Monday 17 November 2014

A tale of two teenagers, studying by candlelight

Grace is 15 and she wants to be a doctor.  She walks 3 hours each way to school from her village in rural Tanzania.  When she gets home she has to collect water and firewood for cooking before she can study by candlelight.  Sometimes her parents can afford kerosene for a brighter light but this hurts her eyes and makes her cough.  Her parents are subsistence farmers and cannot afford a £6 solar light.  There are 72 students in her class and they haven’t had a science teacher for 6 months.  There are a few text books in her school which she copies from when she can, but they often use English words she doesn’t understand and there is no one to help her.

When I met Grace in her school in September she had never used a computer or the internet.  I brought out a hard drive packed with downloaded Open Educational Resources like Wikipedia, Khan Academy and health materials, collated by World Possible so they can be used offline.  Grace was transfixed by the videos explaining the circulatory system.  She loved being able to stop and rewind the bits she didn't fully understand first time.  On Wikipedia for schools she was mesmerised by how clicking on links brought up so much detail and how she could look up words she didn't understand with a simple click. She said with access to such information it would be impossible to fail.

Lucy is also 15 and aspiring to be a doctor.  She too studies by candlelight, but that’s because the smell of the scent helps her concentrate. She has a computer in her room but generally prefers using her iPad.  Her science teacher posts useful links on the school intranet and she often collaborates on homework with her friends on Facebook.

I am going back to Tanzania in January to help more girls like Grace, taking with me taking with me donated tablets that I will pre-load with Open Educational Resources content - if you have any surplus devices lying around please let me know and I’ll ensure they are put to good use!

I am also buying £6 solar lights - if you would like to buy one as a good gift this Christmas there is information here. and you can buy one here. 

I volunteer for Tanzania Development Trust, a small volunteer run charity - all donations are spent entirely on projects.  

If you have a tablet that you would like to see put to good use in Tanzania please email me: