Saturday, December 20, 2014

Letter from Board Member

Dear Patrons and Friends,

At this time of year, we want to thank all our Powering Potential supporters and share some thoughts about the year ahead. 2014 was a very good year for Powering Potential. With the support of our patrons, we increased the number of schools with computers from six to ten.

We have developed plans to expand to two additional districts in the next few months. In anticipation, we have hired Neema Lyimo to work on technical support and training with our Country Director Albin Mathias. Word of the program has spread so that we have a long list of schools wanting to participate. We are thus poised to scale up to achieve our vision: bringing technology to rural secondary schools across Tanzania. 

I saw first-hand what a difference our efforts are making when I visited the six Powering Potential schools in Tanzania with Founding Executive Director Janice Lathen last January. I came away impressed by how the program is truly collaborative, and how vital local effort is to its sustainability.
Our Educating-Through-Technology program continues at every school in which it has been installed over the last eight years, despite the many challenges faced by these chronically underfunded rural schools.

Powering Potential Advisory Board Member Ena Haines
addressing the students of the Baray Secondary School
January 2014

During our visit to one particularly remote school, the headmaster recited a sad litany of shortages, including teachers, books, classrooms, a dormitory and water. The school couldn't pay the technology trainer after Powering Potential's salary funding commitment ended. The computers were not in good working order. Then the assistant headmaster volunteered to take on the responsibilities of technology training and support. He was a recent graduate who had computer experience in college. Powering Potential sent a technical support person to train him and fix the computers. That school's project is back on track because of local understanding of its value and our shared commitment.

We're also excited by the interest shown in the program by Tanzanian government agencies, including the Rural Energy Agency, which has been funding the solar installations. The President's personal assistant for education arranged for us to meet Professor Sifuni Mchome, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education. He has since initiated meetings with Janice in New York and invited a multi-year proposal from Powering Potential to eventually replicate the program across the nation. If this proposal is accepted, it will position us to fulfill our vision of working collaboratively with Tanzanians at the school, district and national levels.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry 
of Education and Vocational Training Prof. Sifuni Mchome
and Founding Executive Director Janice Lathen
January 2014

We ask that you consider continuing to support Powering Potential when planning your year-end giving. Your donation will help both current and long term goals.

Our immediate need is for $20,000 to install 18 computers in three schools in Bunda, near Lake Victoria. This effort is already supported by the Tanzania Rural Energy Agency, the Bunda District government, and the IEEE Foundation (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). We need $20,000 more to accomplish the installation, and we're hoping to raise it in December so that the work can take place in January for the beginning of their new school year. 

Every donation helps. For example, $200 pays for one computer with monitor and keyboard; $500 pays for one projector; and $1,000 will buy the network equipment for three schools. Help us complete this project! To contribute, please visit the donation page on our website.

Donations to Powering Potential are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Our fiscal sponsor is International Collaborative for Science, Education and the Environment (ICSEE) - TIN: 22-31558263, a 501(c)3 non-profit public charity.

Wishing you a happy holiday season and a rewarding New Year,

V. Ena Haines
Powering Potential Advisory Board
Director of IT, retired
Teachers College, Columbia University

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Powering Potential at MoEVT & Google for Education Conference

Powering Potential attended the Tanzanian Ministry of Education & Google for Education Conference 2014 at Protea Hotel courtyard in Dar es Salaam which was held November 17-18.

The Google for Education conference encouraged the Ministry to utilize Google Apps for Education as tools to facilitate teaching and learning. The deployment of Google Classroom would improve the educational process. The most challenging issue facing Tanzania and other developing countries, however, is electrification, Internet connectivity and infrastructure. To meet these challenges, Powering Potential has taken the initiative by installing efficient and affordable solar power paired with offline educational content (RACHEL) on energy-efficient Raspberry Pi computers.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training
Prof. Sifuni Mchome speaking to the audience

From left: Commissioner of Education Prof. Eustella Bhalalusesa
and Powering Potential Country Director Albin Mathias

Attendees at the Conference 

Google Education Conference Facilitator Karen Walstra speaking to the audience 

The facilitator did a wonderful job by providing an orientation to Google Apps. Google Apps can be an innovative solution to teaching and learning in schools while keeping them connected.

From left: Dr. Elia Kibga from the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE)
and two conference attendees 

From left: Powering Potential ICT Manager Neema Lyimo
with Mwakilima Subilaga from Ardhi University

For more information, visit the Google Apps for Education Deployment Guide

We would like to thank Dr. Elia Kibga from the Tanzania Institute for Education (TIE) for inviting us to the conference. 

