Following the successful campaign run by Jennipher Musa and Sandra Batakana, we are delighted to let everyone know that they achieved their target of raising £1150!
Thomas started at Ashoka University this week. He tells me he is so impressed by its faculty’s organisational skills – they have put together a very full schedule for all the new students and have thought through every eventuality. However, all classes are currently online as he can’t safely travel to India because of COVID-19. Accessing his classes isn’t straight forward in Zambia, as there is load shedding (planned power outages) each day for 10-12 hours. With the total money raised, we have not only set aside the money for Thomas’s flight and visa and paid for his medicals and vaccinations, but also managed to buy him a small generator so that he can stay online for Ashoka’s heavy Zoom schedule. Thomas says, “Whenever I am on a Zoom call with my new cohort, I have to pinch myself to check that this is real and that I am not dreaming”.
While waiting to get a place at university, Thomas had been working for us as our IT and administration assistant. We gave him the job of designing and implementing an outdoor, seamless, solar-powered, wireless network over our land that connects all parts of our site and gives internet access to our students and staff. He has just returned home following his final visit to our site. Thomas says: “I had an overall idea of what I wanted to achieve with this system, but I needed to research networks and use a little trial and error to implement a fully successful solution. It has given me an idea of how I can help other rural communities to access the internet using similar technology powered by solar”.
His work means that my remote classes with our students now take place with the various devices he has put in place, picking up a good signal and boosting it to all parts of our land. Now we can confidently host virtual sessions with universities, where admissions officers can present their universities and our students are able to ask questions.
In a week’s time, our students will be able to join a virtual universities fair where they will be able to meet the admissions officers from over 100 US colleges. This would not have been possible for us to contemplate only a few weeks ago.
Thomas says: “Previously, it was so difficult to find a good signal on the land. Even then, it would be difficult to guarantee a good call. Video was impossible. Now the students can have interviews with universities without worrying about the quality of the connection”.
Unsurprisingly, given Thomas’s keen enthusiasm, he is going to be majoring in Computer Science. However, as Thomas says, “I always wanted to attend a liberal arts institution because I am inquisitive about so many things. I consider myself to be a multipotentialite (a term invented by Emilie Wapnick in her TedTalk, to define a person who has many callings). Ashoka, being a liberal arts college, will satiate my thirst for learning about so many different fields including philosophy, economics, computer science and maths”. Thomas sees “life as a dance and not a journey” (Alan Watts) where he has numerous goals, some not yet known, and is happy to take advantage of everything that comes his way.
He continues, “I was so excited to receive my offer from Ashoka, so you can imagine how worried I was when I realised I would have to find the funds to travel there – it would have been impossible for my mother and there was no time for me to save any money. I can’t thank Jennipher and Sandra enough and everyone who has donated, for making Ashoka a reality for me”.
Back at Our Moon, we will all miss Thomas. His enthusiasm and excitement about everything IT-related is infectious! To give you an idea of his passion for IT, he wrote this poem:
I WISHDay in and day out. Year in
and year out,
I wish to see technicians – oh yes, technical engineers.
I wish to be
in a place where technical knowledge is exploited; even to be at the grave
where technological ignorance is buried.
I breathe to see nanotechnology and robotics,
I wish to configure neural systems and, when the time comes,
I will wish
to see an institution, return to my community; even double what it gave me.
Day in and day out, year in and year out, yes, all the time,
to see an engineering institution for you, within you, O Mother Zambia,
I wish by Zambia, for Zambians, and for Africa –
in Africa – I wish.
Thomas has promised to support us remotely if we need him to troubleshoot but has, meanwhile, handed over his administrative tasks to Malama who lives on our site. We wish him all the best for safe travels to India (hopefully by the end of October) and for his time there. We will continue to work with Thomas to help him find internships back home and to aid his transition back to Zambia after he finishes his studies.