During this week we hope to introduce the XO laptop to the children more, get them to touch, feel and navigate it with greater comfort. Since the number of children is extremely large, this is bound to be the toughest week, since we aim to make sure as many children as will be possible get to be introduced to this machine. This introduction is extremely necessary since the children are completely computer illiterate.
Thanks to the OLPC team, however, this will be much easier since we have received more XO laptops.
16th November to 21st November
As you must have noticed, there is a one week gap in my schedule. This is because the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E.) exams, our National Primary School examinations, will be in session nationwide from the 9th to 12th of November.
So from the 16th, we hope to resume with the Mathematics curriculum, where will teach the children basic Math operations, starting with addition, multiplication, subtraction and division. How we intend to do this is as follows.
After the children have had their Mathematics lessons and with the knowledge they have accumulated throughout the year, we will introduce them to one of the XO activities, starting with Memorise. This will help stimulate their memory power at the same time help prove their power to use the basic Mathematical signs mentioned above. This may sound elementary, but shockingly these children do not know how to use these operations effectively. The other relevant activities will come in to assist and I will post the progress as we continue.
We will take a break the following week because of the end of year school examinations.
30th November to 5th December
During this week, the children will be done with examinations but will still be in school waiting for the school closing date. Traditionally, children hardly ever come to school in this week since they have ‘nothing to do’. The school Head Mistress asked us to make full use of this week, make sure we use it to teach as much as we can in the hope of attracting the children to come to school.
As I mentioned earlier, the Mathematics team integrated their work with two other teams under the Hands of Charity, the HIV Team and Reading/Writing Team. This is the week then that the Reading/Writing project comes in. Since during the first week when we will be there and when we were there we introduced them to an activity like Write, we will ask the children to write several different articles on different subjects then with the help of the teachers, examine the articles then on the school closing day award the three best articles.
Other activities related to Reading/Writing will be done and shared as the project will continue.
7th December to 19th December
These will be the climax to our program. Schools will be closed and therefore we will have the children all to ourselves. We hope to use this time to bring in the HIV/AIDS project in more. The HIV/AIDS project is more of a sharing activity, where we hope to highlight several stories involving these children and the challenges they have faced as a result of the HIV pandemic, then share these stories with the rest of the world and use that as the first step in quelling the stigma that comes with the AIDS disease.
We will also be much more vigorous with the Math and R/W projects, making sure that the children have maximum fun with minimal pressure from the normal school program in learning.
In conclusion, our program is not static at all and we will adjust accordingly depending on the circumstances at that particular time.
I wish to thank the OLPC team in the USA, especially Sandra Thaxter, Adam Holt and the rest for the invaluable support we have received and undying loyalty to the project. Let us continue to work together in making this project a success.
Thank you all and God bless.
Mark Bill Koech
After much delay due to several problems we had, the Hands Of Charity Mathematics, Reading/Writing and HIV programs have finally taken off simultaneously in Keongo Primary School, a school with a pupil population of about 850 located in Keongo Village, Kericho District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya.
The mood in the school was jubilant. On Wednesday 16th October 2009 I spoke initially to the School Head Mistress, Mrs. Koech, about the program, and she could barely contain her excitement when she had that we were hoping they accepted to have the few XO laptops we have used to aid in teaching their children.
Initially she was worried about what costs they were going to incur, but I assured her that there was nothing to worry about, that we would cater for all the costs. All they had to do was to give us some supervised time with the children. I was asked to start the following afternoon.
At 3:20 pm Thursday, we had the first class. I was asked to start with Standard 7 West, a group of 38 pupils. I introduced myself and told them what our organization, the Hands of Charity, in partnership with OLPC, wanted to do in their school. I also introduced them to the XO laptop, what it could do, the safety precautions and all its external features, and after that showed them how to start the machine, open activities and manipulate a few other basics.
The class went on for one hour and forty minutes. I was able to extensively demonstrate to them how the Write and Record activities were able to do, and introduced them to Calculate, GeoQuiz, Chat and the Wiki. After that I asked them to write some of the things they believe the XO can help them do. Here is a small sample of some of the responses I got.
- It can help us take pictures for our homes and friends.
- It can help us write messages to one another.
- It can help us learn how to use the computer.
- It can assist us to make the learning of Mathematics and English easier and faster.
- It will help us get better grades in our exams and get jobs in the future.
All these responses coming from eleven to fifteen year-olds who have never ever seen or touched a computer amazed me. Instantly, they were able to see the enormous potential of this machine. As if I had not had enough surprises for a day, six teachers joined the pupils, sat with them and we were able to have the lesson together. I thought that was a very positive step in bringing the teachers and pupils closer together.
These children live under very impoverished circumstances and will continue to do so in the future if the fundamental hope they have in getting them out of that, education, is not rapidly improved. We have to stimulate the interest of this children in the learning process through initiatives like these. For example, after my lesson yesterday (Thursday), there has been a rise in the number of pupils coming to school today from the week’s average number by 43. Just one lesson, and forty three children who would have stayed home and probably dropped out saw a reason to come back. The need to have educated children in a society, you all agree, can never be stressed enough.
In Kenya today, most of the children under 15 years of age, and as I mentioned earlier even the teachers, do not have skills in Information Technology and Computing. This is a chance to bridge that gap and bring Technological tools to them. The key to improving education in Kenya is in Technology.
The XO is also a multi-purpose tool, as I am sure it was made to be, and therefore with the proper guidance can help teach so many new things to these pupils in rural Kenya on issues that affect them.
The biggest challenge we face at the moment is funding. The five day trip we are concluding alone has cost nearly $200 just to cater just for basic accommodation, meals and transport. We would be much more efficient if we have available funds to rent a house in the town near the school and if we had a vehicle to tackle the nearly impossible and nearly always wet terrain the school is located at.
The other major challenge is the limited number of XOs we have. This is a school of nearly 900 pupils, as I mentioned earlier, and with only 9 laptops we are nowhere near able to cater for all these children. If we created all that buzz with just nine laptops, imagine what would happen if we had even a hundred!
The third major challenge is that the children have a very poor command of the English language, the main mode of communication. Of course we are hoping that this is a problem we will fix in due course.
This entire program is a working progress. There are so many limitations that face children like this when it comes to them and realizing their full potential. With patience and dedication, we can all collectively help to improve the education process in poorer countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, and bring the unfamiliar belief to this children that you are never too little to dream big!