Saturday, November 24, 2012

Heads of School Conference

On Friday, November 23 Powering Potential hosted a conference and lunch for heads of schools where our program is implemented. We also invited district officials but they were busy managing national tests which are happening now in Tanzania.

The conference was helpful to them and us. We got very useful feedback and the heads of the schools got a chance to connect with each other and share their questions, comments and suggestions. This is something I would like to do twice a year.

Below are photos:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

International Headquarters

Powering Potential needs an office/storage room/test lab space in Karatu. I lovingly refer to this future space as our International Headquarters  :)

The lodge where I always stay in Karatu (Crater Rim View Inn) is building a room on their grounds and I have spoken to the owner about the possibility of renting it from him.

Below is Powering Potential's International Headquarters (in my mind) taking shape. It's small, as Albin and Elibariki observe, but it's bigger than what we have now, as I point out.

By the way, we do already have a post office box in Karatu. It will be useful when I need to send over supplies. Elibariki, our Karatu representative, checks the box periodically but so far no mail has arrived. If you would like to give him a surprise he would love, send a letter or card to:

Elibariki Magnus
Powering Potential
P.O. Box 93
Karatu, Arusha

Friday, November 16, 2012

Milt - Marisham - Moles - Meetings - Motorcycles

Milton Finger, the Director of International Programs for the Livermore, California Rotary Club joined me (Janice Lathen, Founding Executive Director of Powering Potential) on this trip to Tanzania. He is committed to securing a Rotary International grant to expand our program. He wanted to see firsthand our work and meet local Rotarians and government officials.

We meet with Rotarians in Arusha town, and in Karatu town I arranged for him to meet with Mr. Berege the Karatu District Executive Director. (Tanzania is divided, from large to small, into regions, districts, cities, towns, and villages. Karatu is the name of a district and a town, and Arusha is the name of a region, a district and a town. So to distinguish, people say Karatu or Arusha town if they mean the town not the region or the district :) 

Mr. Finger wanted a letter from district officials confirming the need for computers and stating their commitment to maintaining the program. In preparation for that meeting, I gave Mr. Finger's Rotary proposal to Mr. Godfrey Marisham and invited him to view our program. Mr. Marisham is the Assistant Education Officer - Karatu District Council and the Ministry of Education's representative in Karatu; he advises the District Executive Director on education matters.

Below are photos of Mr. Marisham's visit to view our program at Welwel Secondary School on November 10. He is accompanied (left to right) by Severine Herman, Elibariki Magnus and Albin Mathias - Powering Potential's Welwel school trainer, Karatu Representative and Country Director respectfully; they explained our program to Mr. Marisham and answered all of his questions.

Mr. Marisham commented on the practicality of our program and was especially impressed with the RACHEL digital educational content. After reading Mr. Finger's proposal and visiting our program, Mr. Marisham was eager to advise the Executive Director to accept Mr. Finger's proposal and give him the letter which he requested.

On Monday November 12 before our meeting with district officials, Mr. Finger and his companion, Eileen Velen, and I also visited Welwel school. Below Mr. Finger is watching a Khan Academy video from RACHEL on Moles and Avogadro Numbers. There are more than one kind of moles :)  this one has something to do with chemistry. Mr. Finger is a highly respected chemist.

Mr. Finger, Eileen and I also visited Banjika Secondary School (see photo below). Milt and Eileen were somewhat surprised to see how inexperienced the students were with computers. For those of us from more developed countries it is hard to imagine that there are people in this world who have never even seen a computer. These beginning students were learning how to hold a mouse, point, click....think back to when you were first introduced to a computer...

The photo below shows our meeting with Messrs. Berege, Mbwambo and Marisham, the Karatu District Executive Director, District Education Officer and Assistant Education Officer respectfully. Mr. Marisham advised the Executive Director to accept Mr. Finger's Rotary proposal and to give him his requested letter, which he did. The next day I picked up the signed letter.

