Startup in Uganda

I am working with an organization in Uganda that has schools in 27 different projects across Uganda. Virtually none of the schools have any ICT education programs and most struggle with even basic training materials.

The headmaster of one of the schools has shown a great interest in starting a pilot project and RACHEL looks to be an excellent solution given lack of internet connectivity. My thought is to use one of the RACHEL content servers and a handful of chromebooks to start. However, I’m realizing quickly that there is more that we need to get started in building the curriculum, educating the teachers, etc.

It would be great to talk with somebody has already been down this path to help with a successful pilot and ensure we have a solid plan for rolling this out on a larger scale.

Dave Howard
Canby, Oregon

Hi Dave -

You’re right on with your thoughts here. How you go about introducing RACHEL can have a tremendous positive or negative impact on the success of your program. Every community is different, but some best practices we’ve come to see.

On the Ground

First, it is important to introduce the technology in order of established hierarchies. Demonstrate the device to the headmaster or person in charge and ask him or her to become an advocate. This is critical, as the person in charge should have a clear understanding of the technology before it is presented to his or her subordinates (often teachers). There is a lot of politics in school systems, even very small schools, and no one wants to feel like the people they manage have a better understanding of this new technology.

Second, introduce the technology to teachers as a group before students. When introducing the product to teachers, the goal always has to be how do I make life easier for teachers. Introduce to them the content slowly, and see which teacher or two really see potential for the device in their classroom. An early win is going to be having one or two teachers with a really focused program around RACHEL. Listen to their ideas on how it could help them carefully. Without teacher buy-in, programs do not succeed. Curriculum ideas have to come from local teachers and will change based on which teacher wants to first adopt the system. Growth will come organically in a school if one teacher leads by example.

Third, start small. The initial goal is to set up a pilot class or teaching session within the school. The best introduction is to take things that are costly or a headahce for teachers, and use RACHEL to alleviate issues. The most common example of this is printouts. If you can get one teacher to start using the content upload section instead of paying for, finding, and collecting print-outs, that should be considered a huge win. If you don’t have this win right away, or printouts aren’t digitized already, consider helping them digitize documents with a camera phone. Alternatively, based on feedback in number two above, consider hiding all the content except the one or two content modules that teachers have expressed interest in trying in their classroom. Keep this introduction as simple as possible. Be prepared that teachers may only want to use this as a reference tool for themselves at first. A big concern for teachers is having students understand the technology better than them, it is important they feel comfortable with the technology.

Fourth, be prepared to invest. I can’t understate this enough, if your project does not have a budget for on-the-ground staff or teachers, it is unlikely to succeed. While it seems counter-intuitive that after all the great work and investment you’ve done to get this system in place, more is needed, the fact is, more is needed. The likely first wins will come from after-hours remedial math training. It’s unlikely that teachers are going to immediately integrate RACHEL into their classroom curriculum at first. Teachers who work after-hours are expecting to be paid for their time. This is totally just a reality that is different than many U.S. and Western teachers. Develop a relationship with your key teacher or two, who have expressed a desire to make this work, and find a way to pay them for their work.

Fifth, be available. There are issues that arise, be available to help navigate them. If there is no feedback loop, or desire for ongoing communication, it again is unlikely to have a long-term sustainable program. If you’re taking this to a remote community in a village in the Himalayas and have no way to hear from your advocates on the ground, your chances of success are greatly diminished. Many of our most successful deployments are in areas which internet actually exists, it is just too unreliable, expensive, or slow to integrate into the classroom.

Sixth, be patient. The goals for the first year or two of the program should be that the technology becomes an active piece of valuable equipment. Teachers have ways of doing things that are often fairly rigid from year to year. Deployment and measuring of results for a pilot program is not something that really happens within a year or even two. In our most successful and long-running programs, we began impact evaluations on educational outcomes two and three years after deployment. There are other ways to measure early program success, such as use, student engagement (absenteeism rates), computer literacy, etc. Know what you’re trying to measure and be patient about getting there.

It’s by no means comprehensive, but hopefully as we grow these forums more advice will come in. I’m going to post this in our “Deployments” forum category. We’d like to use these country forums to help you meet other users in Uganda and share local insights. We have dozens of Uganda users.


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Thank you for the insight Jeremy. This is very helpful and confirms much of what I anticipated I’ve been in touch with the headmaster of the school we are wanting to use for a pilot and he is excited at the opportunity. But, as you point out, there are many hurdles to overcome beyond the initial excitement.

I’m encouraged by your comments and excited at the opportunity to use RACHEL to make a difference in Uganda. It would be great to hear from others working there!



Is your organization working with primary or secondary schools? boarding or day schools?

As Jeremy pointed out, go for a early win. Start with a school that has pretty reliable electricity (solar or grid) and some experience with computers among the teachers and some kind of Internet access in the area if not in the school and even if only by cell phone.

I would suggest secondary schools before primary schools and boarding schools before day schools.
I would also recommend starting with one or two of our RACHEL-Plus 2 platforms to give you the best chance of success.
Most of all, I would look for a very motivated teacher or a special volunteer willing to put in the extra time needed and a supportive head teacher.

If some of the schools have reliable electricity with enough power for a 3,000 lumens projector and at least one laptop, you might consider the e-Mwalimu System developed in Rwanda. The projector postpones the need for computers for the students. The document camera in the e-Mwalimu System provides an easy way for teachers to introduce digital materials without giving up the content they are already using which is on paper. The time and labor savings for the teachers encourages them to put in the extra time needed to find the right digital materials among everything that is available in RACHEL.

All of the equipment needed should be available in Kampala.
In addition, thanks to Google’s Project Link, the Internet in metropolitan Kampala is fast enough to download RACHEL on to a laptop as long as you get on an Internet system that resells Project Link.

Please let us know if this works, we rarely hear back from people who download RACHEL.

Edmund - thank you for the response and pointing me to e-Mwalimu System. I will look that information over. I will be working with both Primary & Secondary schools and have a very motivated rural primary headmaster as well as a secondary school in Kampala (Ggaba). The rural school is in a village that has power available via generator or solar and the school in Kampala has electricity (which as you know is still not ideal).

I have also been in working with an organization working in Rwanda (Africa New Life) and they would be interested in participating as well, particularly if something is already developed in Rwanda.

Your advice is very much appreciated and I look forward to taking both your and Jeremy’s advice to heart as we move ahead.

You can see RACHEL in use in Rwanda in this video of a Physics Class.
The school is the Byimana School of Sciences, a government secondary school administered by the Marist Brothers.


Dear Dave,

Are you still pursuing “Startup in Uganda”?

Would like to discuss.

Michael Prilutsky
Rotary Club of Dublin (CA)
International Service Projects Director

Hello Michael,
Yes I am, though it’s been a little slower going than I’d hoped.

Be happy to talk with you about it.


Hi Dave,

Thanks for your reply. Please send me your direct email address to:

I will then send you my phone number.

Michael Prilutsky