Masekelo pi.jpg
Students in a Tanzanian high school without electricity can now access Wikipedia via Wi-Fi, using a donated Raspberry Pi computer. Photo by Janet Chapman, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Masekelo secondary school in Tanzania’s Shinyanga region faces many challenges: there’s no electricity or water — each pupil needs to collect over a gallon of water each day and carry it to school. There were insufficient desks and chairs, many had to sit on the dirt floor — until Tanzania Development Trust gave them a grant in November 2014.

A Raspberry Pi serves Wikipedia via Wi-Fi to nearby phones or computers, using RACHEL server software. Photo by Janet Chapman, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Tanzanian government has decreed that every secondary school must have science laboratories by the end of February. But no money was provided for this: funds are expected to come from parent contributions alone. This can be a challenge when your parents are subsistence farmers.

The school has few text books or resources — and a dire shortage of math and science teachers. The dedication of its headteacher and staff have led to the best results of any government school in the district.

When I visited the school in September 2014, the dynamic headteacher, Steve Mihambo, told me about his dream of a computer room — once they had power.

So I brought them a credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computer, powered by an external battery, with a 32GB SD card — and content downloaded from World Possible. This includes the Wikipedia for Schools edition, 2,000 math and science videos from Khan Academy, and 800 classic books and various health resources. A Wi-Fi stick in the Raspberry Pi allows any nearby smartphone, tablet or laptop to access all this content.

I demonstrated this to the teachers and school board on 5 tablets and a couple smart phones I brought as a donation. They were astounded. “It’s like a miracle”, said the board chair. “Now we are in the 21st century”, added a teacher. I’ve stayed in regular contact with the school via WhatsApp, and they tell me the students are very excited to have access to all this new content.

You can follow the progress of this project, and the school in general, on their Facebook Page.

If you would like to know more, or have an tablet or laptop you’d like to donate to a good cause, please email me at j.chapman at tanzdevtrust.org .

Janet Chapman, Communications Manager, Tanzania Development Trust

This blog post is part of a series about Offline Wikipedia. It was originally published on Hiara, a blog about empowering girls. Minor edits were made by WMF staff to clarify a few terms for the Wikimedia blog.