Powering Potential continues to seek committed partners to implement our Educating-Through-Technology program in all regions of Tanzania in full cooperation with the national, regional and district government, as well as the Tanzanian business community. Join our efforts to fund projects in more schools. Make a contribution.

Kwa pamoja tunaweza tuanze sasa! 
Together we can, let's start now! 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Powering Potential Attends the HMT Annual Fundraiser

Albin Mathias, Country Director, represented Powering Potential at the Hassan Maajar Trust  (HMT) Annual fundraising event in Dar es Salaam and posted the following blog. HMT was established by Ambassador Mwanaidi Maajar in memory of her son Hassan Shariff Maajar (Hashy) who died in a tragic road accident on November 11, 2006. 

The Hassan Maajar Trust Annual fundraising event on 31 Oct. 2014 was intended to raise TSH 500 million for 6,000 desks. 

Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda (right) looking at a display desk while attending
the Hassan Maajar Trust annual fundraising event at
Diamond Jubilee in Dar es Salaam.

Hon. Stephen Wasira (left),
Minister of State in the President's Office and MP Bunda constituent
with Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda.

Hon. Wasira has pledged TSH 17 milion for desks and contributed TSH 10 million for Powering Potential's Educating-Through-Technology program in the Bunda District.

 Artist Mwasiti Almasi performing at Diamond Jubilee

from left: Albin Mathias, Powering Potential's Country Director;
Simon Mayeye, DED Bunda District, and Bunda District Chair person

What a surprise! The Bunda District Executive Director was first person I met during fundraising event. Powering Potential is implementing the Educating-Through-Technology for Bunda District which has contributed TSH 10 million. This is a great achievement! Congratulations to Hon. Wasira and the Bunda District Council for your generosity to Bunda people.    

Monday, August 4, 2014

Segals, Elibariki, Shimbwe and Bunda

Lots of great things happening at Powering Potential!

We have one installation in the Serengeti now :)

Our founder, Janice Lathen, and Albin Mathias, our country director, attended the Segal Family Foundation Annual Meeting in Arusha, Tanzania from July 10-12, 2014. It was the first time the SFF Annual Meeting was held outside of the United States.

(l to r:) Barry Segal (SFF founder), Antoine Chiquet (SFF board member), 
Janice Lathen and Albin Mathias (Powering Potential).

The First Lady of Tanzania, Salma Kikwete was a guest speaker at the SFF Annual Meeting.

The First Lady speaking.

The First Lady outside the meeting.

The Segal Family Foundation Annual Meeting was a huge success! Complete with musical guests, sports activities and lots of good Tanzanian food!

Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi

Ambassador Maajar, the former TZ Ambassador to the US 
talks with Rich Segal, Segal Family Foundation and Powering Potential board member.

Ambassador Maajar talks with Andy Bryant, Exec. Dir. of the Segal Family Foundation
and our own Janice Lathen.

For more photos of the event, visit the SFF Facebook Page.

The Segal Family foundation also visited the Powering Potential installation at the Wel wel School in Karatu. They even tweeted about it: "@PwringPotential Special thanks to Janice for organizing a delicious lunch and amazing site visit. Our staff was very impressed!"

By the way, please follow Powering Potential and The Segal Family Foundation on Twitter if you haven't already! 

In addition, we would like to extend our congratulations to our own Elibariki Magnus!! He is attending the Arusha Campus of St. Joseph University in Tanzania studying for a Bachelor of Science in Education for Computer Science. He is a graduate of our five-month Technology Tent training course, which was conducted in 2011. He has been working for Powering Potential ever since. 

Elibariki Magnus

And now for a little taste of our future plans: We plan to implement our program at Shimbwe Secondary School in Moshi and also at three schools in the Bunda district on Lake Victoria. Wish us luck! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Touched by Technology in Ngorongoro

Powering Potential is at it again. We have just completed solar and computer installations at three remote secondary schools -- Lake Natron, Soit Sambu and Nainokanoka -- in the Ngorongoro District of Tanzania. Three weeks of technology training have commenced at each school. Ngorongoro District is home to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photos below are from the installation at Lake Natron school which is so remote that people need to walk two kilometers for cell service to make a phone call (GPS coordinates: S 02 29.987' E 035 53.149'). Most of the students at these schools have never even seen a computer. Powering Potential is changing lives again.
Inspecting the equipment
We continue to install Raspberry Pi computers with RACHEL offline educational content powered by solar energy and provide training.
A computer!

