Mission Possible: Send 24 Computers to a School in Africa before Thanksgiving 2010
Q&A on Namibia School Computer Donation Project
These Q&A are extracted from email communications between Nate and Cathy. Hopefully they answer the questions you might have that are not covered by the one page flyer.
Q: How did you find me/us?
A: To be honest, I don't know exactly how you got this email. A few weeks ago I went to town and spent a day tracking down organizations and companies to request donations from. I started with a google search and sent about 50 to 75 emails to different organizations around the world that donate time, money, or computers to Africa. Then i recieved a response suggesting that i try large computer manufactures. I went to the yellow pages and searched computers. I emailed all the companies that came up; it was between 100 and 200 companies.
Q: Concerns of corruption in Africa come up during our fundraising effort, could you share with us of what you know?
A: Yes there is a lot more corruption in Africa than we are used to in the states, but after being in Namibia for 2 years I can say Namibia is one of the least corrupt countries here. We will probably deal with corruption most when it comes importing the computers and getting them past customs. The good news is I've been dealing with corruption for 2 years and I've gotten a good feel for how to handle a lot of different situations. As a Peace Corps Volunteer we also have a lot more pull than the average Namibian or a tourist. Everyone knows Peace Corps here, and they know what we do here. They will understand that these computers are going to help people, and a lot of times people are very sympathetic towards us. For example, I hitch hike everywhere I go here, and haven't paid for a ride in over a year; Namibians want to help Peace Corps Volunteers. If we do run into problems, and I know they are due to corruption we can get Peace Corps and the US Embassy to put some pressure on them. There is also an agency here that deals with corruption; we can contact them (though i dont know how useful they are). There are a lot of avenues to combat corruption. With enough pressure we should be able to get around just about anything I think, it just may take some time.
Q: Are you engaged in any other projects that you can share with us?
A: In the past few days there has been some interesting developments around here. I found a grant for N$100 000. We are writing a proposal to build a community library on school property. The library will be similar to the computer lab we just built. It would be next to the computer lab and they would operate together as a community education center. We have contacted the grant agency and they are interested in our proposal. The grant is to fund projects dealing with adult education. I need to finish the drawings, cost estimate, and proposal for the building by monday (grant is due monday) and well see if we get it after
that. In the past ive been able to really impress grant committees by providing building renderings with my drawings (something most contractors dont know how to do here), so i think we have a very goo chance. If we get the grant its going to have to be a major rush construction job to finish before i leave, but I think we might be able to do it with the right construction crew and if everything goes our way. If we complete the community education center the computers would be able to help a much larger group of people.
Q: How do you get Internet access?
A: Free internet time is rare, and when I find it I usually just try to upload as many pictures as possible; however, this has led to a very disorganized and poorly labeled blog.
I recently found a way to connect to the internet by blue-toothing through my phone. Internet is charged by the megabyte here, so this can be expensive. I usually read emails on my phone, type up a response, and connect to the internet briefly to send them. This should give us a pretty reliable form of communication. Feel free to explore my blog.
Q: How did you become a teacher in Namibia and what is your plan after this post?
A: I have been in Namibia for 2 years now and my service is quickly coming to a close. Prior to joining Peace Corps I worked and studied Civil Engineering. I originally applied to Peace Corps as an engineer, but they had no engineering posts in Africa. I accepted a position teaching math and science, and I have spent most of my free time working on engineering projects. Officially my service ends on December 8th, 2010. I applied to extend as a civil engineer in Namibia, but Peace Corps Namibia was unable to find a suitable organization for me to work with. As an alternative I was offered a post in Kenya building bridges, catchment dams, and drip irrigation systems in the villages. I accepted this position and am currently trying to work out a start date with Peace Corps Kenya. I will most likely begin traveling in December and finish in late February; toward the end of February ill return to the states for a month. Tentatively, I'll be back in Kenya by early April. I wanted to give you this timeline so you know that I will most likely not be here when/if the computers arrive. I would not have sent out emails requesting donations if I wasn't confident of things working out even after I leave. I have made a lot of friends here and I live with a host family that I think of as my own. Namibia will not be quickly forgotten for me, and I will have constant contact with my family, friends and the school after I leave. I have set up email on many of the teachers' phones so we can remain connected. Some of the teachers are now even on Facebook.
Q: How come you/school can build a computer lab but can't get the computers?
A: Prior to beginning construction of the computer lab I had spent a good amount of time looking into buying computers from a nonprofit organization in the states and getting them sent here. Other volunteers have done this in the past and I was able to talk to them about it. However, after construction began on the building we realized we would not be able to raise enough money for computers and a building, and we then began to focus our fund raising efforts on the building. As an
alternative, we decided to seek computers from the Ministry of Education. This did not work out, and it has resulted in me sending out the email you received.
Q: Does the school have electricity and Internet access?
