Because of the violence and war, tens of thousands of people in this area have spent nearly a decade in IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps. Life in the camps was unimaginable. Alcoholism was rampant. This (as always) directly affected the male population, but the trickle effect was pronounced. Women and children were raped and this caused a massive spike in HIV/AIDS cases. As a result, northern Uganda was (and still is) the AIDS capital of the world.
Although schools were started in the camps, the quality of this education was far below the already abysmal national standard. Teachers “either showed up drunk or not at all,” according to residents. It was clear that there is a desperate need for solid, world-class education.
Although international aid organizations came in to help, their presence created a dependency. After all, residents of the camps lost everything when they fled their villages. Tradespeople lost their tools, farmers lost their land and their animals. Every business was instantly wiped out.
Keith and Lisa Coggins have dedicated their lives to helping the people of northern Uganda. We met them last year as they were passing through Jinja. They had a vision for a school in Gulu that would incorporate American curriculum. Their goals were lofty: they wanted no less than to prepare their students for western universities. These standards are astronomical, but I knew from the moment I met them that the Coggins were exactly the right people to pull it off. They had passion, drive and most importantly, a strong faith in God, who had clearly called them to work in Northern Uganda. Their road would be insanely difficult, but I knew they wouldn’t fail.
Eventually, our conversation turned to computers. They had designs of a world class computer lab, but they were having trouble raising the funds. Instead of skimping on something less, they decided to wait until they found not only the right computers but also the right curriculum and training materials. Having just reclaimed thousands of dollars worth of world-class equipment from a school in Jinja, we were literally sitting on exactly what they needed: The nComputing system combined with the stellar RACHEL training package.
I packed up a server and three monitors and put it in the Coggins truck within a week of meeting them. I knew that the equipment had finally found a worthy home.
They made the 7-hour trek from Jinja to Gulu set up the equipment. It didn’t work. Only one station (the console) was working, and that one was having problems. They were literally in the middle of nowhere with a highly technical bit of gear and no support. No amount of phone support could resolve the issues. Our system was shelved.
I had no idea how I would resolve their technical problems. I could have driven to Gulu and worked it out, but what would happen the next time the system failed? I needed to design a more bullet-proof system.. One with next to no technical upkeep. I began working on a more button-downed version of the system that relied on Faronics Deep Freeze. That system was finished two weeks ago. This configuration was only part of the equation. We needed a way to provide long term support. In a fantastic turn of events, this need was met in spades. Pacific Computers, my solely trusted source of computer parts and repair in Jinja, recently opened a Gulu branch.
That sealed the deal. Sanctuary of Grace Christian Academy in Gulu would finally receive their long-awaited computer training system!
I’m proud to say that the installation was a success. We’re super excited to tell you all about it, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. For now, though, just know that thanks to your support, some of the most disadvantaged kids on the planet will be getting a much deserved, long overdue, world-class hand up
Update #1: September 7th, 2012
The classroom installation was a success! Click here to read all about the installation and see lots of photos!
Update #2: March 14th, 2013
We’ve been disappointed by most of our previous classroom installs. But we knew that Sanctuary of Grace would be different, and thankfully, we weren’t disappointed! In this update, we’re thrilled to get positive reports about students excelling at their courses. Not only that, the computer teacher has come to our center for extra training, and the install looks brand now after all this time. Click here to read more and see some great photos as well!