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The All Ntugi Group - Scaling New Heights!

June 25, 2012

What began, three years ago, as an experiment to bring laptops and wireless internet to a school with no power and no computers has become a regional initiative that is bolstering education, enhancing computer literacy, promoting conservation education, and providing training for local graduates throughout Lewa’s surrounding communities.

In 2009, teacher Mark Battley and four high school students - Ishtar Chandaria, Connor Cimowsky, Derek Chan, and Adam Gordon - arrived from Toronto, Canada. They had travelled to Lewa with eight laptops in a suitcase, with a goal to deploy the little green One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO’s to Ntugi Day Secondary School, charging them with solar panels, and using a single Safaricom 3G modem to create a wireless network.

The Principal at the time, Mr. Jacob Mbijiwe, hoped that this would allow his Ntugi students to access the Internet and connect them to the modern world. The experiment worked; the five-person Toronto team became the first to connect OLPC laptops to a portable, wireless network using solar power. More importantly, that visit was the start of the Toronto group’s long continuing commitment to Ntugi School and Lewa’s Education Programme.

Mark has now retired from teaching to pursue OLPC deployment full-time and the boys have graduated to university. Determined to renew their continuing commitment to Lewa and the OLPC project, they formed their own small NGO, the Ntugi Group. Its mandate is to provide resources and training to local teachers and students, building local capacity in ICT4E and digital literacy. Ntugi Secondary’s tiny laptop experiment, and its Toronto partnership, has also grown to include:

  • 40 XO laptops in a full solar-powered computer lab
  • A school website
  • An NBA-sized concrete basketball court
  • Music and Art programmes
  • A Journalism Club that takes advantage of the school’s blog
  • A Computer Club that works on computer animation and programming

This growth has been driven by Ntugi Group’s first Site Supervisor, Godfrey Mutwiri, a Geography and Math teacher at Ntugi Secondary. Godfrey has recently been joined in the project by two interns, Simon Mwangangi and Judy Kinya, responsible for the duplication of Ntugi Secondary’s success to other schools throughout the Lewa area.

Simon and Judy were Head Boy and Head Girl of Ntugi Secondary when the Ntugi Group first arrived in 2009. Now, as graduates of that school and of its OLPC laptop initiative, the two interns are driving expansion and innovation of the programme, providing a scaleable model not only for local schools, but for other OLPC deployments worldwide as well. You can get a sense of their remarkable ability in these videos that document their teaching and repair skills, or read their regular reports here.

Ntugi Group’s scope has now expanded to seven sites within Lewa’s Education Programme. As well as the three-year-old programme at Ntugi Secondary, Judy and Simon have also launched programmes at Ntugi Primary, Leparua Primary, Ngare Ndare Secondary, Lewa Downs Primary, and Subuiga Primary - with an additional small pilot project planned for Kariba Primary. By September, 2012 there will be 120 laptops deployed to these Lewa-supported schools.

The interns also teach and support a 12-laptop OLPC lab at Lewa’s Conservation Education Centre, giving visiting students a chance to use the XO’s to play conservation games after their game drives. Simon has used the OLPC laptops to teach himself the Python programming language, and is now designing custom-made interactive quizzes and activities for the conservation programme. Soon, Simon’s students, like Ntugi Secondary’s Computer Club Prefect, Jackline Kathambi, will be able to do the same.

Additionally, in July, Godfrey, Simon and Judy will travel to Matapwili, a remote village in Tanzania, to represent Kenya, Lewa and Ntugi Group by launching a 30-laptop pilot project there. They will train the local villagers and teachers, as well as 35 visiting students and teachers from two high schools in Australia.

It really has been an incredible three years for the Ntugi group- from a Canadian high-school initiative to a local Kenyan team steering this project to new heights!