The end of week 3 is here and we are finishing up in Lamu. It has been an interesting, challenging, and frustrating week with plenty of failures. However, there were some successes as well.
The Moodle tutorial started with 3 teachers initially, but 4 attended the next day and 5 attended on the last day. They were interested in Moodle and expressed interest in using it, but I fear the technical challenge of keeping it up and running on networks here will be too great for now. There is a real lack of technical expertise here. When something breaks down, there is usually no one qualified to fix it.
The boys primary school (from here after will be referred to as School B) , where I was working for a few days, had a thin client Windows network linked by wireless to the school next door. This school (from hereafter will be referred to as School A) had satellite access to the Internet at a cost of €200 a month. UNESCO installed most of what School A has, but one of their servers (they have 3 servers for about 30 computers) was hit with a virus as the anti-virus software license expired. They got the server reinstalled, but now the servers seem to be conflicting in some way. When School B accesses the Internet, School A can’t access their own network. The solution, at the moment, is that School A unplugs School B when they need to use the server. When I say unplug, I literally mean pulling out the wireless connection plug between the 2 schools out of the wall, which turns off the Internet access for School B. I installed the Moodle server in School B and it works fine. All the computers on the network in School B (Camara Linux ones and UNESCO Windows ones as well) can access the Internet and the Moodle server in School B using a proxy server based in School A. The problem with the UNESCO Windows results in School A unplugging School B, which in turn disconnects school B from the proxy server, which results in the silly situation that computers on the network in school B can’t access the Moodle server, which is also in School B. I spent a couple of hours on Friday afternoon figuring out how their network were put together, but I ran out of time and didn’t find the cause of the conflicts between the Windows servers. So I left the school knowing that more often than not the Moodle server will be unavailable on the network. With a bit of dismay, I realized that they will probably not use Moodle despite the fact they can see its usefulness.
The steps being taken to set up a hub here in Lamu could possibly help to sort out problems like these, but the level of disorganisation here is going to be very hard to overcome. Money seems to be a big issue here. UNESCO has given these schools quite a bit of new Windows gear, but Camara is looking for money to refurbish older computers. I am led to believe that they now understand how they can’t depend on the charity of new computers in the long term and that Camara can offer them a more sustainable solution. Again our location reminds us that the process and progress are going to be slow.
We again ran into the issue of teachers not being free to attend Camara courses as schools are still working here in July. We had to approach the principal in one school so that one particular teacher responsible for IT could attend the networking class. From what I saw, he only got to attend for one day.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet with teachers here and see what is happening in their schools. I find some consolation in knowing that we are leaving them with more knowledge and understanding of IT stuff than before we arrived. It is frustrating to know we are just a drop in the ocean and that we can achieve only little in the short space of time that we have been given.