Thursday, 21 June 2012

ICT the Future

Some of the readers of this blog have commented that I report little of my work. The main reason for this is that it is often not at all positive and the outcomes are rather depressing for me. One area in this category is ICT.

Very slowly, individual Ghanaians are acquiring computers, usually laptops, which they are, largely, unable to operate. People are aware that ICT is the way to the future and talk of the possibilities for themselves and their children. Gemma and I have offered frequently, to train any teacher/officer in the basic skills on their, or our, laptops, but nobody has taken us up on that offer. We stress that the training is free of charge but still nobody comes. I have wondered long and hard as to the reasons for this and remain confused.

A local Junior High School (Key Stage 3) was given 24 electronic notebooks before Christmas as part of a nationwide scheme to develop ICT in schools. This particular school has electricity, well, a couple of sockets hanging alarmingly from the wall and a cable with a light bulb snaking around a roof beam in one classroom. The notebooks would need to be charged at school as nobody would volunteer to undertake that task at home (they all charge their phones with school power) and anyway the lack of security and trustworthiness would make this prohibitive. The school PTA has decided that a dedicated “Lab” needs to be established in the school. To acquire this facility they are demanding 10 Ghana Cedis (£4) from each pupil. I can’t imagine how long they will wait for this money to materialise. However, in the meantime this vital and valuable equipment is sitting in boxes somewhere unused while pupils are learning about computers from pictures in textbooks.

Three new Dell desktop computers were acquired by the District Office from somewhere last year. Bowing to some pressure from their VSO volunteers, these were installed into the Teachers’ Resource Centre. Gemma set up a timetable for teachers to walk pupils from local schools for instruction. A few schools took up that opportunity, allowing their students some hands-on experience. All went well for several weeks. Remarkably, the small suite is still there despite there being only 2 padlocks between them and outside world. Unfortunately, a surge in the electricity during a storm over Easter was too much for the surge protectors, which we ensured where used, and 2 of these desktops are now “spoiled”. A few volunteers have looked at them but to no avail. The technical expertise and replacement parts are not readily available to repair them. There is no infrastructure for this. Not only that, nobody in the District will take any responsibility for this problem and persevere with efforts to resolve it. Actually, nobody cares! Therefore, these machines will sit there until they are obsolete gathering dust by the ton.

In the meantime, Gemma and I visit schools…….if they invite us….to enable a few children to lay their hands on our personal laptop keyboards.  At least those children have seen one live and not just in a textbook. Small small, as they say here!

Incidentally, my exploits with basic art materials in a local school has caught some people's interest at home. We had fun with simple mobiles this week. One sheet of card and a reel of thread enabled everyone to make one and we practised a lot of skills along the way.

Hanging them from the classroom beams was quite a feat and most of P6 came in to help, many being taller than me!

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