Social Responsibility

Teaching computer science in Malawi

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 09:57:00 BST

An outreach team from the University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science returned from a project in Malawi this summer, teaching Computer Science in schools in the north of the country.

The University of Manchester is a government-appointed Computing At School (CAS) Regional Centre with a remit to support all schools across our local region in their development of Computer Science teaching. Staff, and student volunteers, support over 2,000 schools with a wide variety of activities.This support has now been extended to countries which are struggling to teach technological subjects. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, and the school decided to launch a Social Responsibility project to bring computing education to schools in Malawi. With the co-operation of a charity, Ripple Africa, which is active in education in northern Malawi, the school were able to deliver an exciting computing education to schools in this country.

It was a great experience for the staff, students and school teachers on the team. Staff and student volunteers were met with real enthusiasm from the local teachers and school children in Malawi, they engaged well with the subject despite never having touched a computer, or even a keyboard before! The schools requested to be taught throughout the weekends as well!

This was a pilot project which overcame considerable hurdles to achieve success. For example, all the computing equipment had to be taken to Malawi, including laptops, robots and primary teaching kits; electrical supplies were not to be relied on; logistics such as travelling to schools was difficult; and assembling a successful team with the right balance was a challenge. However, the message for next year from the Malawian schools is 'bigger and better', and planning has already begun.

You may read more in a report on the project, with insights into some key issues that arose including pedagogic approach, infrastructure, language, gender inequalities, and sustainability and scalability of impact.

There will be a Computer Science seminar in which we will show what was done, discuss the experience, and debate the value of such an intervention in a very unequal world: 2pm, Wednesday 27 September 2017, Kilburn Building, room LT 1.5, Oxford Road, University of Manchester.

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