In the second half of this term, Malaptop worked with Stirling University to offer a placement as part of their Active Learning in The Community Programme. The student who took up the placement was Mary, a third year Religious Education student who was entirely new to computing and Malawi. She worked on increasing the resources that were loaded onto the laptops so that they can be put to good use in Malawi. We were really pleased with her work and there has been a great deal of positive things to come out of the contacts that she made. This is her final report, written as part of the course, which describes some of the challenges that she faced and how she overcame them.
My placement provider is a new Scottish charity called Malaptop established in Stirling by Simon Cleary and Clare Ridler in 2012. The main idea of the charity is to send laptops to schools in Malawi with a basic computing system on them called Linux to allow pupils and teachers to use them easily. The idea is based on the fact that the developing world is developing and needs help to do so. The project wants to make sure that the children of Malawi have some exposure to different technologies and programmes. Allowing them to gain simple skills such as typing will give them the confidence to use computers in the future. James Gondwe, the executive director of Malaptop’s Partnership organization in Malawi explains the need for young people to be able to use computers
“the modern world demands vocational and technological skills from an individual, especially in the labour market. This then means that Malawian schools, no less than her secondary schools, should equip the students with necessary and relevant computer and information and technology (ICT) skills”
Malaptop have already sent a batch of laptops out to a school in Malawi. They had been sent over with the intent of being used to go along with the computing curriculum, which they had been extremely useful for. The head teacher of the school put forward the idea that the laptops could also be used for other things, such as community health and adult education.
My role during my placement was that of resource builder. Taking into consideration the ideas put forward by the head teacher, it’s my job to try and bring together different resources that could be uploaded onto laptops and sent over to Malawi. To begin with the resources I was focusing on were computer programmes that could be used to help adult education and community health but this soon widened to things like presentations, videos and educational worksheets. Firstly, I got in touch with the head teacher of the school that had received the first laptops to ask him what specifically he felt the laptops needed. After finding out this information I began emailing a list of contacts given to be to Simon, asking them if they knew of any resources or if they had any other people I could contact. I also got a lot of email addresses from the Scotland-Malawi partnership website, as they had a list of all its members.
I found it quite difficult to establish contact with some people, especially the contacts based in Malawi as internet access is not widely available there. So it sometimes took quite a while to receive replies. Also because internet isn’ easily accessed it meant some of the resources and ideas people were giving me could not be used as they required the pupils to go online.
Although it has taken quite a while to begin to gather any resources due to the contact issues I have now managed to collect a few useful programmes and documents that can be uploaded to the laptops.
My conclusions so far is that I have achieved part of my project targets as I have managed to bring together a number of resources but I would still like to collect more and I am still emailing new contacts. I also still have to upload the programmes I have onto the laptops so they are ready to be send over.
Due to the fact my project has been mainly working by myself in my own time and space I feel that it has helped develop my ability to get focused on a task and carry it out. As I usually leave everything until the last minute then rush through but because this placement required me to have continual contact with people it meant I had to get started right away and remain committed.
Although I haven’t completed my placement I feel that I have developed some skills in the time. I have improved my emailing skills as prior to this placement I hadn’t had a lot of experience in emailing, especially people who I didn’t know or people I have to talk too formally. I have also used some programmes that I have never used before, like Skype and Google drive so this placement has helped improve my knowledge on new things.
Although this placement hasn’t affected my long term career plans
it has encouraged me to volunteer with other charities
Malaptop and Stirling University will be running a placement again next term. The role will be to promote Malaptop to the students of Stirling and more information can be found on the Active Learning in The Community Programme webpage.