Stories from Eshibinga Primary I: Why Sugar?

A great stories from Eshibinga, Kenya, last year:

In April Mr. Juma came to Eshibinga to teach us on how to use an xo laptop. His teaching is helping us now. We got two new computers today. Then our teacher Mr. Peter told us to remember some of the things we were taught.

I just remembered one word. Sugar. We were told that sugar is the operating system for the XO. It organizes the systems that run the clock, activates the Activities, and store the Journal entries. The Terminal Activity runs text-based commands for your XO instead of the Sugar graphical commands.

What nobody has told us is , why did they name it sugar? Why not give it a name like coffee, or milk or water?

Please tell me?
Mary, Eshibinga Primary

OLPC Rwanda Report: Transforming society through access to modern education

As we mentioned yesterday, OLPC Rwanda now has an excellent project summary (pdf) online. It covers the first three years of the national initiative and the related development of Rwanda’s primary schools.

The report captures the spirit and challenges of country-wide change. It addresses the major phases of the project, and the background in government policy and vision, without diving into too much detail.

 

A recent teacher's workshop in Rulindo, Rwanda

A summary, to whet your appetite:

In 2000, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda established 20-year objectives to transform the country into an industrial/service-based economy. This VISION 2020 plan specifies short-, medium- and long-term goals with measurable indicators of progress.

The plan relies on six pillars, the second being human resource development & a knowledge-based economy, and three horizontal areas, the third being science & technology.

In 2001, only one of the country’s 2,300 primary schools had any computers at all.  By 2005, 1,138 schools had at least one PC, 40 schools in Kigali had Internet access, and connectivity was being rolled out to other schools.  Over 1,000 teachers had been trained in computer literacy, from 120 primary schools.

Rwanda announced in January 2007 it would work with One Laptop per Child.  In 2008, it received 10,000 XOs [thanks primarily to our generous donors and the G1G1 program].

In early 2010, the government purchased 65,000 XO laptops so that schools in every school district could begin receiving laptops for P4-P6 students. This purchase was financed by the sale of cellular licenses to Tigo and Korea Telecom, working with the government to extend broadband connectivity nationwide.  They have since purchased another 35,000 XOs, and plan to deploy another 400,000 over the next 5 years. Today the program has a 27-person core team, plus 5 staff from OLPC, working on the project.

The Ministry of Education started with 150 schools, and asked the headmaster and a teacher of their choice to come to Kigali for one week of intensive training. They subsequently spent four days at each school to work with the teachers and students, and one day for community awareness meetings.

Ministry representatives held meetings with local Parent Teacher Associations and local authorities, explaining how laptops would be integrated into the classroom. They also went on radio and TV and write newspaper articles to discuss the project.

 

Parents at a PTA meeting introducing the XO

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OLPC Rwanda takes off

Update: the OLPC Rwanda 2011 report is out!

OLPC Rwanda (twitter) has grown steadily since its launch a few years ago, and is now part of early education in every school district in the country. Rwanda aims to become a technical and Web powerhouse, and has remained true to that vision. Today they are in some ways the most technically advanced country in the region (to the chagrin of neighboring Kenya, which also hopes to be the hub for software and technology development in East Africa). Rwanda is preparing to double the size of the OLPC project in the country over the coming year, now that they have a smoothly-running system in place.

Happily for us (and for future deployments), the country team has put together a beautiful report on their first three years of work, which will come out tomorrow. It is concise and written for a general audience, with a fine balance of perspectives, from political and financial to the needs of teachers and PTAs.

In related news, Joseph and Erize, the two boys who made their own business cards for their OLPC outreach efforrts in Kigali, saw that we wrote about them on the blog last week, and left comments of their own welcoming questions from all of you. :-)

Rwandan OLPC mentors: students with business cards

Back in May, we held an international Scratch Day event in our office called “Rwandese Kids Scratching their Communities.” This event had local students familiar with Scratch, an interactive programming activity on the XO laptop, planning and holding their own workshop. They taught teachers, family members and anyone else who came how to create Scratch projects.

This day was open to all and many new children found their way into our offices to learn more about Scratch and the XO laptop. Two such boys were Joseph (grade 3, 10 yrs old) and Erize (grade 2, 11 yrs old).

