Building a Better Infrastructure For The Tanzania Schools

A blog From Jax (aka Jacqueline Tran), a Team4Tech alumn, who completed a project in Tanzania last April.

It wasn’t too long ago that I received an email from Noel Durrant (our project team leader). We got on the phone later that week to discuss the details of the trip and while this was exactly the travel experience that I’ve been longing for, there were still uncertainties of safety, financial expenses, and “Is now the right time to take off from work for over 2 weeks?” Needless to say, there is really no better time than the present time.

A couple of immunization shots later and passport renewed, I took the leap and was soon on a plane to Tanzania. Our team consisted of professionals from the technology industry: Coursera, Facebook, Intel, and Intersol. Hailing from all over the world: China, Kenya, United Kingdom, US, and Vietnam. It’s the least to say that we were a diverse team. The volunteers were divided into two teams; 1 team of IT consultants, who installed programs and imaged the computers, and the fun part: deployed the computers to the local schools in the villages. The smiling faces of the students were breath taking. Their excitement and energy was contagious. The second set of teams was the teacher team. We were teaching teachers how to use the computers and software such as the Microsoft Office Suite, which were hand delivered to the local schools. While there were some language barriers at both of the villages we taught at, the curiosity and eagerness made each teaching day very rewarding for each one of us.

When we first arrived to Tanzania we spent the first couple of days in Arusha, this is the main city area, hustle and bustling traffic and wifi and 3G internet access that worked. It was our last taste of civilization until we embarked onto the two different villages; Same and Karatu. Accompanied by our drivers Casey and Raymond, they spent the entire 2 weeks with us making sure that we were driven to the schools to teach and deploy computers. Each drive to and from school was refreshing, the landscape was beautiful; from a distance we can see the Kilimanjaro mountain and as we approach to school each day, we were welcomed with friendly waves from the locals, and leaving each day knowing that a bit more of knowledge was shared and something new was learned.

In addition to be accompanied by Casey and Raymond, we partnered with our in country host: World Vision. We spent most of our time with Comfort, Charles, and Emmanuel. They ensured that we were set up for success; coordinating meetings with the local ADPs and schools, traveling from one village to the next, and overall good hosts. Our biggest classroom help was Comfort, who helped translated Swahili into English and Charles spent his time with the tech team, assisting with the computer installments and learning the tricks and trades of IT from Team4Tech team so that he can be of support to the teachers and schools once we our team has departed.

Our days were normally spent either in the classroom or installing the computer labs. As a teacher, I got to see the improvements and developments of the teacher skill sets from Monday – Friday. We’d end each week with a graduation ceremony to celebrate the completing the course. It was also great to see some of the alums from Fall 2013 too. One of my favorite times spent was tea time. We’d break for tea every day and it was nice to emerge into the Tanzanian school culture.

Occasionally, we would have some hiccups. Our vehicle might have been stuck on the dirty road, our room got burglarized, or the lack of internet or language barriers. The positive attitude and hospitality of the Tanzanians really supported us though. Our team did have some fun too! As a team, we visited the Ngorongoro Carter. The first animal we saw was a lioness feeding on a zebra! Wow! Our nightly team dinners were great too, it was a good time to reflect on our day and see each other’s perspectives on how the day went.

We capped off the 2 weeks of teaching and adventuring with a debrief with the World Vision team, and looking forward in hope of building a better infrastructure for the Tanzania schools and implementing more technology into their daily curriculum.