More Raspberry Pi labs in West Africa
Back in May 2013, we heard from Dominique Laloux about an exciting project to bring Raspberry Pi labs to schools in rural West Africa. Until 2012, 75 percent of teachers there had never used a computer. The project has been very successful, and Dominique has been in touch again to bring us the latest news.
Growing the project
Thanks to the continuing efforts of a dedicated team of teachers, parents and other supporters, the Centre Informatique de Kuma, now known as INITIC (from the French ‘INItiation aux TIC’), runs two Raspberry Pi labs in schools in Togo, and plans to open a third in December. The second lab was opened last year in Kpalimé, a town in the Plateaux Region in the west of the country.
More than 400 students used the new lab intensively during the last school year. Dominique tells us more:
“The report made in early July by the seven teachers who accompanied the students was nothing short of amazing: the young people covered a very impressive number of concepts and skills, from the GUI and the file system, to a solid introduction to word processing and spreadsheets, and many other skills. The lab worked exactly as expected. Its 21 Raspberry Pis worked flawlessly, with the exception of a couple of SD cards that needed re-cloning, and a couple of old screens that needed to be replaced. All the Raspberry Pis worked without a glitch. They are so reliable!”
The teachers and students have enjoyed access to a range of software and resources, all running on Raspberry Pi 2s and 3s.
“Our current aim is to introduce the students to ICT using the Raspberry Pis, rather than introducing them to programming and electronics (a step that will certainly be considered later). We use Ubuntu Mate along with a large selection of applications, from LibreOffice, Firefox, GIMP, Audacity, and Calibre, to special maths, science, and geography applications. There are also special applications such as GnuCash and GanttProject, as well as logic games including PyChess. Since December, students also have access to a local server hosting Kiwix, Wiktionary (a local copy of Wikipedia in four languages), several hundred videos, and several thousand books. They really love it!”
Pi lab upgrade
This summer, INITIC upgraded the equipment in their Pi lab in Kuma Adamé, which has been running since 2014. 21 older model Raspberry Pis were replaced with Pi 2s and 3s, to bring this lab into line with the others, and encourage co-operation between the different locations.
“All 21 first-generation Raspberry Pis worked flawlessly for three years, despite the less-than-ideal conditions in which they were used — tropical conditions, dust, frequent power outages, etc. I brought them all back to Brussels, and they all still work fine. The rationale behind the upgrade was to bring more computing power to the lab, and also to have the same equipment in our two Raspberry Pi labs (and in other planned installations).”
An upgrade of the organisation’s first lab, installed in 2012 in Kuma Tokpli, will be completed in December. This lab currently uses ‘retired’ laptops, which will be replaced with Raspberry Pis and peripherals. INITIC, in partnership with the local community, is also constructing a new building to house the upgraded technology, and the organisation’s third Raspberry Pi lab.
Dominique has been very impressed with the performance of the Raspberry Pis since 2014.
“Our experience of three years, in two very different contexts, clearly demonstrates that the Raspberry Pi is a very convincing alternative to more ‘conventional’ computers for introducing young students to ICT where resources are scarce. I wish I could convince more communities in the world to invest in such ‘low cost, low consumption, low maintenance’ infrastructure. It really works!”
He goes on to explain that:
“Our goal now is to build at least one new Raspberry Pi lab in another Togolese school each year. That will, of course, depend on how successful we are at gathering the funds necessary for each installation, but we are confident we can convince enough friends to give us the financial support needed for our action.”
We are delighted to see the Raspberry Pi being used to bring information technology to new teachers, students, and communities in Togo – it’s wonderful to see this project becoming established and building on its achievements. The mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. Therefore, projects like this, in which people use our tech to fulfil this mission in places with few resources, are wonderful to us.
More information about INITIC and its projects can be found on its website. If you are interested in helping the organisation to meet its goals, visit the How to help page. And if you are involved with a project like this, bringing ICT, computer science, and coding to new places, please tell us about it in the comments below.
This project inspired us to get things done a few months ago! We are currently commited to take Raspberry Pi to Sao Tome and Principe (also in Gulf of Guinea). The project aims to provide access to up to date teaching and learning materials.
Check it out: https://mundubila.github.io/en.html or https://www.facebook.com/mundubila/ and get in touch.
Thank you for your comment. It touched me very much as it tells precisely about what we are trying to achieve through INITIC: encourage other communities to consider the same model of “low cost, low consumption, low maintenance” computer labs using nano-computers rather than conventional ones.
The Raspberry Pi is not only great to explore programming and “for makers to tinker with”, but it is also a perfect tool for a more basic discovery of ICT where other computers are more difficult or too expensive to manage.
Maybe it would be worth setting up a website collecting details of similar projects around the world with, for each project, a summary of challenges faced, solutions applied, etc. in order to help other communities who would be interested in developing their own infrastructure on the same model.
This is really cool!! I would totally donate to a project like this
You can certainly do so if you feel like supporting our action… ;-)
I know Dominique and the quality of this project. It simply would not have happened without his drive and passion. The rewards and outcomes are stupendous.
Hi, this projects looks great!
We, the Full Stack Embedded Team, are a non-profit organisation that fosters skills for building full stack projects using Raspberry Pis. In December 2017 we will be visiting universities in Lomé, Togo and Accra, Ghana.
Please contact us, if you are interested in a collaboration or experience exchange. Check out our webpage: https://fullstackembedded.com/
Scott Bridges in Haiti
This is great news! We transitioned our (very) small Windows-based lab to the Raspberry Pi 3 this year. We went from 11 stations to 18 and are using PiNet to manage all the student logins and data. We had many of the same concerns, dust, high humidity, power issues, etc.
Most of our students have had little or no exposure to computers. Now, we regularly have 49 students using the lab and will be adding more throughout the school year.
just know that you’re awesome for doing this scott!!
It would be nice to hear about the evolution of your infrastructure in months to come. Again, I think it would be worth setting up a website collecting details of similar projects around the world with, for each project, a summary of challenges faced, solutions applied, etc. in order to help other communities who would be interested in developing their own infrastructure on the same model.
So many other young — and not so young! — people around the world could benefit from having access to the same kind of lab. It is clear that many people, in some parts of the world, still haven’t heard of the Raspberry Pi and its potential as a learning tool.
I was thrilled to learn that this project, which we first wrote about over three years ago, is going from strength to strength! It was just great to begin my Monday morning by reading comments from people involved with other projects using Pis in Togo, Ghana and Haiti, as well as the project in Sao Tome and Principe that Patricia mentioned. We’d love to hear more about these; please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re involved with an initiative like this and you’d like to share it with us.