Solar professional giving instructions

In the photo below from left to right are: Peter Juma, Computer Systems Analyst, Ngorongoro District Council; Mr. Sweatbart Byorushengo, District Natural Resource Officer and acting District Executive Director; Albin Mathias, Powering Potential Country Director. Peter Juma worked for Powering Potential in 2011 teaching computer classes in Karatu District.

Notice the small Raspberry Pi computer in a clear plastic case to the left of the monitor:

Coat of Arms of Tanzania is the desktop background
Uhuru na Umoja (Freedom and Unity)

Powering Potential has now reached more than 5,500 students and teachers in ten schools in three districts by providing 91 computers powered by solar energy.  Beneficiaries of our program are going to college and securing employment.

Would you like to contribute to help us touch more students with technology?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

TZ Postal Bank is Torch-bearing Pioneer

The Tanzania Postal Bank led by Mr. Sabasaba Moshingi is a torch-bearing pioneer. They have funded the first Powering Potential Pi-oneer at Rigicha Secondary School in Serengeti District which was delivered on May 27.

The Pi-oneer is an innovative teaching tool consisting of a Pi computer with RACHEL educational content including math and science videos, a mobile projector and a solar recharging unit. Teachers can bring the Pi computer and projector into their classroom and display materials for their students.

By funding the first Pi-oneer and bearing the light of knowledge to a remote area, Tanzania Postal Bank is planting potent seeds in fertile ground which will produce the delicious fruit of educated citizens.

Pioneer: inventor or innovator; a person or group who is the first to do something or who leads in developing something new; one who is first among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress.

Cosmas Maghashi, TZ Postal Bank, Musoma Branch Manager
and Ghisango Mwita, Rigicha Sec. School, Headmistress

Pi-oneer projector/Pi/speakers

Albin Mathias, Powering Potential Country Director
assembling the Pi-oneer

Also present were Rigicha ward chancellor Daudi Motto, ward officer Mr. Saye, acting District Education Officer Mr. Jackson Makuri, and Serengeti Member of Parliament's personal assistant, Mwalimu Mwita.

Albin Mathias briefing students, staff and others

The Powering Potential Pi-oneer was introduced at Education Week in Dodoma, Tanzania on May 3 in a briefing for H.E. Mizengo Pinda, Prime Minister. 

The theme of Education Week was "Quality education is possible for all; play your role." Tanzania Postal Bank led by Mr. Sabasaba Moshingi is playing a vital role in bringing quality education to the Serengeti District. 

Powering Potential is inspired by their example. Are you a Tanzanian? Would you like a Pi-oneer in a particular school? Powering Potential will do it with you bega kwa bega. We'll pay half and you pay half of the $2,000-$2,500 needed (depending on travel distance) to provide a Pi-oneer to a school (purchase, deliver, install, and train). Contact Albin Mathias at

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Education Week in Dodoma, Tanzania

On May 3, opening day of Education Week in Dodoma, Hon. Mizengo Pinda, Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania visited a few exhibits and Powering Potential was one of them. We had an opportunity to demonstrate our program to him. 
l to r: Janice Lathen; Hon. Mizengo Pinda, Prime Minister; Albin Mathias

A short time later, Founding Executive Director Janice Lathen received a written invitation from the office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training to attend a luncheon that day for Tanzania's education leaders with the Prime Minister as the guest of honor.

Luncheon invitation

We are very grateful for the opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on our Educating-Through-Technology program and honored to attend the luncheon. 

Education Week is a major event that will benefit teachers, students and education throughout the country and is being held at the Dodoma Jamhuri Stadium.

Dodoma Jamhuri Stadium

Powering Potential Country Director Albin Mathias and Katatu Representative Elibariki Magnus are alongside Founding Executive Director Janice Lathen to present our program during Education Week.
Powering Potential exhibit

Elibariki explaining the system to school girls

Listening to a chemistry lesson

It is a true privilege for Powering Potential to participate in Education Week in Tanzania and we thank Professor Sifuni Mchome, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, for inviting us to participate. 