A: Currently, the school does not have internet access. However, if we had computers getting internet would be very plausible. It may sound weird that only a few houses in the village have lectricity and running water, but internet access at the school would be plausible. It is very interesting the way technology is used in Africa. Everyone in the village has a cell phone; everyone includes learners, adults, and grandparents. People do not have electricity at home, but they make the trek to their local small shop to charge the phones every few days. Communication by text message has been made incredibly cheap. It cost about .05 cents for 100 text messages. As a result, text messaging has become the way Africans communicate. Africans have cell phones like Americans have cars; everyone has one and they rely on it. Internet would go over similar to cell phones. In general, internet is expensive here. But the government has worked out a deal with one of the providers to provide internet to schools for a low flat rate. Many schools charge locals a fee to use the internet or computers; this fee pays the internet bill and makes in sustainable. Other schools pay the internet fee out of their school fund. Either way, it has become a real possibility for schools with computers.
Q: Is it ok if we can get used computer to the school?
A: This sounds great. Aesthetics in our computer lab are not important. We don't mind if each computer looks different.
Q: Can you setup and troubleshoot computer problems?
A: I can do basic trouble shooting, but it may be difficult to troubleshoot certain issues if all the computers are different. For example, if I'm not getting a picture, it will be difficult to determine if the graphics card is the problem if I don't have another graphics card that fits the motherboard. In addition, my troubleshooting may not be what it used to because of how long I've been away from computers. I and another teacher at my school can do basic memory tests, visual inspections, and assembly when the computers arrive.
Q: Is the Voltage there 220v or 110v?
A: The voltage here is 220 volts. We can purchase adapters for about 5 USD.
Q: Do you have minimum requirement on the computers? We don't want to send something all the there and find it useless
A: I don't think we would have a minimum requirement on computers. The computer we have in the office is P4 with about 512 mb of RAM. It is probably about 10 years old by American standards. We can make just about anything work. It will primarily be used for typing and internet. It would be nice to have 1 or 2 faster computers that could be used for miscellaneous tasks. Some of the miscellaneous tasks I had in mind: photo editing, video editing, CAD, programming, and educational films. I know
teachers and students have an interest in these things, but they currently don't have much knowledge about them. I gave a teacher an ebook on photoshop and autoCAD and he was able to pick up some things. I let me 9 year old host brother sit down and play with google sketchup for about an hour every other night. He has picked up the basics of it and can make basic houses. I think if students had access to this software and a little encouragement they could learn a lot of it on their own and would be very interested to do so. Don't go too far out of your way to hunt down a nice computer, but if someone is willing to donate something nicer, and is curious to what it would be used for, these are someideas. Just for a gauge, by nice I mean something on the level of my laptop (which is 5 years old now, but was ahead of its time when I got it). It's an HP 1.7 Pentium M with 1 GB of RAM.
Q: Besides 24 computers, what are the next essentials that are badly needed for the lab? Just in case we raised more money to cover the freight...
A: There are a number of other things needed in the lab. Tables and chairs are needed, but these are supposed to be provided by the ministry. The ministry will provide tables and chairs that are conducive to a classroom and not a computer lab. We will be able to make them work, but they will not be ideal. I think the things most needed are a router, switch, and networking cable. We can buy a crimper and I can teach them how to make straight cables. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. The main idea behind networking the lab was to allow for a file server where educational material could be stored and accessed. I don't expect chairs and tables to be donated and shipped over here. That would not make a lot of sense. But if extra money is raised we could purchase them in Namibia.
Q: Could you provide ship to address? What will be the port that is closest to your village? Need freight estimate to set fundraising goal
A: In the past computers have been shipped to Windhoek International Airport. I talked to a volunteer about this and she said “I ordered 10 laptops and (after I arranged mailing address and person who would pick them up at the airport in Whk, pay for shipping & customs) they were mailed immediately. The laptops were here in less than 2 weeks!” In addition to this, there will be an import tax. I still need to find out how much this is. If we can get the computers to Windhoek I think we can organize someone to pick them up from the airport. The school would most likely be more than willing to pay this transport cost. The most economical way to ship the computers would be by sea. When I was working with the nonprofit and discussing shipping options they said: “The most economical way to ship would be by sea. My guess is cost would be about $2000 US to ship 24 computers and monitors.”
Q: Will Peace Corp be able to provide importing permit, customs clearance and local delivery from port/airport to the school , in other words, be the consignee of this shipment? I was told that I need a non-profit agency (such as Peace Corp) to co-ordinate for importing and exporting something for non-personal use.
A: This is the response from the Peace Corps Country Director on our questions about working with Peace Corps.
