Kids in Swaziland to Learn Computer Skills in Raspberry Pi Lab
The vast majority of the more than a million Raspberry Pi computing systems sold have ended up in developed countries, with many of those bought in the United States being used by kids still in elementary school. Parents and schools see the microcomputers as a great way for children to first discover coding. But the low cost, versatility, and learning-centered approach of the Raspberry Pi also make it an attractive choice for teaching computing skills in developing countries.
That’s just the idea Piers Duffell had. Duffell, an American volunteer living in Swaziland, created an Indiegogo fundraising page to buy Raspberry Pis for Sidvokodvo Nazarane Primary School, which is in a rural area of the southern African country. “For less than the cost of two MacBooks, an entire school can gain access to a computer lab for the first time,” the page says, noting that with the campaign’s fundraising goal of $2,550, the school can get ten of the microcomputers. When the campaign ended on September 10, it had raised $3,220, so the school is getting those Raspberry Pis, plus Motorola Atrix docks for screens and keyboards.
“The extra funding will be used to purchase additional computers, higher-class, better quality SD cards, and if we can really go over the top, I will consider Wi-Fi antennas,” Duffell said. “As it stands, my priority is to increase the quantity of computers that will go to my students.”
Duffell says he will use the Raspberry Pis to teach the school’s more than one hundred fifty sixth- and seventh-grade students about word-processing programs, coding, and even some simple programming. For some students in the lab—which is called Swazi Pi—it will mean starting at square one with typing. But even a basic foundation in computing will help give the students options for more modern careers in a country that currently has an unemployment rate of more than 70 percent.
The Raspberry Pi was chosen for the school’s lab because it’s inexpensive, easy to use, and can run on free Linux software. But Duffell says there are more reasons behind why it’s a great choice for bringing computing to developing Africa:
Refurbished devices may come from different manufactures and will likely have unique properties and problems that would make them impractical for a basic computer lab. The work hours needed to maintain several separate devices is much higher than the work hours needed to maintain several identical devices. On top of this, Africa is not a dumping ground and needs the best devices available unless we are content to keep the continent in the dark and far behind.