Onward and Upward! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Dr. Aniemus Temba

Dr. Anicetus Temba
Deputy Treasurer of the NY-TZ Community

Powering Potential Advocate

Dr. Anicetus Temba has always been a man with a compelling vision for himself and his people. A native of Tanzania, Temba began his journey with a primary education in Moshi followed by attending Laming Secondary School. He acquired higher education at Dar es Salaam Technical College before going to Mexico Polytechnic - formerly CENETI (Centro National Technical Industrial) -  for industrial engineering and a specialty in electro-mechanics. His foresight propelled him towards Colorado Technical University for a Master’s in Business Science with a specialization in information technology, project management and industrial transformation. Walden University would further establish his credentials with a Ph.D. in Applied Management, Decision Science and Information Management Systems.

This standard of educational excellence is the defining characteristic of the current Deputy Treasurer of the New York-Tanzanian Community, an organization established in 2011 that has extended welcome arms to Powering Potential's efforts. 

A successful businessman in food processing systems and a scientific thinker, Dr. Temba emphasizes the importance of making the transition from Tanzanian to American culture to his people. I came here first in 1976, then returned to the US in 1980 to stay on as a resident,” he recollects. “It was difficult because for a long time Tanzanians here were separated into groups based on the region they came from back home,” he remembers. “This changed when we decided to connect the Tanzanian Community through the Tanzanian Embassy to establish board members and an executive committee.”

Temba took the position of Deputy Treasurer to ensure that all activities within the community are well coordinated and the leadership is all working together. He stressed the importance of focusing on education, teaching Swahili, technology and knowledge transference and getting others involved with their cause. Social interaction, he said, is vital to the Tanzanian people.

When asked how he first got involved with Powering Potential, Temba chuckles at the memory. “Photography is my hobby. I met Janice at the Tanzanian Mission to the United Nations by chance. She looked like someone I needed to know, so I decided to take her picture. She ended up giving me her card. ” 

He found himself extremely impressed with Founding Executive Director Janice Lathen and the Educating-Through-Technology  program. Temba would later invite her to give a presentation in Harlem for the NY-TZ Community, which would lead to inviting Ms. Lathen to become a member. 

Dr. Temba believes Tanzania requires more quality exposure so that its people are no longer invisible. “The Powering Potential educational platform has big potential not just for Tanzania, but all of Africa,” Temba remarked. “The impact itself is going to expose Tanzanians to the outside world. The rate of knowledge will be incredible.

In this situation, Dr. Temba has pledged to continue increasing membership with the NY-TZ Community while spreading awareness of our cause. Powering Potential is certainly thankful to have such a visionary advocate helping us achieve true educational reform.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Board Member Ena Haines

Ena Haines
Powering Potential
Advisory Board Member

Ena Haines is no stranger to achievement. After being urged by a professor of chemistry to enter the field of information storage and retrieval, Haines would go on to earn a BA from Smith College in Biochemistry (summa cum laude) and a Master's in Library Science. Her career spans over 40+ years of experience in Information Technology.  She currently works as the Director of Information Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University.

She laughs when asked about the change in process between then and now. “We were writing everything from scratch in those days,” she said. “It was fun, like getting paid to solve crossword puzzles.”

Her interest in Tanzanian culture, however, began on a safari in 2009. Captivated by the country, she and her husband took a tour to Banjika school. “The people are lovely, very willing to work hard in challenging circumstances, yet remain so optimistic and friendly,” she said. She found herself impressed by the students and teachers they came across, even more so when she noticed their computer lab. “I asked if there was any way to make a contribution,” Haines recounted. “That's how I was put in touch with Janice and Powering Potential.”

What began as a single donation evolved into monthly meetings with Powering Potential's Founding Executive Director.  In January of 2012, Haines was formally asked to join the Board. Coordinating the technology effort has been a top priority since she acquired the position. When asked about her methodology, Haines replied, “Organizing and managing technology is what I've always done. Working in education, particularly at Teachers College, I learned a lot about teaching with technology, which is not a science. It is an art.”

Her recent trip to Tanzania added to a growing educational canvas. “It was a very busy two weeks,” she recalled. “We visited each of the six schools and met with the headmasters and teachers. We learned about the status of their projects. It was also interesting meeting people like Moses Mabula, the District Executive Director in Karatu and the department heads.”

One moment stands out for Haines that captures the essence of the Powering Potential experience. It occurred during a visit to one school where the computers sat unused because the school could no longer afford to pay the technology teacher. Just when the outlook for the success of the installation appeared bleak, the assistant headmaster said he would be interested in teaching computers if he had additional training. “Out of this discouraging situation, someone stepped forward eager and energetic to work with us. It didn't require extra resources on the part of the school. The clouds parted, the sun shone and there was a solution.” With a laugh, she added, “This is typical of trying to do our projects in Tanzania.”

