Over the Christmas holidays we received an email from Julien Marin. He wanted to tell us about the Malinux Télé project, which he founded a year ago in Mali in West Africa, and to reach out for concrete help from the Raspberry Pi community.
As a volunteer for a Malian children’s charity, Julien had observed a problem that we’ve seen in various guises elsewhere: a computer is seen as far too precious to let children use it, even if it has been donated, and this is especially true for organisations taking care of disadvantaged children. Televisions, however, are much more common devices, and most childcare settings in Mali have a TV that children can use. This means that Raspberry Pi offers a way to bring educational software where isn’t possible to bring conventional computers.
Malinux Télé devices include a Raspberry Pi with the Malinux Télé operating system, a specially designed fork of Raspbian that bundles educational software, offline copies of resources such as Vikidia (a wikipedia-like encyclopedia for children), and activities allowing children to practice reading in both French (Mali’s official language) and Bambara (the children’s native language). It’s configured to display correctly on an analogue TV connected via the Raspberry Pi’s composite video port, as well as to make using the device as simple as possible for people who haven’t had much practice using computers or controlling a mouse. The Pi and SD card are enclosed in a wooden case made by artisans in Mali, designed to stop SD cards from being too easily removed and ending up in children’s mobile phones! 75% of the population of Mali have no mains electricity connection, and this set-up can be powered by alternative means such as solar panels.
So far, Malinux Télé has donated devices to 40 local non-profit organisations carrying out activities with disadvantaged Malian children, and they intend to continue doing so. Julien suggests that, since the arrival of Raspberry Pi 2, there must be some older Raspberry Pi 1 Models B and B+ “sleeping in some closets”:
These are just perfect for the Malinux Télé project: suitable cables can be found in the local market. We decided to ask people for donation of unused Pis so they can have a second life making the malian children happy with the Malinux Télé project.
We were really glad that Julien got in touch to let us know about Malinux Télé: it’s an excellent, simple idea that makes the most of the work and resources of existing local organisations, and we hope that you’ll like the fact that there’s an easy, concrete thing you can do if you’d like to help. If you have an old Raspberry Pi that’s sitting around gathering dust, consider giving it a new lease of life in Mali.