FAIR and Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) have established an ICT Lab in the Southern Region of Malawi, at Matapwata Secondary School. This is the first lab that is established jointly with MUST and starts a new chapter.
After 6 years of experience in the Northern Region, a team from tMinds and FAIR visited and trained with lecturers and student interns from MUST, a newly established university with a special focus on technology. MUST will establish another 2 secondary school labs in 2019, before equipment for 5-10 additional labs is shipped in 2020.
The Learning Lab in Matapwata Secondary School is the first lab to be updated with software and educational contents assembled for automatic deployment through the distribution of 1 TB hard drives customized for Ubuntu Linux. The setup contains, among other things, the Kolibri platform - an interactive digital offline platform with contents supplementing existing secondary school subjects as well as a broad range of life skills, DIY etc.
Setting up a new center is done in a day’s work. The team can consist of just a few people and is a great learning experience for university interns from ICT-related studies. The experience gives valuable hands-on with networking and efficient unattended roll-outs of operating systems.
The automated setup of an ICT Lab is based on an open source set of scripts, referred to as the Offline Digital Library. During the past years, volunteers from FAIR have been developing these scripts as well as a documentation handbook.
After confirming and discussing the progress and challenges with tMinds in the Northern Region, a joint conclusion was reached to focus on the quality of the existing 23 ICT labs, rather than establishment of new ones. Since then, 2 labs have been taken down and new equipment have been sent to upgrade the remaining 21 schools. Upgrades are underway, as well as visits to all the schools in order to update software and contents. Last year also saw take-back activities in order to handle the e-waste generated from taking down old and broken equipment.
The experiences in Northern Malawi have been communicated to MUST in the Southern Region. MUST has transported 100 computers through half of Malawi to complete the first 3 secondary school centers in 2019, following which they will establish another set of 5-10 centers in 2020.
In the bigger picture, FAIR will be supporting two similar university-based organizations of bright-minded and energetic ICT lecturers and students, doing social outreach in their regions by setting up secondary school and community ICT labs.
These two partnerships both provide a Program, now called Open Digital Learning Labs. The program collects the experiences and practices of these 6 years and seeks to consolidate an efficient and human-centered delivery of ICT access to secondary schools and civic communities.