Cape schools get ten new Linux labs â€“ in three hours
The Shuttleworth Foundation together with volunteers from the Schools Linux User Group (SLUG) yesterday installed more than 200 Linux-based PCs in ten schools around the city of Cape Town. The \”mega-install\”, timed to coincide with the celebration of the annual Youth Day public holiday in South Africa, was completed within just three hours of the 9am start. Each school involved in the install project received a minimum of 20 refurbished PCs running as thin clients and one Linux-based server.
More than 50 volunteers from SLUG turned out for the event as well as staff members of the Shuttleworth Foundation. And at each school staff members, principals and teachers were shown how to crimp network cables, install network cards and boot up the network – all while pupils and parents watched eagerly for the first moments of their new computer laboratories.
The Shuttleworth Foundation initiated the schools Linux project in the second half of 2003 and has since then installed more than 30 computer labs in Cape Town schools, from Athlone, to Delft to Mitchell\’s Plain. Yesterday\’s ten-school install boosts the total since the inception of the programme to 44 Linux labs. The goal for the project is to install a total of 80 computer centres before the end of the year.
â€œWe did a major job for open source software today,â€ said Hilton Theunissen, Open Source project manager at the Shuttleworth Foundation. â€œ Because of today\’s work another 10000 learners have access to computers and to the benefits of open source software.â€
Vicki Shaw, CEO of the foundation, said that the day\’s activities were highly successful. â€œ We set out to prove that open source software is the most cost-effective and sustainable platform for proving access to technology. Today I think we proved that. \”
Shaw said the school\’s Linux programme also aims to empower teachers by showing them that technology is not as inaccessible as many believe. \”Today we showed many teachers how easy it is to install a Linux network.\”
Cliff Chateau, principal of Duneside Primary, one of the schools that opened its own TuxLab yesterday, said that he and the entire school were very excited at what had been achieved during the day. â€œThis has shown how we can use old PCs to benefit our school.â€ Chateau said that although the school had previously had a set of PCs they were unable to use them because of limited funds and the costs of licensing and maintaining the systems. â€œWith the Linux system we are able to see how affordable it can be to install a complete laboratory. We are already considering putting in another 20 PCs as soon as we can, because the average class size in the school is 40 learners. And because the system is so affordable.â€
Each school on the programme is required to provide the necessary infrastructure and security before the install takes place. Schools are installed in â€œclustersâ€ of at least three schools so that they are able to assist one another. Each school is also required to have a computer committee to manage the new laboratory.
Chateau said the entire school was enthusiastic about the new computer centre and everyone had contributed to preparing the room for the big day. â€œMy staff have been working very hard to get everything ready and most were at school before 7am this morning to prepare for the install.â€ Chateau himself donated the blinds from his office to the new computer centre.
David Son, chairperson of the Schools Linux User Group, said the day was â€œhugely successful. We have more than 200 members and at least 85 of those turn out regularly to assist in making this project work. Every one of them is passionate about helping improve access to computers as well as increasing the use of open source software.â€œ Son said it was â€œvery gratifying to see the children immediately getting involved. Open source software has huge benefits for everyone because there are no restrictions on how or where it can be used. It also makes it very affordable for schools to install open source software on older PCs.â€
Each of the school laboratories are equipped with 20 refurbished PCs that have had their drives removed and then booted off the network. The server runs the Linux K12 operating system which gives users to a range of applications, including learning tools, word processors as well as games that can be used to teach computer skills.