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Jeffrey Elkner

First Days in Liberia


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On Saturday, May 27th, I delivered the second shipment of computers destined for Liberia to Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) Superintendent Isaac Zawolo's wife Hawa, pictured here with the delivery. With this second shipment the ACC National Honor's Society finished sending over 60 computers to MCSS, far surpassing its original goal of 25.

Isaac picked me up at Robertsfield just after the sun went down on Sunday, June 19th. We drove to a house that his family has in Monrovia, where I briefly met his Auntie and sister Gayda. He then drove me to the apartment where I will be staying on 9th Street, walking distance from the MCSS Administrative Office at the intersection of 12th Street and Coleman Avenue. We dropped off my things and then went out for a beer before I retired for the night in my apartment, exhausted from more than 24 hours of travel.

First Day of Work

The next morning I was picked up at 9 am and brought to the MCSS office, where I will be working and teaching during my stay here. Here I met Spencer Cooper, MCSS's IT specialist, who has been working with NOVA Web Development's Adrian Buchholz on the MCSS website.

MCSS IT Specialist Spencer Cooper

MCSS IT Specialist Spencer Cooper

Spencer is already a Windows power user, and he is interested in learning to use Linux. I set him up with a NOVA Web Development email address and invited him to our NOVA Web Zulip chat so that he can more readily interact with the rest of our cooperative.

I spent the afternoon with Spencer getting a Liberian cell phone SIM and a wifi router. For a phone I am using the OnePlus One I brought along with Ubuntu Touch running on it. This will give me an opportunity to get used to Ubuntu Touch as my daily driver, so when I return home at the end of August to find my Pro1 X waiting for me I'll be ready for it. So far I am pretty happy with Ubuntu Touch, though it lacks the full integration with my May First Technology Movement Nextcloud about which I wrote so enthusiastically in an earlier post regarding LineageOS. If I can find work arounds for this limitation to tide me over, I'll reach out to the UBports community to see if there are any prospects on the horizon of getting Nextcloud integration fixed. If not, I may have to stick with LineageOS, but I am so hoping to be able to use a true Linux phone.

It seems there are only two options for mobile Internet here in Liberia, Lonestar Cell and Orange. I was advised that Orange was the way to go, so that's what I did. I now have a Liberian phone number and a wireless access point, both from Orange, which will connect me with the outside world while I'm here.

Day 2: The Students Arrive

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At around 11 am on my second day the students arrived. I asked them to fill out index cards with their name, school, grade, age, and to answer three questions about their prior experience with computers and their reason for wanting to enroll in the class with me this Summer.

All of the students were actively engaged and seemed eager to be here. Prior experience with desktop computers varied, but fully half of the 20 students have never used a desktop computer before. Saah Thomas in the 11th grade wrote what others seconded in class conversation, "I have been given notes on computers but I have never used a computer before."

I am truly grateful to be here doing something profoundly useful. As Freena Koikoi responded regarding why she wanted to take this class, "the world is advancing every day, and technology has taken over the world. I chose this course because I want to see myself making a great impact in my society." This Summer I will have the honor of helping Freena and her classmates prepare to be technology leaders in their community and in their country.