A request has been made for 10 computers by the Jefferson Baptist School in the community of Waterloo in the Western Area Province of Sierra Leone. This school has been in existence since 2003 and has provided education to the impoverished children in what was a refugee camp. School sessions have been conducted in a single large building with no walls and up to 6 classes at a time. Paper and books are at a premium and computers have been non-existent. All of the learning takes place by rote repetition.
2014 Computers at Waterloo School Photos
Despite these shortcomings, the school has produced a solid education product as evidenced by higher than average scores on national achievement tests. The administrators of the school have requested computers for a number of years, in an effort to assist their students to be leaders in their country and to help the country to be competitive in the 21st Century. They have built a separate building from the school to house a computer lab to meet the interests of security, temperature control and maintenance.
Our plan is to collect user fees from student to pay an employee to train students on windows software, Microsoft office and internet access. Computer maintenance and repair services are available by technical experts in the US until such time as this skill can be developed in Sierra Leone. User fees will also be employed to develop a replacement schedule for the computers. We anticipate the life of any one device to be no more than 5 years. We have observed other humanitarian organizations that have attempted to develop this type of service on a commercial basis in Sierra Leone. While that is not our interest at this point, commercial use of the computer lab may be an option to enhance income for the service after we have gained classroom experience. In the meantime, the primary issues with respect to sustainability include technical support and income generation from user fees. Scholarships are available for unusually gifted students.
In 2010, a representative of Willamette International conducted health assessment for the community of Waterloo, site of a former refugee camp established by the UN after the civil war . The health assessment incorporated a sampling of the 8000 persons in the catchment area made up of displaced Sierra Leoneans, indigenous Sierra Leoneans and displaced Liberians from the various tribal groups in those countries. The chief priorities identified included access to clean water, access to protein, economic development and education. Parallel efforts led to the development of the school at the request of the leadership of the community. The school was initially offered to students at no charge. Subsequent policy adjustments have yielded small fees for school attendance which is the normal custom in Sierra Leone. Economic realities are such that free (public) education is not feasible in Sierra Leone, and will not likely be for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the economic situation in Waterloo is improving, albeit gradually. Having this technical component available to students will serve the dual purpose of providing a crucial skill to the graduating students, and to communicate to the community at large the potential for development available to them.
Representatives of the Greater Albany Rotary and Willamette International have visited the Community of Waterloo in Sierra Leone and have established relationships. We have had conversation with persons in Sierra Leone with formal training in computer repair and have an offer to pay the salary of a technician currently on the table. In addition, US technicians have offered their services to serve as mentors in both computer training and repair. Willamette International, has its headquarters within a mile of the school and would be available for urgent technical issues. It is our hope that within 3 to 5 years, a visitor would see students at all grade levels having access to the computer lab and learning relevant skills, a technician onsite with skills and aptitude to effect proper maintenance and repairs, and all teachers in the school having access to the computers during off classroom time to enhance their own learning and curriculum.
Please contact Jerry McIntosh at (541) 905-0618 to schedule a more detailed conversation and possibly a presentation at your church or organization.