1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?
We used two laptops to make our research and build the website, a telephone set to communicate with Mrs. Esther, the mayor of Anosiala, the suppliers, the education office and our sponsors, and a Canon EOS 400D to take pictures of the schools and the students. We also used various computer software: Microsoft World, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Office Outlook, Mozilla Firefox, Photoshop, Illustrator, Irfanview and Spip. These programs helped us to organize our work, make research on the Internet, build the website and the logo, and communicate with different people. The most challenging part has been to build the website with the use of a free software called Spip. This has allowed us also to discover the concept of free software and the unique GNU license.
2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.
Communication was a very important aspect of our project. Every single aspect of the project needed interaction with a third party. It all started with the encounter with Mrs. Esther, who works at the Ministry of Public Education. Mrs. Esther has been seduced by our project and introduced us to the local head of education ministry in Anosiala, the village in which we operate. Then we also had to meet with the mayor of Anosiala. We had to convince both these officials about the seriousness of our project as our young age made it difficult for us to be taken seriously. After many visits we eventually got their approval to start our work. Later, when the project had started and showing signs of happening, the mayor of Anosiala sent us a letter to thank us for our help and willingness to improve education in his village. He eagerly congratulated us about our efforts and impressive achievements We had also to raise money to start and maintain the project. For this we called many parents of our school and also family members, acquaintances of our families and even private companies in town. We made a lot of phone calls to get appointments and meet with people who would help us to finance our project. During the meetings, we had to explain Keelonga’s goals and show pictures of the schools and the students. The outcome has always been beyond our expectations and all of the people we met were more than willing to help us (see our sponsors at http://www.keelonga.org/Thank-you-for-helping-us,28?lang=en). They were impressed by the work and effort we had put into this project. Many of them, not only contributed financially to the project, but they helped us find ideas to raise more funds! Last, we talked to our school and got a generous contribution from the student council of 10% of the profits made on all school events.
3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?
Keelonga has improved education in the five schools in Anosiala that it is helping. The eight teachers hired by Keelonga will increase the attention to each student in the classrooms and will also help the students to learn more. Thanks to the repair of the infrastructures of the schools, the students in Anosiala will benefit from an adequate environment to learn. Now, Keelonga wants to help other schools around Antananarivo but also throughout Madagascar to improve the education of Malagasy kids and increase their chances of success in life. People in our school as well as people around the world have learnt new facts thanks to Keelonga and its website. People in our school and acquaintances of ours learnt that all kids in Madagascar do not have the same access to a fair education as do children who can afford an American or French education in Madagascar. Thanks to the website, they also learnt that helping schools is easy and does not need a huge amount of money, but requires the desire and willingness to help. Also, they now know that rural Malagasy kids need all the help they can get from anyone, anywhere. Thanks to Keelonga’s website, we have not only received help from Madagascar, but also from Italy, France and the USA, and we hope to receive help from other countries as well. Thanks to Keelonga, we have developed working relationships with a tremendous number of people, such as the teachers we hired, the construction team, Mrs. Esther, the mayor, civil servants, the suppliers of hardware and more. Additionally, we receive funds from various sources, including our school faculty and students, friends here and abroad, all of whom give us ideas on how to raise more funds or help. Our website has been visited by hundreds of people: students, teachers, sponsors, friends and family around Madagascar and abroad. The website statistics show that the site is visited everyday by new and often unknown people to us from all over the world.
4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?
This whole project could not have started without the help of Mrs. Esther, the lady who works at the Ministry of Public Education and who introduced us to the reality of public education in our country. Other main contributors are the mayor of Anosiala, the maintenance team, our sponsors, and our many friends at school and abroad who have contributed in order to make all this happen. Mrs. Esther showed us the real problems of the public schools in Anosiala, she found qualified teachers to teach in these schools, and introduced us to the mayor of Anosiala. The latter accepted our contribution to the schools in Anosiala by hiring teachers and repairing and rebuilding the schools. The repair team was willing to work far from their houses and even sleep at the schools in order to repair the infrastructures in as short time as possible. Our many wonderful sponsors financed the project and gave us tips on how to make our help more significant. Finally, our friends and acquaintances made our website known to their friends and families, helped us raise money and awareness, and are showing continuous cooperation for Keelonga.
5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)
As founders of Keelonga, we learnt in a few months more than we had ever learnt about education in Madagascar, the life of the rural Malagasy kids, the building of a website, the setting up of an operational organization, manage and check the work of different people. We saw the real problems of schools and education in Madagascar, and we never thought schools could be in such a poor condition. It could not have been worse! Not enough teachers, no roof, no water, no games, no chalk… To register Keelonga with the government has been complicated but we now know everything on the different types of organization present in Madagascar! Managing a construction team is also something we learnt thanks to Keelonga. We have to plan, manage, assign to jobs, and organize the logistics (which is tough: there aren’t even proper roads going to these schools but muddy traces), negotiate and buy the material, keep proper books because of legal requirements, establish pay sheets, etc… Also, we provide teachers to many schools. The teachers send us weekly activity reports and we try to see each of them at least once every fortnight to keep them motivated and to get their feedback on any improvement we can make. We also correspond with the regional education office. Lastly, we take care of all the fundraising; we visit sponsors and prepare our budget according to the amount of money raised. We have setup the website on a free software base, but even this has taken hours of work to get something more or less acceptable. We now feel like we could run any type of business on our own!