Innovating Enjinja!

storeroom

My name is Lydia Dean and I am a Project Worker with Caroline Zhu at Ejinja Mixed Day Secondary School. We received £170 from the ‘Innovation Central Pot’ for a computerised administration programme, and £370 from the ‘Water Central Pot’ for the installation of a 10,000L plastic water tank. I thought I would write about the admin programme, since this is something that has never been seen at an EPAfrica school before!

In our assessment of the school in week 1, one of the main issues we identified was the level of organisation: the storeroom was very disorganised, and the administration block’s rooms were full of stacks of paper. Also, we noticed that the school struggle to maintain a clear record of the remaining fees due by each student. To address these issues, we came up with the ide of getting an online system for the school’s important documents, as this would have the additional benefit of saving on the cost of paper. So then we just had to find the online system!

storeroom

The DoS (Director of Studies) knew someone who had designed the very programme we were looking for, at a cost of about £200, so we got in contact and he came in to install the programme in week 5 of the project.

The programme itself has two components: an academic component and a financial component. Within the academic component, there is a database of all the students’ exam results, and an individual student report section. We are hopeful that by being able to see the progress of a student over several terms (and even years), the teachers will reward individuals for improvements, rather than the current situation where students who are of lower ability are continually punished for poor exam scores, despite improvements compared to previous tests. This project should go hand in hand with our ‘alternative discipline system’ – here, we are trying to reduce the level of corporal punishment by providing alternative forms of discipline, such as carrying water around the school compound. We have also made a clear agreement with the Principal that the ‘crime’ match the punishment. For instance, if a student performs badly on a test, the student should be given set work related to the topics that they struggled on. This means that even if the student’s exam analysis performed by our programme shows that they have not progressed, they are helped to improve rather than being punished for academic ‘failure’.

The report card section is where teachers can write a few sentences about each student, for future teachers to understand the student better, for parents to see how their child is getting on, and for the students themselves to see what the teachers think of them.

The accounting section similarly has a database of all the students, along with their remaining fee payments. This will allow the school to incorporate both cash and more informal types of payment in one system, such as ‘payment in kind’ (e.g. parents giving maize or beans to the school). The next step will be for the school to purchase a receipt printer, so that students can take formal receipts home to their parents.

admin blockThe installation of the programme was not without its glitches though! A rather major problem is that Ejinja has been without electricity for the entirety of our time there, because the transformer was stolen. We had to get around this by transporting the school’s desktops back to our house to use the electricity there. Whilst this was a bit of a nuisance, our carrying of the heavy equipment was a good case for feminism – several male teachers were sure we couldn’t do it! Another technological project we have been doing at the school was the purchasing of a laptop and projector for showing PowerPoints in the classrooms, so we were able to give the DoS the laptop to continue inputting student data at his house.

Overall, we are confident that this programme will help improve school organisation, and will unify school documents so that members of staff all have access to them from their own devices. Although it is hard to ensure the sustainability of any project, here we have trained several teachers how to use the programme, and have made an agreement with the programme supplier that he come into school in the next year for free, to train more teachers. By establishing this relationship, the school purchase expansion packs, and so the impact of the project should deepen over the years to come. Thank you EPAfrica for the Central Pot funding!

Nicole is Communications and Information Manager on the Management Committee, and will be a coordinator for the second half of the project in Kenya during the project this summer