance requirements and scholarship availability for university and they all used the Internet to search for this information.
The cable connection will be a great learning opportunity for students and teachers from our enrolled schools. Although the Internet connectivity is a bit slow, we are exploring ways to make it a bit faster by installing a dish, but then we would be required to pay reccurrent montly fees for the Internet.
We are very grateful to you all for making this project a success and how it benefits our 55 partner schools in Wamunyu!
Finally, the cable installation is in progress! The process began when we secured a suitable contractor. In liason with the contractor, we were able to procure supplies needed for the work - rolls of data cables, a 9U cabinet, face plates, ethernet switch, trunkings, UPS, RJ 45 connectors, wall box connectors among other things. With the materials on site, the contractor began by assembling the cabinet to run the wires through, installing the trunkings, and laying the cables within the computer lab of the LRC building. A total of 38 connection points have been set up at the computer lab meaning a maximum of 38 computers can be connected to the internet at the lab at the same time. Currently the lab has 20 mac mini computers with an ultimate hosting capacity of 40 computers. Other rooms within the LRC building are also being installed with the cable and networked which will allow us to spread out the computers if we need to. Another 10 connection points have been established in other rooms within the LRC building making the total connection points 48! The process of testing the cables and wall connection switches is now occurring. The contractor is working hard to ensure that work is completed in good time.
Once the cable installation work is finalized, this will mark a big stride in our efforts to provide skills for the 21st century. Many of the missed opportunities by our students and teachers (as highlighted in the previous progress report) will turn into reality. The Center will become the hub of communication and online research among students and teachers in our 54 enrolled schools. Book club discusions via Skype (which in the past have been a big frustration) will now be feasible.
We are excited to highlight that the completion of the cable is coniciding with the inclusion of five of our enrolled schools in a pilot project called 'Exceed Academy Africa' which is part of Avallain Africa and Jacarada Designs (the producers of Young African Express). The 5 target schools will get e-learning modules delivered to standard five. We are starting to get tailored educational resources on-line.
The current 120 students and teachers in training at the LRC on computer skills will be among the first group to benefit from this cable project.These learners are very excited to see the cable project get underway and cannot wait to experience the power of the internet.
"I am happy to see the laying of network cables in the Kenya Connect LRC. My dream to use the Internet as a research tool will soon come to fruition"
Mr. Francis Muli - A teacher at Kambiti Primary School
We remain most grateful to you our supporters for making this great learning transformation happen among our schools.Thank you!
As we mark the first anniversary since the Kenya Connect Learning Resource Center opened its doors to the public in November 2013, we are happy that approximately 200 students and teachers have graduated with computer literacy skills. Another 120 students and teachers are currently undergoing intensive training while over 600 others have visited the center for daylong visits. These groups have greatly benefited from instruction and technology at the center, but there have been many missed opportunities without a good Internet connection. Using a single computer connected with a safaricom modem and a projector, these students and teachers are learning Internet browsing and email skills. The students are gaining skills but it is limited given the set up. We are in great need of a cable to connect all the computers to the internet.
As another example, Nyaani Secondary School is another school that has missed out on a great opportunity. Over this year, the school has made many attempts to do a live book club discussion via Skype with their Partner school - Arundel High School in Maryland, USA. Due to the slow and unreliable Internet connectivity however, the students have been disappointed on more than one occasion. Their first book of discussion was The First Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and they are now currently doing The Giver by Lois Lowry. They continue to try and connect with their friends in the States but can't quite make it the rich cultural exchange event for which they had hoped.
"We are hopeful that the cable connection will boost Internet speed and energize our book exchange with vibrancy and greater one-to-one connection with our peers making the book exchange more productive and meaningful."
Evans, book club member.
At the same time, Arbutus Middle School and their partner school in Kenya - Nunga Primary School have been working on a collaborative science lab experiment. Live collaboration on this initiative was limited by slow internet connectivity and therefore Arbutus MS had to create a video to aid in instruction. Link here.
We remain most grateful to all the donors who have supported the cable project so far. We are hopeful that we can attain our goal some time very soon. Again, thank YOU for your great support. Wishing you Happy Holidays!
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