Over 1,000 members of the Piggs Peak community joined the Friday celebration, a morning filled with march routines, speeches, food, speeches, poetry, speeches, and speeches. There were also some speeches.
Preparations for the big feast began at 4am. Everyone pitched in.
It was an important day for the staff of Mshingishingini Primary School. They recognized that with great gifts come greater responsibility. The headmaster saw the opening of the new admin building and computer training as a gateway toward improving education for all community members—his longer-term vision including better access for physically-challenged students, expanded training for all students (and parents, and board members…).
It was also a day for the Minister of Education and Teaching to emphasize that only with practice and regular usage would the computers be of value, and once the teachers and students showed their ability to integrate technology into education could more support be justified.
The Minister of Education and Teaching hands over the Classmate PC to Headmaster Mdluli
There were nineteen items on the agenda. Because 20 items would be too many.
For our team of six, it was a bittersweet day—it was great to celebrate with the teachers we had gotten to know over the past two weeks. Each one of us made an impact in a very real and tangible way—accomplished without conference calls, Lync Meetings, MSRs, and MRCs. Instead, we had the opportunity to work directly with the end user of the technology, and in a very small way helped fulfill the vision of Intel—to extend computing technology to connect and enrich the lives of every person on Earth.
Is this what connecting and enriching looks like?
We left Swaziland confident that we had made a difference in a small mountain community. It was also the last day that our global team would be together—the next day we would head our separate ways, back to our home offices in the US, India, and Israel.
Nobody knows what lies ahead for the staff and students at Mshingishingini. For them, the work has only just begun. We wish them well—our new friends—from thousands of miles away.
Some things, we were simply unable to teach.
Today was a special day at Mshingishingini. The schoolteachers’ final exam was to work in teams and create a presentation based on a current curriculum topic. This assignment would require them to utilize everything they had learned over the past seven days, including copy-and-paste, saving images pulled from Kiwix (offline Wikipedia), inserting charts, and text formatting. Several teams even went above-and-beyond the training to add animation and sound effects to their slide decks.
It was a proud moment for both trainers and teachers. They received certificates of achievement for their completion of the computer training, and Intel t-shirts.
Tomorrow is Friday and our final day onsite. With mixed emotions we will partake in the huge community celebration (1000+ people, two cows, dozens of chickens) and reflect on how important the teachers will be to extending the use of technology in the school. Yes, the computers are great tools, but in fact they are simply tools just as a blackboard or a desk is a tool for learning. And a tool needs to be implemented: the PCs deployed, the software launched, and presentations created. By teachers.
If there was one single point we could impress upon the school, it would be the fact that the thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours invested in Mshingishingini will only be worthwhile if the teachers realize that the value lies not in the technology itself, but in what it can enable them to do better.
Of course, it’s only a finish line for our team. The true value of our training will only be reflected once we depart and the teachers continue to integrate technology into their curriculum, whether by creating slides to bolster their lesson plans or by giving students time to strengthen math skills via the installed educational games.
We’re getting closer to the staff and students at Mshingishingini primary school, able to witness some other aspects of their education. Home economics and agriculture are important, teaching the students practical skills such as raising poultry and gardening as well as nutrition.
With the limited time left, the school sent us the “top” twenty-five students for some focused training in engineering and computer programming—using the Lego Education builder sets. Students built animals that connected to the Classmate PCs and then wrote basic programs that caused the animals to roar, move, and chirp.
Rare early afternoon off, enjoying the stunning mountainous landscape of Piggs Peak.