Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My First Lecture

One of the opportunities that has turned out to be really rewarding here in Rwanda has been the chance to give a few lectures at one of the local universities. I first made contact with Emile Bniz back in the states via SMSMedia, where he is working on an interesting project involving cotton ginners in Tanzania. Only after arriving in Kigali did I find out he was also a professor of computer science at the Kigali Independent University. After talking a bit, he asked if I might be willing to give a lecture or two, as there is a dearth of experienced software engineers in the country from which to learn from. I immediately jumped at the chance, as I love teaching and doing so here sounded like a lot of fun.

After talking to Emile and some of the students, we agreed that doing a very practical lecture on web technologies would be the most valuable. Although the students have taken courses on HTML, they have never really built a site and put those skills to practical use. Even without the financial barrier of getting a host for a website, nobody has credit cards so getting one is difficult. We decided that showing the students how to get a free host, then walking them through uploading files and editing the content would be a great enabler for them.

I am happy to report that the first lecture today was met with very positive reviews. It was a lot of fun working with the students and seeing them get excited over how they too could build their own websites. Although there were some technical issues with the computer lab the university, we covered a ton of material over five hours and they seemed engaged throughout. Personally it was something I got a real kick out of, both because I could be my usual goof ball to entertain people and because I could speak intelligently to their questions and felt like I was really giving them an opportunity to learn from someone who had done it.

But I really have to give all the credit to Emile. He is a shining example of the type of person that Rwanda seems full of, people that are motivated to make a difference and who are taking positive steps in bringing the country to the next level. He did all the legwork to get permission to do the lecture, organized the students, found a good topic and of course wrangled me into doing it. All this for no benefit to himself, just his students. He has a great attitude about him and it has been inspiring working with him, hearing his ideas and seeing him interact with the students. He cares deeply about his country and its future, that much is clear.

I'm giving a second lecture tomorrow to the same students, this time on a bit more advanced topics, and although I still have to put together 60 slides for it, I just can't wait.


  1. Awesome Nic! Just awesome. That is a fantastic opportunity. What's the next topic?

  2. I'm floored that blogger still says "1 comments" by the way.

  3. I noticed that too, isn't that weird?