In September 2013, FAIR launched a joint project with Mzuzu University (Mzuni) in Northern Malawi. The project model was the continuation of our first pilot project efforts, and should prove that schools and local forces could join to bring about the necessary sustainable environment for educational ICT centres. Not least, the project is overseen by the Malawi Ministry of Education's regional division.
One of the big success stories of this project is the role of the ICT Department at Mzuni. Being the main local actor in the project, Mzuni has appointed a project coordinator to facilitate training and maintenance. This is possible through financial contribution from each participating secondary school. Furthermore, the project follows suit with the University's general social responsibility and outreach programme.
The set up of the 9 centres was done by a delegation consisting of two FAIR volunteers and a team of university staff and volunteering students. Through this platform, the staff of the university was quickly able to take over the process, and students gained valuable insights into network-driven mass-installation of client computers and the role of various common networking technologies.
The last centre has now been installed (see pictures below), and Emmanuel Nglande, lecturer at Mzuni ICT department reports from the setup of the centre at Rumphi Secondary School:
We started off on the 13th August, 2014 in the morning. As usual, the work started the same day. We started by removing the equipment from the storage room (Library) into the computer room. First day did not go as we planned because their electrician did not finalize installation of electrical sockets. Apart from that ESCOM hit us with a blackout at around 7pm. By that time, we already had the computers, cables, keyboards, mice and tables in place waiting for next day’s job.
On the next day (14th august, 2014), we arrived at the centre early before the electrician and the Head Master. After they arrived an hour later, we started our magic of cable termination while the electrician was doing his job. Many computers did not give us problems. Hard disk failure and RAM overloading were the main faults on some of the machines. Around 4pm, we were done.
At 4:30pm we started a little demonstration to the staff members who were available on how to use the services on the server and how they can cope with the new working environment. They were so excited as the Lab was transformed beautifully. As usual, we mounted the projector as it is the last job that Burnet is good at (LOL).
At 7:30pm, we were done. We left the scene and returned to Mzuzu same day and we arrived safely.
The next phase of the project will be to extend, by setting up another 10 computer centres at 10 new secondary schools, which will be a big boost to the University's ambition to run a full time maintenance service of the computer centres. Furthermore, this project will revisit our technical platform and bring in new software updates and educational resources.
FAIR is planning to have the next consignment ready as soon as possible. We have the computers ready and our partners are ready to set new computer centres up, but we need all the help we can get. If you want to volunteer, speak to your company about partnerships with FAIR or tell others in general about our work, that would be deeply appreciated!