Fundraising Simataa SSS 2017 – A new fence and an updated computer lab
PART 1 – The project
My name is Thomas, I am a 28 years old French engineer.
After years working for a huge multinational in France, in Hungary and in Dubai, I let go of my comfort for a year, to volunteer and teach Mathematics and Computer Technologies in a Secondary School in the northern Zambezi region of Namibia.
Since January I am both comforted with the hart warming kindness of the community, the teachers and the students, and by their struggles and way of life. As it is said about volunteer teachers: they not only teach in their schools, they transform them, and as my knowledge of the challenges faced by the population of the school increased I have narrowed down my field of actions to the two following priorities:
· Raising funds to build a fence around the school
· Update the schools computer lab and connect it to internet
Simataa Senior Secondary School (Simataa SSS in short) is a relatively big school for this remote area of Namibia: four hundred and sixty students, from grade 8 to grade 12, twenty teachers, a nice (and unused) science lab and a fairly well equipped computer lab. It is located in a village called Chinchimane, one of the main villages of the area, seventy kilometres from the closest town, Katima Mulilo. While it is quite remote and “in the bush”, it is equipped with electricity and running water (most of the time).
The students are the same as we used to be at their age: they are lazy, they don’t want to do their homework, they try to cheat during tests, they are sleepy when it is too hot in the classroom, and they are unable to concentrate during the last class of the day.
But they are all here to make the best of the opportunity recently given to all children in Namibia: free education until grade 12. They understand that overtaking the challenges and getting the best education available to them is the key to help their families and develop their communities and their country.
Education in Namibia, and its challenges
Namibia is a new country; it has achieved independence in 1990; but is one of the most successful democracies in Africa. All the ingredients are gathered for a successful development over the next generations and the Namibian government is putting education as its priority. School used to be free until grade 7, and since last year until grade 12.
A Namibian not graduating from secondary school will most probably end up jobless and won’t be able to support its village or community (except maybe for the local bars), or worst, homeless in a town where the crime rates are still high.
But there are still challenges in order to achieve the goal of every Namibians graduating from secondary education: mainly the lack of funds and resources, especially in remote areas such as Chinchimane.
Challenges specific to my school
There would be a lot of area for improvement in the school: additional class rooms, textbooks, even fixing the toilets (the students currently go “in the bush” for their needs). But there are two that I am putting my focus on until the end of my term: the construction of a fence around the school, and updating the computer lab.
PART 2 – Building a fence around the school
Raising fund to construct a fence around the school
This is a very basic, but strictly necessary need. The school in its current state is open to the outside. This means that outsiders can come in, and the students can go out. It is not uncommon to see the village alcoholics crossing the school, and cows and village dogs are amongst the largest population of the school, with all the disturbances and safety issues that goes along. The fence is also meant to keep the students in. It is very difficult to control an open space as it currently is and a lot of students frequently ditch school to stay in the village. Some of them are regularly found in bars.
The principal has formally requested me to help raising funds to finance a barbwire fence around the school, with a main gate to allow cars in and out, operated by a security guard. A quote for this construction was made to N$125 000, which is €8 300.
I am supporting the principal with this project at 100%. It is a critical issue for the school, and being able to control the outside environment is a mandatory improvement to make sure the students get the best of their school.
How the students of the school are invested and involved in the construction of the fence
I recently noticed that a group of grade 11 students called LRCs (Learner Representatives Council) started to try raising money for the fence on their own (without ever talking to me about it). This proved to me that building a fence around the school is not only a concern for the principal and the teachers, but also for the students themselves.
I decided to get them involved with me in the process of fundraising to a higher scale than what they are used to.
Tracy, Chaze, Monde, Nheo, Nanzila, Nakwezi and Chipwapwa, can you tell us about your role as LRCs?
We are the LRCs of Simataa Senior Secondary School, we were elected by the learners of the school to represent them, like being their eyes, ears and mouth to the teachers.