In the months that followed, Joseph and Erize kept coming to our offices (near
their houses) to use the laptops. During this time, they not only mastered use of the laptop, they spread word to their friends, and now help and guide other children who have begun coming to the office. Their homes have become popular places with family and friends coming each night to learn more and use the laptops.

The boys had been reserved and quiet, but are now outgoing and confident. Their English has expanded from a few sentences to conversational in just a few weeks. It is clear their work with the laptop has empowered them. They are so happy to be involved with OLPC, that they have each created their own business card and tell everyone in the neighborhood that they work for OLPC!

Joseph and Erize, on their own, chronicled through pictures an afternoon of themselves and their families at home with their laptops:


Dance Dance Revolution: Madagascar edition

If you haven’t seen it already, take 5 minutes to watch this ridiculously joyful clip from the pilot project in Nosy Komba, Madagascar, supported by OLPC France.

If you have, it’s worth watching again and sharing :-) The lyrics are a popular Malagasy dancing song, carried out with XOs and other props.

OLPC SF Community Summit: October 22-23

The OLPC Community Summit is back for a second year, hosted again by OLPC San Francisco. It promises to be the year’s best rundown of OLPC efforts around the world, large and small.

You can see the schedule online at olpcsf.org, and should register now if you want to attend. Last year was pretty packed!

Rwanda plans international conference on technology in education

OLPC Rwanda has been named to the scientific subcommittee of the International Conference on Technology in Education, organized by the Rwandan Education Ministry and Education Board. The conference will take place in early 2012. Great to hear; let us know when the call for papers is out!

Lesson development in Rwanda

Julia Reynolds describes some of her work with the Rwandan Education Ministry in developing lesson plans, with a joint workshop and some guest presenters from other educational orgs:

In the old currciulum there was basically a list of subjects, but in the new one there is more description on how the lesson can be carried out through learning-centred methods, information on what the students and teacher should be doing and what are the expected outcomes. They also made sure to relate these concepts to Rwandan life.

Rwanda has been doing a lot of lesson plan work over the past year, I hope some of the results will be available to read online.

Children talk about OLPC in Rwanda

OLPC Rwanda, which is planning to expand their OLPC deployment to 160,000 children and teachers by next summer, has been talking more about their work and interviewing those currently involved. Africa Online has been running a series on OLPC over the past two weeks, including a recent article on XO use in schools in Kigali.

Kenyan teachers on strike, XOs and volunteers take over

In rural Eshibinga, Kenya, teacher Peter Omunga has at the Eshibinga Primary School, Kenya, been doing an amazing job sharing his experiences with Sugar and OLPC over the summer. Peter maintains the Eshibinga Digital Village blog, documenting the introduction of IT and electricity in their community. They recently received 2 XO laptops, which he has used to interest his primary students in reading, writing, math, and making videos. He has had help from Fred Juma at the nearby Bungoma pilot school and from global volunteer Sandra Thaxter.

Eshibinga is a rural part of the country that is starting to benefit from solar power centers, but that has very limited access to water, electricity, and healthcare.

The school had been keeping laptops in the principal’s office at night at first, but over the past weeks as a national teacher’s strike has emerged, the students were given the laptops to take care of, and received another two laptops from donors.

Sydney from the school’s IT Club has been writing about what it’s like to study on their own when the teachers are away:

Robert arrived carrying our usual [XO] laptops. They are normally stored at the school office. The principal had sent Robert to pick them from his office. He also had left a note for us. We opened it and read it out aloud. “Make good use of these xo laptops and take good care of them. They may be the only teachers you may see in this school until the government ends the ongoing teachers strike”

Students have been meeting at school on their own with their XOs to study computers and practice writing and videotaping their own stories (and considering what it means to share a personal journal with others). And one of their teachers has been maintaining a blog about their work this summer, and is with them at school, helping them learn despite the strike.

Nkubito Bakuramutsa on Rwanda’s school vision for the future

OLPC Rwanda lead Nkubito Bakuramutsa was interviewed recently by Matthew Stein of The Independent, about Rwanda’s plan for wiring and revolutionizing its school system, and how OLPC fits into it. He explains how his program ties into the national plan for schools, and the Rwandan goal to become a center for IT consulting in the region and the country developing internal expertise in all ICT needs.

