Mobile classroom takes technology to city slums
It is 11 o’clock. Ruth Wanjiru and her friend jump out of a 72-seater bus parked at a chief’s camp in Kawangware, Nairobi.
Minutes later, a group of teenage boys and girls alight from the bus, some clutching bags, others carrying books in their arms.
Watching the boys and girls from a distance, it is easy to mistake them for regular passengers. But no! The teenagers are not passengers, and the blue bus is not exactly a bus; it is a moving computer classroom.
“We study inside here,” says Wanjiru, pointing at the bus. “This bus is a mobile ICT classroom,” she adds.
The vehicle had its interior customised, its seats removed and replaced with 64 chairs and 32 reading tables. Each table has a computer desktop, modifications that have turned the ordinary bus into a typical computer lab.
Besides the 32 monitors, the computer lab is fitted with specialised servers, education courseware, Internet, printers and scanners. All the gadgets are powered by four photovoltaic cells installed atop the vehicles’ roof. The solar panels trap energy, which is then stored in four car batteries.
“We study computer packages, which are offered for three months. A lesson lasts only two hours,” says Wanjiru, 18, adding they are 32 in her class.
She says she started the computer classes early this year after completing high school last year. Her parents, whom she lives with in Kangemi, run a small grocery kiosk to take care of her and her six siblings.
“My parents’ business does not generate enough money to take me to college. Before, I would spend most of my time at home or doing menial jobs that paid little,” explains Wanjiru, who now runs a small cyber café and photocopy business.
So how did she learn about the computer classes?
“Sometime in February this year, a friend informed me about the mobile ICT bus, which offers free computer classes. I got interested and registered for the programme.”
Elizabeth Akinyi, Wanjiru’s classmate, describes the experience as an answered prayer.
“It is very convenient for youths like us who cannot afford bus fare on a daily basis to town for classes,” says Akinyi, a Kibera resident.
Wanjiru adds that before she enrolled for the lessons, she could hardly operate a computer, hence accessing vital information on the Web, such as scholarships or job opportunities, was akin to a jigsaw puzzle.
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