Maarifa and FAIR in Uganda

June 19, 2014 by Benjamin Balder Bach

We are happy to announce that FAIR is assisting Maarifa -- a new development eLearning project by the Norwegian governmental knowledge centre for free and reusable software, Friprogsenteret.

FAIR has mainly always concentrated on hardware and operating system infrastructure more than the content (we do like content, though!!). Maarifa on the other hand is an eLearning project founded on the basis of reusing already existing eLearning ressources, but keeping focus on adapting to a local context. Thus, Maarifa is meeting up with local teachers and translators who can help start the project.

Currently, I'm in Kampala, Uganda having just visited Mirembe Islamic School and its 150 students. We met with the owner of the school, the head teacher, and Kalanzi Abdusalaam, a local teacher who is writing a proposal on how to benefit from eLearning in the context of the school.

Amongst some of the important possibilities of eLearning at the school are:

Having visited the school and met with the staff makes the project seem even more viable. The challenge of coming up with their own proposal has indeed spawned many original and insightful ideas about how ICT can be utilized in education.

Because of the lack of internet connectivity (or the cost of getting one), we are having a thorough look at expanding the offline contents that we have already created and distributed in FAIR. The Ubuntu repositories together with the likes of the entire Wikipedia, KA Lite, and Project Gutenberg have already been packed and triaged for a couple of years, and Maarifa has many ideas to extend this kind of offline connectivity, but also recognizing the limited possibilities that exist with low and unreliable bandwidth.

The common platform of open source is what has brought FAIR and Maarifa together, and the collaboration consists mainly of FAIR providing hardware infrastructure and Maarifa co-developing a programme of eLearning and contents to deliver on top of this infrastructure.

To company me on this trip are 4 laptops to be handed out in a test programme. The laptops contain everything available in Ubuntu 14.04 and are handed out in pairs such that one is server, and the other is the client. That way, we hope to prepare the schools for what is coming, but mainly also to spawn ideas to help shape the eLearning platform.

We look forward to seeing all this happen, and I'll write another update after the trip :)

Smiles from Kampala,
Benjamin (FAIR) + Christer and Rune (Maarifa / Friprog)

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