Below are Albin and Elibariki on a beloved motorcycle leaving Welwel school. I am always asking them to PLEASE wear helmets. I want these guys alive :)

And Milt, Eileen and I at the Ngorongoro Farmhouse, the Kibo Safari Lodge where Milt and Eileen were staying:

I love to read your comments on my blogs....they inspire me and I need inspiration.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This Unusual Thing Called a Computer

The students and teachers of Baray, Slahamo and Endala Secondary Schools in Karatu District of Tanzania now have access to modern educational tools (computers). Many of these young people had never even seen a computer before Powering Potential implemented its program in October 2012.

See photos at the end of this post.

Powering Potential with our Educating-Through-Technology program has installed at each school, five computers, a solar power system to run them, and is funding two technology trainers for three months at each school.

A hallmark of our program is the RACHEL educational content from This content provides a wealth of current knowledge to the students and teachers - selected wikipedia sections, math and science teaching videos, medical reference books, ebooks from Project Gutenberg, and other content. Tanzania is suffering from a book famine and severe shortage of teachers so RACHEL fills a vital educational need.

This program is a collaboration with the local communities and the Tanzanian national government. The schools supplied the rooms for the computer labs, the tables and chairs, and they have agreed to continue the employment of at least one trainer for one year, after the initial three months of training. The Karatu District Council provided a four-wheel drive vehicle with driver to transport our equipment and staff to and from the schools for the installations, and the Tanzanian Rural Energy Agency helped fund the project.

The installations were managed by Albin Mathias, Powering Potential's Country Director with assistance from Elibariki Magnus, our Karatu Representative.

After the installations Janice Lathen, the Founding Executive Director of Powering Potential, traveled from New York to the Karatu District to inspect the program. She was joined by Mr. Theo Mlaki, who until his recent retirement, served for 20 years as the Director of Information for the Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology. He now deploys IBM consultants to Tanzania in his position as advisor to the Digital Opportunities Trust. They were both extremely impressed with what they saw.

Below are photos of the installation and the inspection at Baray school. Baray is in a very rural area, 65km (40 miles) from Karatu town over rocky, dirt roads and takes about 1 1/2 hours to get there.

There is also a photo of the celebration which the school hosted at the end of the installation to thank Albin Mathias and Elibariki Magnus for their new computer lab. Elibariki is a graduate of Baray school so it was an especially poignant experience for him to return to his alma mater to bring an Educating-Through-Technology program.


Below is a photo of Albin, our Country Director, briefing Mr. Mlaki on the technology. We use 15 watt computers with open source (free) software running on DC (direct current) electricity provided by solar power. We also install equipment to access the Internet through cellphone signals although the signals are sometimes too weak to get connected in these rural areas. We are working to find a way to boost the strength of the signals.

Baray, Slahamo and Endala schools have the same system.

This implementation was Phase 1 of our two phase Educating-Through-Technology program. Powering Potential has completed Phase 1 at five schools and Phase 1 and 2 at an additional school.

We are currently raising funds to implement Phase 2 at Welwel and Florian schools in February/March of 2013. Phase 2 is the addition of 15 more computers at each school. After Phase 2 is completed the schools can offer the Tanzanian national curriculum of Information and Computer Studies courses to its students.

Would you like to open up the modern world to eager students who lack adequate books and teachers? If so, donation information.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I arrived home Saturday afternoon July 14. I am happy to be home. This trip involved a lot of moving around Tanzania and living out of a suitcase. Here's a recap of the traveling:

7,200 miles to Arusha: June 18-21
70 mils to Karatu: June 22-27
345 miles to Dar es Salaam: June 28-July 1
45 miles to Zanizibar: July 2-3
70 miles to Pemba: July 4
115 miles to Dar es Salaam: July 4-7
345 miles to Karatu: July 8-10
120 miles to Mugumu, Serengeti: July 11-12
7,400 miles to New York: arriving home July 14

I love Tanzania and the Tanzanians, but I am always happy to put away my suitcase and enjoy home!