He also notes that all of the Rwanda’s border posts will be connected directly to an Internet backbone by the end of this year, which is expected to reduce broadband costs by 90%.

Rwanda currently has 100,000 OLPC laptops in primary schools, and aims to provide them to all primary schools in the country over the coming 6 years. As Nkubito says, “We are investing in the future… we need all these skills to be brought into Rwanda, and primary school is really the foundation.”

Rodrigo visits Kagame, commends Rwandan progress

Rodrigo Arboleda spent four days in Rwanda last week with country lead Nkubito Bakuramutsa, visiting new OLPC deployments there and meeting with President Kagame and Rwandan ministers of education. He commended the Rwandan deployment’s progress so far, and the country on its focus on education as a “consolidation of peace and prosperity”.

Rwanda is the largest OLPC deployment outside of Latin America. 65,000 students and teachers have their own XOs, and another 100,000 are scheduled over the coming year.

New OLPC Rwanda site

OLPC Rwanda has recently spruced up their website, including a list of documents they use for running classes with XOs, and links to their active local blogs.   They’ve also started their own twitter stream – where you can follow Rodrigo’s current visit with Kagame and the national team.   You can sign up to volunteer from afar, and can leave them feedback via twitter, or on Julia’s or Rwagaju’s blogs.

 

Princeton-Engineers Without Borders collab grows in Ghana

Separate from the national program being rolled out in Eastern Ghana, Princeton University has a student-run Ghana School Library Initiative which is building a physical library in Ghana stocked with books and OLPCs.    This program started in 2008, and is one of three projects coordinated by the Princeton University chapter of Engineers Without Borders. They shared an update with East Coast OLPCers this Spring, and have been writing about their new milestones this summer, as the library nears completion.

 

After some work earlier this year to repair and update some donated XOs, children have started working with their own laptops at the EP Basic school in Ashaiman, Ghana, where the team is working. They recently completed a week of physical construction and two classes a day with the students.   The classes included working on educational activities with the children in Sugar, “to whet their appetites” to use the XOs more on their own.

Rwanda adds laptop security, gets new XO-1.5s

Rwanda is rolling out a software and firmware update to the students and teachers in their current schools, as they prepare to deploy a new batch of XO-1.5s as they approach their 100K milestone.   Project lead Nkubito Bakuramutsa gave a few interviews about the process, which started two weeks ago in southern Rwanda.

The security update may also give them a chance to reflash their current machines to XOOS 11.2, which has improved solar charging performance and overall power management along with many speed and interface improvements.

The planned expansion of their program will make Rwanda the largest OLPC deployment outside of South America, surpassing even the US and Mexico.

A trek across Africa to support students

Tamin-Lee Connolly plans to travel from South-to-North across Africa, ending in the middle-east, visiting schools and helping to deploy laptops along the way. She may even bring some of her own. Today she begins her travel by flying back to her native South Africa from Dubai, where she has been working, launching a year-long journey by land rover to visit 39 countries. She plans to volunteer for OLPC and perhaps other educational groups along the way, and has been talking to grassroots XO deployments to find those that would benefit from a visit – starting with the amazing team in Kliptown!

If you’re working in Africa, drop her a line on her travel blog, everything except the horn – perhaps you can meet up during her trek.

OLPC Ghana: finally underway in the rural East

OLPC Ghana’s national program, initiated under the last national regime and supported by the Baah-Wiredu Laptop per Child Foundation, was deployed to one large town (the Millennium Village of Bonsaaso), but then was delayed for a year while the new regime reviewed the program.  Recently the rollout of XOs to rural parts of Ghana has continued.

Last week XOs reached a new school in the Suhum Kraboa Coaltar district, as reported by GhanaWeb, along with new furniture for the school. It is unclear from the report, but the laptops there seem to be in a new part the school, in a computer lab. This is unlike the project in Bonsaaso, and not the implementation we would recommend, but it is good to see that school connectivity in rural parts of the country is being revisited as a priority.