Hand Held Learning and Ago-Are, rural Nigeria.

Folabi (Fola) Sunday teaches in a primary school in rural Nigeria -  a motor-cycle ride away from Ago-Are, in Oyo State. He is a Dadamac Self Directed Learner, who keeps in contact with the "connected community" through his phone, and joins in First Thursday chats whenever he can. Fola is currently learning more about ICT and solar energy from Ricardo and Graham (in the UK) and others in Minciu Sodas and Dadamac, through chats and emails.


This post gives an introduction to Fola and his current concerns as discussed at the October First Thursday chat. He is working on a practical project with Pastor David to enable the Information Centre in  Ago-Are to go online. Fola is more at home in the city, so it was quite a culture shock for him when he was sent to his current post as a primary school teacher in a rural setting. He found himself far from any Internet link, and living in a small, traditional, thatched, "mud" hut provided for him by the Parent Teacher Association. He decided that, although his new home was a motor-cycle ride beyond the reach of the telephone network, and despite his meagre salary, he would have to invest in a phone that would enable him to go on the Internet.


Before seeing the chat archive it may be helpful to have some background information and introductions.

  • Fola and Pam first met several years ago in Ago-Are, through Pastor David
  • Pastor David is an Ago-Are indigene.
  • Pastor David and Pam connect with the Ago-Are Information Centre through the vision of the late Peter Adetunji Oyawale
  • Peter was an Ago-Are indigene, who came to the UK. He was a friend of Pastor David, and  married one of Pam's friends in London. He was an ICT professional who has been trained in communications while serving in the Nigerian Navy.
  • Peter died in tragic circumstances before he could implement his vision of setting up Digital Community Information Centres and a related community radio free-college "back home".
  • The Information centre at Ago-Are was set up to try to carry out at least some of his vision.
  • David Mutua is a Kenyan who came to Ago-Are with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), in 2002 to set up and manage the Information Centre - an awesome task, as there was no budget, no office, nothing. There were simply a few people connected with each other through commitment to the vision of a man who had died in tragic circumstance.
  • David Mutua successfully set up the Information Centre
  • The centre initially had three computers, a printer, a scanner, and a generator. It was given premises by the local community. It had to be self sustaining (as there was no funding). This was achieved to a certain extent, paying for a full time local member of staff, but without having to support David Mutua in his role of manager.
  • David Mutua, Pastor David, and Pam have all been involved in unfunded IT training and "computer orientation" in the Ago-Are area.
  • Pastor David and Fola have both attended Pam's Teachers Talking (TT) courses at Fantsuam Foundation (David Mutua and Pam ran the first TT course together at Fantusam Foundation in 2004, subsequently they ran it in Kenya with help from COL: Commonwealth of Learning)
  • Krishna Alluri (then working for COL - Commonwealth of Learning) first heard about Ago-Are Information Centre when Pam posted about its opening ceremony to a list called "Voices of the South".
  • COL and IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) ran a two year project for farmers through the Information Centre in Ago-Are.
  • In recent years Pastor David has managed the Information Centre, in an independent voluntary role. His vision is to build on the ideas Peter gave him, within local constraints, and to provide on a permanent basis some of the facilities, such as Internet access, demonstrated during the COL-IITA project.
  • Fola has explained (during the First Thursday chat) that there is a demand from local teachers for training.
  • Fola and Pastor David would like to provide the training, but the two remaining computers at the information center are getting very old now, and, even more importantly,  the generator is beyond repair.
  • However, they do have Fola's phone.
  • Also, Fola is now married and his wife, who is also a teacher, has a PC
  • Fola has been learning how to use his phone as a modem for the PC advised by Ricardo - in the UK - an example of learner-directed hand-held learning.
  • Ricardo is better known at Dadamac.net for his work with Cameras for Communication
  • Sasha - who is also providing advice - is in Serbia
  • Kelechi is at Fantsuam, He and Fola know each other from Fola's trip to Fantsuam Foundation for a TT/Self-Directed-Learners course.
  • The idea behind linking Fola's phone to his wife's PC is to learn how this kind of connection works.
  • If is it satisfactory then Fola and Pastor David can try linking the two PCs at the info centre to the Internet in the same way.
  • This would enable the Information Centre to provide an email bureau for the local community. 
  • However (given the way that air time is sold for the phone) it would not be cost effective unless it can run in a reliable way
  • For that the Infromation Centre needs  a reliable source of electrical power, but it has no generator and power from the Nigerian electricity grid is notoriously unreliable and infrequent.
  • This is why Fola is also learnign about solar and other alternative ways of powering the computers (but that is not covered in this chat). 
  • Fola came to First Thursday to update us, to share his practical problems, and to learn more.
  • He mentions other computer centres which are now coming to Ago-Are, these will probably be doing "typsetting" (business word processing services) and Microsft office training.
  • Most teachers do not have access to computers or electricity in their schools, so it will be some time before they can make use of "computer operator" skills in their work-places.
  • I confess to a personal bias as I have a long term interest in the Info Centre, and friendships with Fola and Pastor David, so of course I would like to see their efforts succeed.
  • I genuinely believe that if Fola and Pastor David provide training to the teachers they will offer a wider introduction than basic office skills. They are also aware of the information communication aspects of ICT, and Fola is not only a teacher, but also an online learner.
  • It is arguable that initially most teachers need a practical introduction to give them some confidence in handling a computer, plus a vision for "what computers can do" which they can communicate to their students, rather than a standard office training course.
  • Putting aside the issue of Fola providing training to other teachers, we have much to learn from what Fola is learning himself, and the way he is learning it a a distance through his phone.

