Students at a Fijian high school have celebrated the opening of an IT lab built by an RMIT team, in a landmark project that could be replicated across the Pacific island nation.
It was a race against time but David Ferry, a student of the Associate Degree of Information Technology, didn’t let down the 1300 students of Natabua High School when he, supported by a team from RMIT, put the finishing touches on Fiji’s first Microsoft IT Academy just hours before the official launch.
Developed as a result of a partnership between RMIT’s School of Vocational Health and Sciences and the Reach 4 Your Future Foundation – which specialises in promoting IT literacy in the Pacific region – the finished lab will connect staff and students with online education through 50 new terminals and a dedicated server.
“It was exciting to be involved in a project where I could put my IT skills I learned to immediate effect in the real world,” Ferry said.
“It was great that RMIT jumped on board with such enthusiasm, which really improved the success of the project.
“It was rewarding to see that the results of our work at the end of the day had given key players in governments the confidence to fund the IT literacy program across greater Fiji.
“That the Fijian government is now rewriting their educational curriculum to take into account what we have done is just amazing. “
The new facilities are a significant step forward for the school, which had previously been forced to teach ICT classes exclusively from text books.
The journey was a real challenge with memory issues, terminal sessions not terminating, and licensing and registration issues all conspiring to delay the launch.
With some dedicated work, including some very late night sessions, RMIT students were able to get everything working and even provide training to local staff on how to use Microsoft IT Academy.
Graham Timmins, Deputy Head of Business Development, Science and Technology for the School of Vocational Health and Sciences, said: “This kind of project really highlights the hands-on aspects of the Associate Degree in Information Technology.
“It encompassed a huge range of relevant industry skills from physical networking, software and network fault finding and software research to supplying training to both trainers and students.”
To mark the opening of the new lab, an opening ceremony was hosted by the school with major dignitaries including Fijian Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fijian Minister for Education Dr Mahendra Reddy and Australian High Commissioner in Fiji Margaret Twomey.
To show their enthusiasm, many of Natabua High’s 1300 students lined the road leading up to the new facility before joining in the festivities, which featured a presentation on the history of Fiji through dance.
Local media picked up the story, with the opening featured on the nightly television news.
The Fijian Government has also responded positively, pledging $FJD800,000 to roll out computers to more than 100 schools across the country.