Being an LRC is something important, because we think of different ways to helps us build the school. LRCs we have different categories that we participate in. We are the management’s help and all learners of the school. We make sure everyone respect the other person young or old to make everyone feel comfortable, and to develop our school with new ideas to make it a good learning environment.
Can you tell us why you think it is so important to build a fence? What is the state of the fence now and how should it be built? What are your ideas to raise money?
It is important because learners move around so much going in the bushes, were they is a high risk of getting injured and since we live in the village were a lot of crimes take place, anything can happen in the bush. To avoid theft around the school premises, we have a bad fence that drunken villagers are coming in to disturb learners that are learning in class. Cattle is coming in to destroy taps and classes, they also break windows. With a barbed wire it will be difficult for anyone from the village to temper with any school property and learners won’t be able to move out.
Us LRCs came up with ideas to raise money to get a new fence for our school by making casual day every Friday, and next year before any learner registers in a new grade they should pay N$ 50.Teachers should contribute N$50 every month.
PART 3 – Updating the computer lab
The place of IT in education
Namibian’s curriculums include ICT classes (Information and Communication Technologies) from primary school until grade 12. The students learn how to use a computer, how to type, how to use excel, internet, and all the basic skills that seem obvious to most of us. This is a smart move from the ministry of education since most of today’s modern jobs and means of communication involve the use of a computer, at different degrees.
The curriculum for grade 10 for example is quite ambitious. The students are supposed to learn how to create databases and perform basic programming, coding and understand various algorithms. These skills, acquired at the age of 15 would give the students a huge edge, even on the international scene.
But again, the vision of the government is not often met on the field. There are few competent teachers to teach these topics and to follow the students from primary school to grade 12. Most of the school are not even equipped with computers.
The reality is that most of the Namibian students don’t know how to type, let alone switch on a computer.
The computer lab in the school
Simataa Senior Secondary School is amongst the few schools lucky enough to be equipped with a computer lab. We have twelve desktop computers, four of which are not starting and one starting once every other day. The rest of the computers are outdated, full of viruses and slowly dying.
This means I usually have between five and seven computers to teach classes that go up to fifty students. That’s ten students per computer!
The problem comes from the fact that the lab is not connected to internet, making it impossible to update the systems and the antivirus, leaving the computer very vulnerable.
My plan is to work with the ministry of education to install a modem and all the necessary equipment to connect all the computers to internet. Involving directly the government workers and the community is a way for me to make sure that the changes I make will followed up on, event after I leave. There is another computer teacher in my school, who is also a trained IC technician. My goal is to give him the means to transmit his knowledge in the best conditions possible, with an up to date and functioning computer lab. And I know he has the skills to keep it running on the long term.
The estimated prices for IT equipments are as followed:
· 400 euros for a new desktop computer, looking at the possibility to get laptops
· 200 euros estimated for the necessary equipment to connect the computers to internet (extra modem, cables, switches, installation)
PART 4 - Links additional information
If you want to learn more about the school and the surrounding community, feel free to read the blog I started with the students of the school. All the content (text, pictures, videos) is created and edited by a group of students under my supervision. It is a great way to teach them IC skills and communication via internet. We try to upload at least one article per week.
WorldTeach is the organization via which i am volunteering, along with seven other teachers all across Namibia (five Americans and three Canadians). It is a non-profit organization based in the USA partnering with the Namibian ministry of education. Namibia has an important shortage of teacher, and thus employs a lot of volunteers form developed countries (the Peace Corps in the US and several German organizations, as Namibia used to be a German colony).
As a WorldTeach volunteer, I am quite free with the way in which I organize my volunteering. The principal roles of WorldTeach are to ensure that the volunteers are qualified before they are sent to their sites, to ensure the communication with the government and to facilitate the immigration process. This way, I am completely part of the education staff of the school, and do not have any constraints from WorldTeach.
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