Let's learn from each other

I have copied below the parts of the First Thursday chat most relevant to Fola. I believe his local knowledge is of great value and I believe passionately that grass-roots initiatives, should be connecting with mainstream "developed world" initiatives. I believe we need more collaborations between established mainstream initiatives and the grassroots.  We need  more genuine two way discussions with people like Fola, if we are to realise the potential of the Internet to enable learning in rural Africa. Now that people in rural Africa do have access to phones there is no longer any excuse for lack of two-way communication - there are great opportunities for people in "developed countries" to learn more about rurual realites in Africa. Let's learn from each other. 



Worknets "Firts Thursday" Chat 01 October 2009 Extract of lines relevant to Fola


[12:15] <Fola> Govt has made it compulsory for all teachers to learn computer and we are planning of going to all schools to inform them about the centre but we have some pr

 [12:16] <Fola> Problems. We have 4 people undergoing training now but we have 2 working system but no power

 [12:18] <Fola> Supply since the generator is faulty and many people are now showing interest in coming to the centre for computer training

[12:19] <pam> Fola and PD - you have done great work in keeping that centre alive for so many years with no outside help

[12:21] <Fola> (snip) Anyway that is the latest news from ago are. PD extend his greetings to you all

[12:24] <Ricardo> Fola, we can discuss the Ago Are centre in short while, after samwel's fish farming. Please stay online.

 [12:24] <Fola> The community has failed in resuscitating the centre because they see no reason and maybe it is not bringing money into their pocket

[12:24] (snip)

 [12:26] <Fola> Thanks Ricardo I will stay online on my phone and refresh and have to refresh to get you

[12:34] <Fola> What do we do to overcome these two problems facing the centre. Inadequacies of computer and epileptic power supply? (snip)

[12:37] <Ricardo> Fola, I'll read through everything you type today, and email you some more ideas on what to do about the electricity and computers. I've got a few ideas. (snip)

 [12:39] <Fola> I think the centre need lots of money to get back functioning and how do we motivate the community to help PD has tried all his effort but to no avail.

[12:40] <pam> (snip)

[12:41] <Fola> Now everybody want to learn computer. AA has changed a great deal. We now have computer centres everywhere in the town


[12:46] <Ricardo> Fola, you mention there are now computer centres everywhere in town. Does that mean it's better (more profitable) to re-focus your AA centre as a 'media centre', focused on TV, Football etc, not just computers/internet. Would the community support that more, paying for new equipment? (snip)

[12:47] <Fola> I have lots of pictures and videos to upload but uploading them with my mobile is difficult.

[12:49] <pam> (snip) fola - your photos are so important

[12:50] <pam> Photos with captions are the best way to tell the stories

[12:51] <pam> I want to help you to tell these stories - and i will help you to share them

[12:51] <Fola> The centre can as well functio as computer/internet place if the community could spend money but they are not ready. Football showing using dstv is more demanding there is need for somebody like Pam who can s
[12:52] <Sasha> Fola , do you stil blog? (Snip)


[12:54] <Ricardo> It's a pity the nigerian postal service isn't reliable. In Kenya, Ken Owino and I plan to set up a regular (2 weekly) files-on-CD-ROM service to/from me in the UK. That means people can send large video files or whole sets of photos to me, to upload for them, without paying a lot for internet time. Samwel can use that to send his videos/photos. I need to tlak to Ken about it again.

[12:55] <Ricardo> (international Sneakernet)

[12:55] <pam> our challenge is to use teh Internet to build our circle of friends

[12:56] <pam> i think if we cn get your photos it will help us to buid this circle of friends

[12:56] <pam> Fola I think teh phots are the key to getting help for the centre

[12:57] <pam> and getting solutions to some related problems
[12:58] <Ricardo> Fola, do you get any UK/European/US visitors to the AA centre, on a regular basis, who could take photos/videos back to Euope/USA and send them to other people by broadband internet?

