Brandon with some of his 9th and 10th graders and the US ambassador to Guinea (Dennis Hankins) during a visit by the ambassador and other embassy staff to the school.

UPDATE: A week before Thanksgiving 2018, Brandon reached his goals and completed this worthy project! We are thrilled beyond measure for him and have added the new pictures to the gallery below.

Local graduate of Indian River High School and University of Delaware student, Brandon Willia

ms, is now volunteering with the Peace Corps in Guinea, West Africa. There, he teaches middle school kids and has created a project to establish a computer lab, specifically emphasizing the development of computer literacy amongst female students - which happens to be the only current project by a Delaware Peace Corps Volunteer!

We had a chance to chat with Brandon via Facebook messenger (couldn’t work a trip to West Africa into the schedule 😉) to find out more about him, his project and the area…read all about it and don't miss the gallery of gorgeous pics at the end!

So, you’re a local?

Yes, I'm from Roxana (about 10 minutes from Bethany Beach). I went to Indian River High School and studied international relations and public policy at the University of Delaware and graduated in 2017. Before leaving for the Peace Corps, I was a Legislative Fellow with the Delaware House of Representatives, Majority Caucus.

What are you doing in West Africa?

I'm serving in Guinea for 27 months as a secondary education volunteer. I teach biology and chemistry (in French) to grades 7-10 and have around 170 students. My largest class is about 55 students. In Guinea, which uses the French system, grades 7-10 are called "Collège". My current projects include running a girl's club, co-leading a 3-day Sex Ed program, developing a pedagogical training* for teachers at my school, and establishing a computer lab.

* We had to look this one up and thought we’d share the definition (via Wikipedia) with you just in case you didn’t know either: Pedagogy informs teacher actions, judgments and teaching strategies by taking into consideration theories of learning, understandings of students and their needs, and the backgrounds and interests of individual students.

Tell us about the big project:

The computer lab project is my largest, with a budget of $7480.51. The community contributed $2839.08, or roughly 38% of the overall cost. This computer lab will have 11 laptops, a printer, a full solar panel system, and all necessary furniture. This project will specifically emphasize computer literacy amongst our female students by providing a professional space for our girls club to meet. In this club, we discuss leadership, reproductive health, early marriage, and gender-based violence to name a few. Additionally, we will have special after school sessions where girls can practice the computer skills they learn in class.

Sustainability is of the utmost importance. To ensure sustainability of the project we will be doing the following:

1. A curriculum and all respective lessons for grades 7-10 will be written, executed, revised and printed. This curriculum and the lessons will minimize the amount of brunt work new professors will have to do to continue teaching computer courses.

2. Teachers will learn to use the computers themselves and how to teach computer classes. Their training will be for roughly 9 months. During the first trimester, I will teach informatics to both the students (in classes) and the teachers (in after-school sessions). During the second trimester we will continue our after-school sessions and teachers will be required to observe two courses taught by myself and will co-teach four classes. By the third trimester, the Guinean professors will teach these courses by themselves, though I will be available during each of these classes.

Why are you doing this?

Teachers who are trained in teaching computer classes will have the opportunity to lead community courses during the summer. It is common during the summer months, when kids are not in school, to have older students return to the village from the capital, Conakry, to visit family. Computer courses are unreasonably priced in the capital and having cheaper, effective courses in the community will benefit them, and the professor leading them, who will receive part of the fee from the course.

Also, Guinea does not have a well-functioning education system. Students, especially girls, abandon school for a variety of reasons and those who complete school often face difficulties in finding work. This computer lab and computer courses will provide these students a valuable skill, one that will make them competitive in the labor market regardless of whether they choose to go to University.

Plans are in the works to establish a GoFundMe page in order to keep up with supplies for the computer lab moving forward – you know, things like replacement ink cartridges for the printer, paper, etc. We’ll let you know when that is ready to go should you wish to help there too!

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