A red dust cloud trails our Land Cruiser as we bounce along this dirt road in rural Zambia leading to Jonathan Sims Chikanta High School. Corn and cotton fields line the road, but no signs can be found. If you aren’t careful, you’ll drive all the way to Zimbabwe.
Luckily for us our journey has been expertly coordinated by Alf and his World Vision Zambia colleagues. World Vision supports Jonathan Sims, a school that changed dramatically in May 2011 when Hoops of Hope provided funding for a solar-powered computer lab with 20 Intel classmate PCs. The first IESC team set up the lab and provided initial training, and this year’s team returned to build on the foundation of PC literacy skills and help the school’s teachers integrate technology into their curriculum.
The team: Jason, Naveen, Merciless (deputy headmaster), Sisley, Mr. Kanjambo (headmaster), Andris, Cristina, Wendy
We hit the ground running, and in our first week we worked with teachers using Open Office Calc, Impress, and other software to teach PC literacy classes to more than 300 students. We demonstrated resources like Khan Academyand the Intel Learning Series classroom management software as well as the eGranary (a hard drive containing Wikipedia and 14 million educational resources). We even helped the deputy headmaster create the school’s first student ID cards.
We also demonstrated WeDo Robotics kits donated by the LEGO Foundation, showing the teachers how to create a program that lifts a robot man using a LEGO crane. The headmaster and teachers were excited about helping the students organize a robotics competition, as they were looking for an engaging, hands-on way of teaching engineering concepts.
Teachers using LEGO WeDo Robotics kits
After a year of having classmate PCs at the school, change is already palpable. Charles, the World Vision regional coordinator, noted that “enrollment is up this year because word is spreading that Jonathan Sims has a computer lab.” This is a significant leap since high school students in Zambia rarely have a chance to interact with computers. In fact, we were told that even university students often don’t get to use computers until their final year of studies.
During the second week, our team would travel to Makonkoto Basic School, but not before enjoying a rousing farewell assembly organized by the school’s headmaster, Mr. Kanjambo. Add a few speeches, a photo session with students, a final lunch with teachers, a few more speeches, and we were starting to feel like Justin Bieber. But it was time to get back out onto that dirt road, tired, but satisfied with what we accomplished.
After long day of training, enjoying a soccer game at dusk