Funded by an IOP Virdee Grant, I visited Mozambique as part of a volunteer team from social enterprise Madanyu, to develop a project aimed at providing low-cost computing resources and training to secondary school teachers and students.
The overall aim was to foster interactive learning and more widespread access to teaching resources. My fellow volunteer and I were stationed at Muele Secondary School in Inhambane, which has more than 4,000 students aged 12–23, and more than 100 teachers.
We also visited two other secondary schools, 12th of August and Instituto Comercial e Industrial Eduardo Mondlane, to assess the needs and aims of those schools on the ground, as another volunteer team of two would arrive as we left to carry on fieldwork there.
Our first core objective was to empower teachers through technology and present interactive teaching methods. We conducted three-day workshops in two sessions – morning and afternoon – each attended by 24 teachers from subjects such as physics, chemistry, maths, geometry, and technical drawing, and covered Raspberry Pi assembly, operating systems, text processing and spreadsheets, educational apps, programming with Python, terminal and use of peripherals such as the camera and microscope.
The second objective was to build IT capacity at the school and improve IT curriculum delivery. The school had one functioning IT room with 10 old computer models – four of them not properly functioning. With an average of 50 students per classroom, this meant a ratio of more than five students per computer in place.
Ten Raspberry Pi stations are now present in the IT room. We engaged with the school director and an IT teacher – who became the contact point for continuity, equipment management and maintenance – during the two weeks to ensure installation, logistics, use and maintenance plans were in place. We had a special session for IT teachers focused on programming, terminal and more technical issues related to the installation and use of the Raspberry Pis. We also delivered an adapted version of the three-day workshop to a group of 24 students that had IT as subject, with the aim of inspiring them to think more creatively on the use of IT for real-life applications – we presented programming with Python, use of terminals, handling a microscope, and launched an ideas competition.
Our third objective was to provide resources to improve the attractiveness of STEM subjects. We brought 3D-printed microscopes and prepared a preliminary curriculum related to the properties of light, the principles of microscopy, and various biology and ecology experiments. Its use was demonstrated on the last day of each workshop, especially the student-oriented one.
We also had a drop-in session with STEM teachers to further explore the working principle, troubleshooting and potential microscopy experiments and nominated a teacher as focal point and responsible for the equipment left – two additional Raspberry Pi stations, two Waterscope microscopes, and teaching aids including optical lenses, slides, chemical solutions, disposables.
Feedback was very positive, mainly with hopes for a longer course and for more subject-tailored workshops in the future. Regular updates are given by both the main contact point and the microscopy project contact point regarding the use of the equipment. Another team of volunteers of Madanyu will visit Inhambane this year to give continuity to the project – both to train new sets of teachers with the introductory workshop and also to build on the strong relations made, to teach more advanced and subject-specific IT skills to teachers that showed great interest for the technology.
From preparation – brainstorming on the creation of course materials and dealing with travel and equipment logistics – to execution on the ground, this was a truly unforgettable, eye-opening experience. I was able to communicate with a variety of people and better understand the workings, culture and needs of the community. I was mainly inspired by the dedication of the teaching and auxiliary staff to giving the best education possible despite sometimes challenging circumstances, whether it be an energy cut, lack of an educational aid or lack of room.
They showed that at the core of a good education is a good, interested and creative teacher – and that with such a spirit in its foundation, up-and-coming affordable technology that is both innovative, accessible and portable is a particularly welcome vehicle to enhance content delivery, and a prime outlet for the creative minds of students and teachers alike.