By Pamela Ofori-Boateng
Open Foundation West Africa (OFWA) has launched a Wikipedia for Schools Programme with the African Science Academy (ASA).
The partnership was initiated by the Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Victoria Coleman of the Wikimedia Foundation, who served as a mentor for the young female students of the Academy.
As a mentor, her role involved encouraging students to take up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) courses at the tertiary level.
Advancing the programme, the students have been enrolled on the Wikipedia for Schools Programme.
The programme installs offline versions of Wikipedia and its sister projects and other educational materials such as (PhET, TED talks, Wikitionary, etc.) through a software called Kiwix.
The program also educates these high school students on how to contribute to Wikipedia and its sister projects in miserly capacities, taking into consideration their knowledge in technology.
In July, the team installed Kiwix on all computers of the school and donated a Kiwix plug to provide access to Wikipedia via an internal wireless hotspot connection (no internet connection).
The Kiwix plus serves the school with Wikipedia since itâ€™s over 60GB and the other mini installations on the other computer serve the other light resources.
Kiwix is an offline version of Wikipedia that allows students without internet access to the Worldâ€™s largest encyclopaedia.
The offline nature of the resources provided met the needs of the school as internet cost and unstable internet connection was a major problem for them.
The Wikipedia for schools program is particularly crucial as unstable internet connection affects studies in many parts of Africa.
According to Scidev.net, about 90 per cent of the population in some African countries live within range of a mobile internet signal, however internet use may be 20 percent or less.
Later in August, the team organised a follow up training on editing Wikipedia. We are currently monitoring progress and providing support to the students and teachers who participated in the training.
What is very unique about this particular Wikipedia for Schools program is the empowerment for these young females from all parts of Africa to pick up this project as part of their community service as required by their school upon graduation.
ASA targets the best and brightest females across the African continent, and grooms them in STEM programs. This school equips such girls for tertiary education and encourages participation in science selected programs at the university.