Serengeti Schools

On July 11, Dr. Kebwe's secretary and his driver picked me up in Karatu and we drove six hours over rocky dirt roads to reach the Serengeti District headquarters of Mugumu. The Serengeti District is much bigger than the Serengeti National Park. Dr. Kebwe is the Mbunge (Memeber of Parliament) from the Serengeti District and he arranged my visit.

The next day we spent all day driving again over rocky dirt roads looking at schools. Mid-day we stopped for lunch. The restaurant was able to offer us nyama, ugali, wali na maharagwe (meat, porridge, rice and beans). I'm a vegetarian so I passed on the meat, I've had ugali and it's not to my liking, so I feasted on wali na maharagwe while dining with the District Education Officer and Dr. Kebwe's secretary:

Below are two photos from Rigicha Secondary School. In the first photo are school officials in the school's potential computer lab and the second photo is a shot of their school:

The headmaster at Kitunguruma School:

Classrooms at Ikorongo School:

Potential computer lab at Busawe School:

The district officials want Powering Potential to decide which of the schools will receive the Technology Tent. We can only choose three schools. It's a difficult decision. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

On My Way to Work (Photos from the Serengeti)

On July 12 my job was to look at schools in the Serengeti District to determine, with district officials, where we will implement The Technology Tent next year. Dr. Kebwe's Secretary and his driver picked me up in Karatu on July 11 and we drove out to the Serengeti District. Here is what I saw on my way to work:

I hope you liked the photos! I missed a shot of the ostriches eating a snake. :)

Onward and Upward,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pemba Schools

A special thank you to Mr. Suleiman Saleh for taking me to Pemba (an island which is part of the Zanzibar Archipelago) to view future schools for Powering Potential. Mr. Saleh is the Second Secretary for Political Affairs at the Tanzanian Embassy in Washington D.C.

We flew to Pemba (30 minute ride) from the Zanzibar main island and as it happened we met the North Pemba Regional Commissioner in the VIP lounge at the Zanzibar airport, he was also flying to Pemba. Regional Commissioners are the highest ranking government officials in the area and are appointed by the President. He was very interested in our work and escorted us around the island to view schools. He brought us to his office and we discussed The Technology Tent with his Education Officers. He also invited journalists to attend the meeting including a videographer who videotaped our meeting. In the photo below, in his office, we have agreed on basic terms for implementing The Technology Tent in his region. He will pave the way for our work in Pemba.

In the photo below, at Kizimbani Secondary School, from left to right is Mr. Saleh from the Tanzanian Embassy; the assistant headmaster; and Muhsin Shamte, the headmaster. This will be the first school where we will implement The Technology Tent in Pemba.

Below is the current computer room at Wingwi Secondary School. They do have some computers but they are very old and the day we were there they weren't in use because the electricity had gone off which happens from time to time in Tanzania. With the solar power which Powering Potential installs we can avoid that problem.

We also visited a primary school which needs English books. The following two photos are from that school:

I'm looking forward to returning to Pemba and working with the beautiful people I met there!

Zanzibar Elegance

I had the honor and pleasure of joining the Ambassador's safari group for their one-day visit to Zanzibar on July 2. In the photo below, the group is waiting in the VIP airport lounge after arriving at the Zanzibar airport. When you travel with diplomats you get VIP service  :)

In the following photo I'm relaxing with Ambassador Maajar at the Zanzibar Serena hotel. Powering Potential's budget does not allow for me to stay at such fancy hotels but a Tanzanian/American member of the group who is very appreciative of Powering Potential's work offered to pay for my room so that I could stay with the group and the hotel helped out by offering the lower resident's rate.

Below is the scene being prepared for our dinner at the hotel with Second Vice-President (Zanzibar) Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi and Ministers of Zanzibar. Although Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, they have their own Ministries. It's a unique political arrangement between mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. Zanzibar is magical.

The safari group with Ambassador Maajar, Second Vice-President Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi and his wife, and other dignitaries. I'm seated on the right side. On the left side is a member of the Taarab musical group who serenaded us during dinner.