“I do not know of other PCVs here who have imported computers from abroad into Namibia. I think your contact is right in saying you would need a host organization to agree to be the recipient of the equipment and handle customs clearance. Peace Corps cannot be in that role as the equipment would not be for Peace Corps official use, since we're a diplomatic entity we have some restrictions placed on what we can and cannot do. If you'd like to have the computers donated directly to the Ministry of Education, we can give you contact details for Ministry officials who could give you guidance. I'm not sure what NGOs are active in your area, but perhaps one of them might be interested. If you do get any computers imported into Windhoek, we would be more than happy to help get them to you on a space available basis in any PC vehicles headed your way. One conclusion I did come up with years ago on this project is that logistically, it may prove easier for your overseas contacts to raise cash, and then transfer it over to Namibia so that it can be used to buy new or used equipment locally. You'll avoid the import dilemmas then, plus support local vendors, but might not get as much overall equipment. Just a thought...”
Q: Some have concerns of including hard drive. Reformat or remove HDD need OS re-install or new OS, that'll be a problem. Do you have an answer for that?
A: I don't have a definite answer to this question. Some computers here use third party free linux based software instead of Windows. In my opinion this is not a very good solution because children will be using Windows in the real world; Linux doesn't prepare them well for the real world. On the other hand, if this is the only resort, it will still allow children to learn typing skills and have access to internet. … I think if we look into this further we may be able to come up with better alternatives.
After several rounds of research, we decided to use one of the routes shared by other volunteers: get laptops if we can, ship via air to Namibia's Capital airport, Windhoek (since the closest sea port is Johannesburg, 2000km away), still finalizing the ways to get out of the airport and deliver to school, as of today 10/30/2010… but the following document will be a good reference for any future project to the region:
Subject: [PCNamAll] How to import donated goods to Namibia If anyone is planning on importing any kind of donated goods to Namibia (sports equipment, computers, solar panels, etc) as a secondary project, one of the volunteers at INTERTEAM compiled a how-to on how do this correctly to avoid unnecessary hassle.
Enjoy! -- Alex Volkovitsky US Peace Corps Volunteer Rundu, Namibia firstname.lastname@example.org c: +264-81-4720078 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +264-81-4720078 end_of_the_skype_highlighting ----- Forwarded message from "Tom Beregszaszi Heckendorn, ODA & ICTA" ----- Required Shipping Documents for Donation Shipments In order to receive a donation shipment without paying VAT and custom duty the following documents are needed: From the Donor · Donation Certificate signed and stamped (stating that goods are free of charge and donated) · Packing list with tariff code numbers (signed and stamped) · B/L (bill of lading) · Goods have to be marked with “donation” · On all documents it should be mentioned that it is a donation shipment From Ministry of Trade & Industry (there is an office in Ongwediva, behind the Shoprite) – Mr. Ben Hango 065 230 663 or Windhoek Office · Import Permit
In order to get the Import Permit, the following documents need to be given to the Ministry of Trade & Industry: - Application Form (will be given at the Ministry Office) - Copy of Donation Certificate - Copy of Packing list - Copy of registration certificate as a welfare organization - reference letter from an official office (Ministry of Youth or Education or Health or from Councilor etc.) - Copy of B/L - letter of Project Owner or Manager stating explaining for what the goods will be used and give brief description on project From Ministry of Finance – Inland Revenue (from the Office of Legislation and Tax Policy Division) – Ms. Nadine du Preez or Sacky Ashipala 061-209 2206 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org · Exemption Letter for Import VAT In order to get the Exemption Letter, the following documents need to be given to the Ministry of Trade & Industry: - Application letter (state for who the goods are and for what they will be used) - Copy of Import Permit - Copy of Donation Certificate - Copy of Packing list - Copy of registration certificate as a welfare organization - reference letter from an official office (Ministry of Youth or Education or Health or from Councilor etc.) -Copy of B/L - letter of Project Owner or Manager stating explaining for what the goods will be used and give brief description on project
From Ministry of Finance – Custom & Excise (Customer Information Center) – Mr. Emosho 061 209 2006 email: email@example.com · Exemption Letter for Custom Duties In order to get the Exemption Letter, the following documents need to be given to the Ministry of Trade & Industry: - Application letter (state for who the goods are and for what they will be used) - Copy of Import Permit - Copy of Donation Certificate - Copy of Packing list - Copy of registration certificate as a welfare organization - reference letter from an official office (Ministry of Youth or Education or Health or from Councilor etc.) -Copy of B/L - letter of Project Owner or Manager stating explaining for what the goods will be used and give brief description on project -- **************************** Tom Beregszaszi Heckendorn Organization Development Adviser ICT Concepts Adviser INTERTEAM Switzerland www.interteam.ch Ministry of Education Kavango Regional Office Rundu, NAMIBIA
Tel. Office +264-(0)66-258 9318 +264-(0)66-258 9318 Tel. Mobile +264-(0)81-324 4763 +264-(0)81-324 4763 Private: P.O. Box 521, Rundu, Namibia
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