May 1, 1998: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Internet: Computers: : PCVs Narendra Sheth and Joel Parthemore set up Computer Lab in Ghana

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : The Peace Corps in Ghana: May 1, 1998: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Internet: Computers: : PCVs Narendra Sheth and Joel Parthemore set up Computer Lab in Ghana

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PCVs Narendra Sheth and Joel Parthemore set up Computer Lab in Ghana

PCVs Narendra Sheth and Joel Parthemore set up Computer Lab in Ghana

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Technology Training Centre WESS

In the Beginning...

The computer literacy program began with a single 286, out of the living room of Peace Corps volunteer Narendra Sheth. With the arrival of Joel Parthemore in May 1998, the one begat a second, but space was tight, and anyway there were 18 more 286s waiting in the wings... or more precisely, in boxes stored in a dust-filled storeroom (the Science Resource Centre "library").

Renovations began on a disused classroom. Glass was put in the windows, mosquito screens were installed, outlets put in the walls. Tables were ordered from a carpenter in Sunyani. The 286s were unboxed, tested, and cannibalized where necessary.

Opening Day

By the end of January 1999, we were all set up. A date for the grand inauguration got set, rescheduled, and resheduled again as we struggled to coordinate schedules with the director general of Ghana Education Service (a native to our parts), who was scheduled as the keynote speaker.

The big day finally fell on 1 March. There were balloons, there were streamers. There were speeches by various dignitaries. The one thing there were not, for some reason, were media people, who found somewhere else to be. Lab assistant Solomon Sakra typed the ceremonial first email message, and the director general pressed the enter button to send. We were off and running.

Bugs in the System

The road to a sustainable computer literacy program was often more like a bush path. Imagine the limitations of working with unnetworked 286s, incapable of running anything later than Windows 3.10. Even that wouldn't load on most of the machines because of a video controller problem. For the first year and a half we got real well acquainted with MSDOS.

There were other problems: the roof (made from asbestos-concrete composite) leaked pretty bad when the rainy season hit in force. Computers are allergic to rain, as they are to dust. So we also put more mosquito screen on the windows.

Sign of the Red Hat

In January 2000 we received confirmation that two of our grant applications had been approved... two for three! Unfortunately by the time we collected the check for the first grant in early April, triple-digit inflation had already eaten a healthy $3,000 out of it. We spent the rest of it as quickly as we could!... a two-day, whirlwind shopping spree around Accra. Try it sometime.

To celebrate our three new, roughly state-of-the-art (or at least a big step up from a 286) computers, and in anticipation of our plans for networking, we put a mural on our front wall in June 2000. Redhat Linux had arrived!

Home Stretch

After all the usual and several unusual delays, the second grant arrived at the end of September 2000: four more computers (AMD Athlon processors) with all the cables and hubs we needed to install a network. The equipment arrived at 1:30 in the morning, in rain-soaked boxes. (Apparently the delivery vehicle had broken down, another had been chartered... I never got the full story.) But at last it was here!

The network went in during November-December, the 286s transformed into dummy terminals hanging off the server. Lab assistant Solomon and whatever students were handy assisted with cutting and routing the cables. The first classes on the new network took place in January with the start of term.

Women-into-Computing Weekend

26-28 February 2001

In February we got to show off what we'd done to Peace Corps volunteers and their students from around the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions. Fifteen girls attended the three-day workshop and accomplished as much in that time as we normally were able to accomplish with students in an entire term. We sent email messages, designed web pages and, when we needed a break, played Scrabble over the network with the volunteers as the coaches.

Even more in Ghana than in the West, women are vastly underrepresented in the computing profession. For all the students in the rural areas but especially for the girl students, employment opportunities are quite limited after high school, and a few computer skills can be a ticket to something better.

Changing of the Guard

One Peace Corps volunteer left and a new one arrived in August 2001. After four years in Ghana, Joel Parthemore was ready to discover whether there is indeed life after Peace Corps; while David VanNewkirk needed a change of site one year into his Peace Corps service.

Will the computer training program survive inflationary pressures, power cuts and random chaos? Will Redhat give way to Microsoft, Linux to the much more widespread Windows operating system? Tune back in here to find out!

December 2001: The lab is switching over to MS Windows '98.

The computer lab has gotten official permission to collect student

fees for the lab again, after the government had put a moratorium

on all extra school fees.


Financial Accounts

Proposals and Reports

WIC Web Pages

When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.

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