January 2008 - A letter from Brit Hartmann
"Introducing computers and school uniforms to Lodwar"

   

Jan and Brit Hartmann are a couple of German computer
experts who have been contributing both technical skills
and their "hands on" loving support to the people of Lodwar.

Dear Brian,
I was surprised to receive your recent email although Sr. Yvonne Channells had mentioned you and the website project during our visits to Lodwar and Bethany House. Furthermore, I was hardly expecting your request for a report concerning our association with the Lodwar Diocese. Nevertheless, perhaps our brief words below may be interesting to visitors perusing the web pages in the Lodwar website.

 

The School Uniform Project
During our first stay in Lodwar we met Sr. Yvonne Channells at Bethany House. We exchanged our ideas and proposals on how to help the local vulnerable children. We felt very motivated to do something for these children because they will be the future of this remote area.

In due course we decided to donate money to the Vulnerable Children Project for the manufacture of locally made school uniforms. Something as simple as a school uniform can bring about a hugely beneficial improvement to the sense of self-esteem for poor and deprived children who have absolutely nothing. They naturally perceive themselves to be on the absolute lowest rung of the social ladder but a school uniform can give them a true sense of worthiness and real "belonging".

Upon returning to our home in North Eastern Germany we went on to organise an exhibition of Lodwar photography in several institutions during 2007. Visitors to these exhibitions donated 400 Euro towards the cost of making school uniforms for the kids in the Vulnerable Children Program in far off Lodwar. Meanwhile Sister Yvonne was busily trying to acquire the fabric and find local ladies with the necessary sewing skills.

 

In due course we returned again to Lodwar and experienced a unique and memorable afternoon when we could hand over the uniforms to the children. I will never forget the grins on their faces as each child accepted a new uniform. For Jan and myself those presentations will live with us for rest of our lives.

The Vulnerable Children Program has been in operation for several years now. Thanks to the dedication of local people and overseas volunteers, it is really making a big difference for the young and deprived children who most need a "lucky break". Furthermore, to support children in their basic needs and to educate them is an incredibly valuable investment for a better future, both for themselves and the region in general.

 

 

The Computer Training Project
Jan and I were living in Nairobi Kenya during 2002-2003. We were working as an IT teacher and an Admin Manager for the local German School at that time, without any deeper involvement in the development of the Kenyan education programme.

In January 2003 the Kenyan Government implemented a free and compulsory primary education programme for all Kenyan children. On face value this was enormously encouraging. However when we did some arithmetic and projected the dramatic increase in pupil numbers following the programme's implementation, we could see some major complications ahead. In particular it seemed clear that the pupil-teacher ratio would be adversely affected and the quality of education delivery would inevitably fall as a result. Furthermore, we guessed that the complete inadequacy or even total absence of computer equipment in schools would be a huge handicap to to the rapid achievement of the programme's goals. We were particularly concerned about the challenges for post-primary education in Kenya because there is a huge digital gap between developed nations and those in many less fortunate nations throughout the world. This is particularly true throughout most parts of Africa.

Thanks to the motivation and drive of a Catholic Priest, Father Fernando, and various sympathetic organisations in Europe, a gift of 20 used computers and 2 printers were eventually sent to Lodwar where they were handed over and installed in the Bishop Mahon Youth and Community Centre.

 

As Jan and I both had backgrounds in the teaching of Information Technology skills we decided to run a brief but intensive "IT Essentials" computer course in Lodwar during March and April of 2006. The aim was to recruit qualified members and associates of the Youth Centre to improve their knowledge of Information Technology in general so that they could go on to teach others in their community.

An "IT Essentials" course is typically an online e-learning environment but we would not be able to avail ourselves of internet services in Lodwar. For this and other reasons we created a "cut down" curriculum that focussed on the most absolute IT essentials. We then burned the course onto a CD for each of the students. We particularly focussed on troubleshooting, computer and network fundamentals plus IT basics. We even installed a small local network in the computer lab with an 8-port-switch and a network printer.

 

It was a delight for us to find the students so highly interested and motivated. Although one student failed to complete the course, we were really proud when 7 students completed and passed the course. Frankly it was much more than we had dared to hope for prior to commencement.

After we returned to Germany our students undertook additional self-learning studies based on course chapters we'd been obliged to omit from the "face to face" course as a result of time constraints and other practical issues. Tim Flynn, the Development Coordinator of the Diocese of Lodwar, continued to work as a co-trainer. He would send the test results to us in Germany for assessment, feedback and guidance purposes.

 

It was decided to wrap up the initial course with a final examination in November 2007. We were delighted when six of our students passed the exam. Now each of these former students can be an instructor in IT Essentials and pass on their newfound skills to new candidates. This largely fulfils the dream we held when we first undertook this project. 

Finally, Brian, I hope, the above stories help to explain our connection with the committed work of Sr. Yvonne Channells and her exceptional colleagues in the Lodwar Diocese. Please feel free to ask me for any further information if necessary.

Sincerely,

Brit Hartmann

Rostock - Germany

 

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