[12:59] <pam> At dadamac.net i hope to build on online home for all my friends old and new - just to know each other and support each other in various ways (snip)


[13:04] <Fola> Iam back

[13:05] <Fola> Ricardo there it has been long that we have visitor in AA (snip)

[13:07] <Ricardo> Fola, is there a postal service in the Ago Are area, to send files on CD or flash-drive to the UK or to a major city and someone with a faster internet connection? (snip)

[13:07] <Fola> We need somebody like Pam or probably a white man who can convince the community because PD has tried all his efforts 

[13:08] <pam> what we used to do to send things to AA was to send to the PO box of one of the chiefs in Ibadan

 [13:09] <Fola> Pam came to AA last year and though

 [13:10] <pam> (snip) [13:11]  

<Fola> I only use my postal address in Ibadan

[13:11] <Ricardo> Pam (snip) We probably only need a 1-way-traffic of CDs from AA to you/I in the UK, so I think Fola could post those, without needing his own return PO Box. It's just a question of buying a pack of blank CDs, for 1 a month, say.

[13:11] <pam> We did not get parcels coming back the other way

 [13:13] <Ricardo> You can fit a lot of photos and video on 1 CD or DVD-ROM.(snip)


 [13:16] <Fola> Ricardo i still have lots of problem using my computer and I know you will help

 [13:16] <Ricardo> Fola, do you know if parcels arrive safely if you send the parcels out of Nigeria to UK/USA/etc? (snip)

[13:17] <Ricardo> Fola, if you email me with details of the computer problems, I'll see what i can do. Is it the AA computer's or your wife's computer?


 [13:18] <pam> (snip) perhaps we should look forward to Chrismas and think who migh be visiting then ..

 [13:18] <pam> someone who would come back to UK

[13:20] <Fola> The system is slow, i cant access yahoo,gmail and yahoo messanger using the system. Do i need to format if yes how?

[13:21] <Sasha> Fola if you are using windows you can use the task manager and see what is slowing your computer down

[13:21] <Ricardo> Pam, it might be useful for someone to take out a 100-pack of blank CDs. Then Fola can post video/photo files to us. If one disk gets lost in the post, he can send another copy. The disks are cheap.

[13:22] <Fola> Sure parcel arrive safely in my box but I have not sent any to abroad.

[13:22] <Sasha> press ctrl +alt + delete for the task manager to appear

[13:23] <Ricardo> Fola, I'll email later about the slow PC problem and things to check.

[13:24] <Fola> It is my wive system( and it is now mine) it all started showing different problem when I install AVG anti virus. It does not see my phone again i think i need to format it but HOW?

[13:24] <Ricardo> Fola, I'll also email you about posting parcels abroad. There's a small customs sticker to fill-in and put on the parcel (the same sticker in every country, I think).
[13:25] <Ricardo> Fola, I'll email about formatting later.

[13:26] <Sasha> Fola its very easy

[13:26] <Sasha> but probably the antivirus software is slowing your PC

[13:27] <Fola> I will be looking forward to see your mail Ricardo

[13:29] <Fola> Kelechi can you please send me the sony ericsson software the updated version by email
[13:34] <Fola> Sasha you said it is very easy please how do you mean?

[13:35] <Ricardo> Pam, I think discussed before that 'feedback on feedback' is quite important.. If samwel, fola, etc send large video files or sets of photos, it would be useful to keep track of how useful that was in getting new contacts. Also, if they can't see the website where it's uploaded due to slow internet, feeding back a CD copy or printout of the pages to look at.

[13:36] <Fola> Are you still ther Pam?

[13:37] <pam> It looks as if Fola has a delay in seeing what we are posting

[13:38] <Fola> Uploading heavy files is not easy with my mobile browsing writing them on cds and sending them as suggested is better off

[13:39] <Sasha> yes Fola if you have a windows xp cd if you have win xp

[13:39] <Fola> Pam my mobile browsing is slow and I have to wait and refresh before it load pages

[13:41] <Sasha> Fola you insert the win xp cd and follow the instructions, thats all, and you wil have also to instal drivers afterfards

[13:41] <pam> Fola thanks for continuing in the chat despite your problems, and the expense

[13:43] <Fola> Sasha tell me more

[13:45] <Fola> I have only 1 megabyte left in my data and I will wait till it got finished the discussion is getting more interested

[13:46] <Fola> sasha maybe you send the details in an email to me on folabisunday@yahoo.co.uk

[13:53] <Fola> What do we do with the mango? Preserve them from rot? With what?

[13:55] <Ricardo> By solar drying of fruits, Fola. Goliath and Kelechi mentioned cutting the fruit into thin slices and using a solar dryer device. (added later - Kelechi mentioned someone at Fantsuam with a design for a solar dryer).

[13:56] <Ricardo> Bye everyone.

[13:57] <Fola> Pam i have sent my report on internet usage to BBC you posted


This is the end of the main discussions relating to Fola and the Information Centre in Ago-Are


Krishna Alluri and David Mutua. I am sending this email to you personally to update you because of your previous involvement and interest in the Information centre at Ago-Are. I think you will appreciate knowing of the tenacity of Fola and Pastor David in trying to continue the work at Ago-Are.


Fola I am copying it to you, so you know I am trying to share the news of your efforts. I have also posted it as an open letter on my blog at Dadamac.net