Hanthana is a locally brewed version of the Linux operating system. That’s interesting in and of itself, but what’s more interesting is watching this video. It’s not Kony slick, but you can see what’s going on. The Hanthana chaps have been taking their free operating system to rural schools and training teachers and students to use it. It’s really quite cool. It’s a simple thing that makes a big difference in young people’s lives.
As a kid we always had computers in the house, be it some ancient black and green terminal I’d play paratroopers on, or Macintosh LC IIIs on up. We also had computers in school, usually Macs. I remember using floppy disks, learning how to touch type, and spending hours trying to crack the security in the library, to no avail. That, plus an amazing library system (this was in America), was the foundation of my education. I’m thankful for that, and wish that more Sri Lankans had similar opportunities.
The trouble is that most rural schools can’t afford Macs and Windows – though Microsoft does donate some licensed versions – is either dodgy and pirated or prohibitively priced. Plus teachers and schools don’t have or get the support to make the most of the technology. That’s why the Hanthana School Labs Project is so interesting. In one example – in Habaraadoowa, Galle – a small class of 15 was able to get one PC via a Rs. 12,000 donation from a parent and then get it running with help from the Hanthana team. Here are the results:
On the first day Hanthana was used for the primary education several things of note took place. As there was only one PC, the multimedia projector of the Habaraaduwa Educational Zone Office was used in the class to illustrate the theories for the various subjects using the Educational Software Packages that comes with Hanthana Linux. Especially the “Identifying Colours” lesson. In contrast to other occasions, the children partook the lesson most enthusiastically and constantly requested their teacher to allow them to use these software by themselves. This bought many a happy tear to the eyes of the Director of Education for the Habaradoowa Educational Zone, who attended the occasion, as well to the principal and the parents who were present.
“I’m hungry.. I’m hungry…” the lunch time grumble that comes up everyday were not be heard on this day as the kids were so engrossed with computer aided lessons.
They obviously need more resources, but even this is a start, and a hopeful one. I spoke to Danishka Navin, one of the geeks behind the project. He said they were replicating the experience in Ratnapura, Embilipitiya, and Niwithigala, followed by Mawanella, Balangoda, Ruwanwella and Kegalle. I think those schools would already be done by now. This is interesting because while forking Linux is in itself innovative, deploying free software at the rural school level is even more so.
It’s a cool project, you can learn more at their blog – school.hanthana.org or by contacting info[AT]hanthana[DOT]org.