Raspberry-pi Technology Transforms Rural Communities/Schools in Kenya

One of Marafiki’s goals is to collaborate with others as much as possible in order to carry out various projects in rural Kenya and other places. In the article below, John describes a computer project that is truly a collaborative effort between several different groups from the states and in Kenya. It is within this kind of a collaboration that more work for God’s kingdom can be accomplished.

 

Why Raspberry Pi?

The mystery of the Raspberry Pi has hit the poor rural communities and schools in Kenya with a storm, transforming them from ignorance to highly charged technology community. Students are learning how to use the computer and increase communication skills to match the global IT communication.

Students from Kivagala High School learning the Raspberry Pi (August, 2017)

When I was growing up in the rural community of western Kenya, I used to hear people talking about moving to the moon using the rocket, which was controlled by the computer. At that time, technology sounded something so complicated and only special people with special brains could only access or manage to use what was called “a computer.” This rural boy had many imaginations in his head of what and how this computer worked by remotely controlling the rocket in the air as it went to the moon.

Rural communities in Africa are still in those days where computers were like gold in their community. The communities are aware what these devices are, but access to how to use them is a challenge. The cost of a desktop computer drives the mind away from even thinking of having such a thing in their community. The local rural schools are also in a similar challenge. They know, and they learn in theory about the computer, but they have not seen or used one, but some have seen them in a cyber café when they visit town, but still have no clue how to use them.

The Kivagala and Musembe communities are in my neighbourhood and the name computer sounds like a rocket in the space that one can only see it and touch it through a photo. We have had situations where students finish high school and go to University, but have no idea how to use a computer. They face challenges doing their assignments which are required on the computer. The students have to use money and pay other students who know how to use a computer to type for them and that delays their submission. I remember one student who failed his first-year exams just because he could not finish in time and submit a typed paper printed in the format requested. I felt so bad that I had to give that student my laptop. First I had to teach him how to use it as he started using it as a three-year-old child. However, later he adapted the use of the computer when he was in his second year of college. It is sad to see this type of problem happening even when we are living in the digital era period.

The coming of the Raspberry Pi is just a God sent answer to our prayers that the rural community and schools would have an opportunity to access technology cheaply, easily, and with access to this kind of learning. The fact that this type of a computer is cheap, maintenance free, virus free, and having installed programs for the learners is beyond what one would have managed to buy for learning. A few of the Raspberry Pi computers were introduced in one of the schools in the village, and it has transformed their esteem in learning. The fact that they can access a computer is a dream come true in their lives. It is true these children are going through such schools where many have had no hope of learning a computer while in school. The coming of a Raspberry Pi computer is revolutionalising the rural communities from technology ignorance to an informed community ready to be part of the global digital world with modern communication skills. The so call Village Students are no longer in that category but looped to another level like their counterparts in big schools.

The sampling of introducing the Raspberry Pi in one school has created a problem with other schools in the rural communities who are crying to be included in the list of those who can benefit from the Raspberry Pi computers.

Cost of the Raspberry Pi:

Each complete set includes: Raspberry Pi motherboard, the case, power cord, cables, keyboard, and mouse, with the cost of $130. With $130 you have a complete computer ready for the student learning. There are many schools with many students who are eager to access computer literacy. Our target this time is four schools, namely: Kivagala high school, Kivagala primary school, Musembe primary school, and Gahumbwa girls high school. Each school needs at least 50 Raspberry Pi units for a start. There is an average of 450 students in each school, and they have never seen a computer.

Raspberry Pi will transform the lives of many young people through innovations by using technology, communications, computer literacy among the learners, doing research on access online materials for learning, and connecting with the rest of the world.

By John Muhanji

October, 2017