Day 3 — Building Momentum

Today, I began to accomplish something here. I am sure it helped that I slept for more than four hours last night for the first time in days. Or perhaps it was that I have taken in enough information to know what to do first. Lynda scheduled appointments for me with heads of department and a knowledgeable tech director from a related primary school. I sorted out my proxy problems so that I could send and receive mail from Apple Mail rather than having to go through the web site. (The key was to apply the proxy to all but the last of the protocols in the network preferences proxy tab.) I got the necessary FTP details to begin to set up the new MAP web site. I dragged Phil to all our meetings, so that he could get up to speed on the school’s tech needs as well. I laid out the sections and began to write background information for the technology plan document, which is my objective for the week. I made a point to take some pictures today — I often forget amidst the meetings. They may help give you a sense of the landscape and kids.

Soccer match

The school’s technology program has hit on hard times since Phil and I arrived. Are we bad luck, or are the systems crying out for help since we have arrived? No matter: two serious disasters struck. First, the mail server hard drive crashed, and neither mirror nor backup was in place. Why not? Poor communication. The external tech support consultant wasn’t doing it, the computer science head of department didn’t tell anybody, and the worst possible outcome resulted. Second disaster: the server with all of the grade reports went offline just as grades were due. At least the CS teachers back that up manually — I hope this happened! What is the solution? Put Phil in charge of housekeeping tasks that others have not been managing. He will be the internal person that every school needs to ensure that critical maintenance tasks happen.

MAP girls

The school also needs one person to order equipment and stick to the school’s technology plan. The school just ordered 29 workstations and three servers. It turns out that they only needed three servers if they were going to use one for thin clients to run terminal sessions off the server. But the school bursar (finance guy) changed the plan at the last minute, when he discovered that the IGCSE examining body does not permit students to take tests on computers that are connected to a network! The word didn’t get around for some reason, and the school bought one server too many. No one person is at fault, but ordering by committee clearly does not work. No matter — the new servers have RAID, and I know a mail server that needs redundancy!

MAP boys

I got some more insight into the variable speed of the school’s internet connection today. It really slowed to a crawl between about 2:00-4:00. By 5:00, it was flying again (in relative terms). Apparently, the school is a pilot participant in the country’s ADSL rollout, and Botswana Telecom is still working out the kinks during peak periods. I assume that the rush ends at 5:00 because people leave work at go home. I understand that residential DSL is still not a reality, and home dial-up is frustratingly slow compared to the U.S.

How’s this for a daily schedule?

– Staff announcements at 6:50 a.m.
– Classes from 7:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
– Lunch from 12:45-2:00.
– Clubs and sports from 2:00 onward

This is what you may get in a hot desert country. The classrooms are strictly unbearable in the midday summer.

Thanks, Jimmy, for Skyping me while I was working here tonight. Just click on the “Call me” link at right or start Skype and look to see whether kassissieh is online. Talk to you soon …

Tomorrow, we begin to meet with heads of department, visit Thornhill school, and test the files that we have uploaded to the new web server.

One comment

  1. James says:

    Heh. No problem. =D

    Oh, here’s the Skype phone I was refering to:

    http://tools.netgear.com/sk