March 2nd – Mombasa hub & school visits
Touching down in Mombasa was as smooth as a breeze, and the brief stop off at Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on the way certainly added a bit of excitement to the trip. Philip recommended I get a seat on the left hand side of the plane for the best views, and he was right. After five years and twenty countries, he knows his stuff about Africa.
The man himself was waiting for me in arrivals at Mombasa Airport. There was no time to waste. I tried desperately to keep up with Philip’s swashbuckling pace as we walked briskly through the sauna-like open-air car park to get to his slightly battered 1997 Land Rover. It felt like the drive ahead would be fun.
My hopes for an air-conditioned drive to the hub were somewhat naive, so it was down with the windows as we drove off! As soon as we started to move, it felt like a jet engine was blowing hot steamy air straight in through the windows! Sit in a sauna with your clothes on and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Arriving at the hub along a winding dirt road in busy central Mombasa, Camara’s three small white concrete huts with corrugated steel roofs reveal themselves through sparse trees. They were originally built as shelters for street boys, but when the money ran out, the shelter shut down. Camara is putting these huts to great use. Sustainability is at the core of everything we do. We don’t just give and then walk away – we continuously work with schools as partners.
Philip introduced me briefly to the team and then Masoud – Camara’s Kenya CEO – took me on a brief tour to meet all the crew. The Camara hub huts are no different than any other place of work or school in Mombasa – they’re like saunas. It’s tough to work in these conditions but the team here do it every single day and what’s striking is everyone’s dedication. Working for Camara in Africa is like a vocation – this is becoming more and more evident to me with every passing day – and the impact of their work is the engine that drives everyone on. Transforming the educational environment and opportunities for so many children, teachers, schools and communities, and therefore transforming lives through education is huge reward.
After the introductions, it’s straight out the door to visit a nearby school, busy converting a class room for their new ELC. I join Farid – Camara’s African Technical Director – as well as staff members Vincent and Juhura, to go out and vet the school. Over the years Camara has learned that the most important ingredient for a successful computer room in a school is to get the infrastructure right before any computers are installed.
Stable electricity with circuit breakers, proper security, ventilation fans, desks and chairs are all pre-requisites. Camara will only supply the package of computers, educational software and training to a school when the vetting team have signed it off as being fully prepared. Unfortunately, on this occasion the electrical wiring was not done to the correct specification, so we had to ask the school principal to get it redone. This is disappointing for everyone, but if this isn’t done right there would soon be 25 computers sitting idle, with some possibly damaged.
Next, it’s off to visit Tom Mboya Primary School – named after the Kenyan nationalist leader who was assassinated in 1969. I’m greeted warmly by a very jovial Principal, Mr. Swleiman Babu. He is delighted to chat about their ELC, of which he is extremely proud. He’s also very proud of the school’s trophy cabinet, and insists on taking a photo – very impressive indeed!
The computer room here is very impressive. The IT Teacher, Mr. Said Baya Kombo – who was trained by Camara – is a very professional and courteous man, and he warmly greets me. The children too are very well-mannered and it’s great to feel so welcome. The current lesson in class is about geography – the children are researching the formation of mountains. There are beautiful graphics on screen and they can click any time to see and hear a tutor explain many of the geographical features through their headsets.
This is a great example of how the Camara ELC is providing a gateway for children to learn about many subjects. These computers are loaded with many different lessons and subjects and although the school does not have teachers for all subjects, these computers are an excellent substitute and provide educational opportunities which these children would otherwise never have access to.
Speaking to Said after the class, it is clear that he is seeing the impact the technology is making: “These computers are fantastic for my pupils. They all come from poor backgrounds, so this is the only place they can come to learn on computers.”
Check back here tomorrow for the final installment of Tim’s blog…