By Orita Bailey
On Wednesday morning the Principal of Beach Allen Primary School, Basseterre was able to take charge of a fully functioning computer lab. Local business The IT Facility donated a PC, some 40 man hours and their expertise to increase the number of seats from 5 to 17, using some of the schools old computers which were deemed too slow or simply not functional.
Russell Williams Lead Consultant at The IT Facility, explained that he learned of the school’s plight at a PTA meeting. “After visiting the school I realised that the school had a number of old computers – many of which were older than most students – but which were capable of booting across the network, this made them ideal for use as “thin-client” terminals.”
In his address to the gathering Minister of Education Hon. Nigel Carty, lauded Mr. Williams for his commitment to the Federation, the region and Beach Allen Primary specifically, “I would like to thank Mr. Williams for his support over the years and especially for seeing the need at the school and bringing his expertise and skills to addressing this problem.” Minister Carty said.
Mr. Williams set about identifying functional equipment and making Pentium II and III processor PC’s dating from the late 1990′s connect to a PC running Ubuntu Linux, a Free Operating System. In short, equipment which would most likely have been discarded has been given a new lease of life to allow the students the ability to use the Internet and type documents.
The Minister congratulated Mr. Williams on his choice of Open Source software, for the project as the rapid changes in software and the associated costs often prohibits regular updates where governments and individuals do not have the necessary financial resources. By selecting an Opensource solution, Mr. Williams had created an opportunity for continued operability of the equipment for some years in the future.
An additional benefit is that the server has been configured with Edubuntu software, which as the name suggests includes a suite of educational software for children from pre-school right up to high school age. Mr Williams explained.
“Additionally, we have saved money by not having to purchase new computers or pay for software licensing for Microsoft Windows or any other software, which in these tough economic times is an appealing benefit. If we were to buy 11 new desktops with the appropriate software licensing for the operating system only (i.e no application software for word processing or spreadsheets) this project would have cost over US$6000. As it is, we have not had to beg or borrow to equip the lab with a usable number of PCs or terminals” Williams said.
Mr. Williams pointed out that such a project has significant benefits not only for the school and its students but the country and the region as whole. Just one week after the Federation hosted a conference on protecting the environment, “ these computers were more than likely destined for the land fill, but with this solution we can still get more use from them, and avoid dumping harmful e-Waste in the landfill.” Williams explained.
The Principal, Mrs. Emilita Warner-Paul, expressed her delight in accepting the now functioning lab, ” It has been very challenging over the past years not being able to meet the needs of all the children for computer time. I can predict that the children will now be very enthusiastic about classes.”
Several staff members expressed their anticipation at having access to the lab; “it has been very difficult, the children were keen but often got frustrated with having to share one computer for five or even six pupils, but now with just two sharing that will motivate them much more easily.” said the lab coordinator Ms. Bambie Henry. She said her challenge now would be to ensure that each class got adequate time in the lab.
Mr. Timothy Morton said that he thinks the additional computers would be a big asset; “the children are very keen”. He expects that attention will improve as the children would be making rapid progress as they would be more engaged, and their retention would be longer as they discover solutions and information for themselves.