Haines has plans to  retire from her position at Columbia this spring, which will allow her to dedicate more time to Tanzania and the students. “I am very encouraged because what we learned on the trip was that while there is a significant teacher shortage in Tanzania, there are lots of new teachers who have completed their education programs using computers. Things are changing rapidly.”

With her experienced hands helping the Powering Potential team, things are certain to continue changing for the better.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Raspberry Pi Hacks Book from O'Reilly Media

We are pleased to announce that Powering Potential is featured in Raspberry Pi Hacks by Ruth Suehie and Tom Callaway recently released by O'Reilly Media. We are listed as a Contributer and marked as Hack #63 (section 6, pg. 326-329). Our Educating-Through -Technology program utilizes solar-powered computer labs, which are described in detail. We have 40 Raspberry Pi units divided evenly between two Tanzanian schools, Welwel and Florian. Our current plan is to install 21 Raspberry Pi computers across three more secondary schools within the Serengeti District in Tanzania.

Our listing in this book has been possible thanks to the effort of Ronda Pierce, who is currently working with Powering Potential. Special thanks also to Manny Ackerman, our technology consultant responsible for this material.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Imarisha Education Conference

My name is Albin Mathais. I am the Country Director for Powering Potential. On 21-22 February 2014, Elibariki Magnus and I attended the Imarisha Education Conference in Moshi which was sponsored by the British Council and Learning InSync.
One of the presentations at the Imarisha Education Conference 
The Conference was very nice and covered the following topics: 

1) An overview of governmental policies on ICT integration in education at the school, local and national levels

2) Discussion and analysis on the best practices in the implementation of strategies, programs and methods of ICT use in education within Tanzania and East Africa 

3) The exchange of ideas on the impact of ICT on education, including ICT enhanced teaching and learning as well as teacher professional development

4) Examining avenues for the effective scaling of ICT based programming 

5) Ways to strengthen the network of stakeholders required to implement ICT-based education programming at scale. 

Jenista Mhagama Deputy Minister Ministry of Education and Vocational Training 
and Guest of Honor says a few words 
Jenista Mhagama, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, was the Guest of Honor. Different stakeholders also made various presentations with different approaches on implementing ICT based solution in different schools.

There were big challenges discussed in conference, including the affordability of ICT infrastructure sustainability hardware and software, digitizing educational content and power availability in rural areas.

Panel discussion with Albin Mathias
(wearing a white shirt in the center of the panel)
Powering Potential has almost covered most of these challenges with inexpensive low-power Raspberry Pi technology and a suitable project plan based on collaboration with schools and the local government, ensuring sustainability and use of alternative solar power systems. 

We also provide offline content for learning purposes. Most people, especially headmasters, came to our showcase table requesting that we include their schools. We were also given two formal letters from different headmasters making their requests in writing.

Albin explaining our program to Mr. Bakari G. Issa (seated) and Mr. Wangelega (standing)
I met the MoEVT official in person who attended the conference, Mr. Bakari G. Issa, Director of Teacher Education and Mr. Wangeleja from TIE, the Director of Research and Information Publication. 

They were impressed with the Powering Potential approach and even asked to prepare meeting at  MoEVT about it. I also met Dr. Hassan Mshinda, Director General of COSTECH. He is familiar with Powering Potential and happy with our efforts. 

RACHEL content displayed in projector at showcase table

When he was leaving, we had a little talk. He appreciates the technology  we are using. He insisted the project  has to be evaluated by other agencies, including the Ministry of Education, that will provide a suitable approach for scaling out nationwide.

Albin Mathias narrating RACHEL content to the attendees
I explained the RACHEL content to all delegates in the conference and gave them access with their smartphones and laptop. Everyone was very impressed.

Albin Mathias presenting a Raspberry Pi computer

This conference has made me aware that we are doing very great, but we need to consider and push the Ministry to look at our project to create a partnership to scale through the country.

I also met Turkington from the Vodaphone Foundation, who just read the article about Powering Potential in a Precision Air magazine. She was interested to follow up and come to our showcase table.

Another person I met is Joyse M. Baravuga, a technical coordinator for ICT teacher education programs. She is also a network engineer graduate from St. Joseph College of Engineering and Technology in Dar. 

Overall, this was a wonderful experience. Thank you to the Conference and the organizers for this great opportunity for Powering Potential to show what we are doing in Tanzania.