OLPC to begin in October in Fiji

The Cabinet in Fiji has approved the Ministry of Education’s ‘One Laptop per Child’ program, scheduled to begin in October according to the Fiji government online portal.

The Cabinet agreed that funding will be provided to facilitate two phases of the project. The Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Minister for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts, Mr Filipe Bole.

The Pacific Island Countries Ministers of Education agreed to implement the OLPC project in 2007. In 2008, pilot programs began in Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, PNG and Vanuatu. The project aims to bridge the digital divide at the Primary School level as it involves children aged 6 – 8 years old.

The Minister announced that 800 laptops will be donated by the Bank of South Pacific (BSP).  The first phase of the project will be in Papua New Guinea, with three demonstration schools in the Suva area. These schools are Draiba Primary School, Nabua Sanatan Primary School and the Navesi Primary School. The schools will begin the project in October of this year.

The Minister for Education, Filipe Bole, said the program will expand to 30 schools in 2013.
“By the end of next year, we hope to have all primary schools participating in the One Laptop Per Child program. After that we will move to secondary schools,” Mr Bole said.
“This is part of Government’s efforts to reform education for all students. The Government wants to keep students at school so that they can complete their education.”

The Minister said that the project intends to promote a cultural and educational network, bringing officials from the culture, education, media and information and communication technology (ICT) sectors together to foster the inclusion of culture in education.

He said that the project compliments and enhances other ICT in Education initiatives and will help develop 21st century computer and IT skills in Fijian students. This will greatly contribute to making Fiji a Knowledge-based Society.

Bank of South Pacific donates 1000 laptops to Pacific children

The Bank of the South Pacific (BSP) this week became OLPC Oceania’s lead private sector partner in the region.

OLPC Oceana and BSP are announcing a strategic partnership to advance South Pacific education. As its first act in its role of Lead Private Sector Partner for OLPC Oceania, BSP is donating 1000 XOs to children in three OLPC project schools in the Solomon Islands and Fiji. In coming months, BSP plans to provide more support for children in Papua New Guinea as it spearheads private sector support for OLPC.

Surfing the Net in the Solomons

OLPC’s Regional Director for Oceania, Mr. Michael Hutak, thanked BSP for its generosity and welcomed the partnership as a breakthrough for Pacific education. “With BSP’s strong corporate leadership in the Pacific, its regional branch network and its strong commitment to community participation, we look forward to a long and effective partnership, not just to our mutual benefit but to the advancement of Pacific education.”

BSP Group Chief Executive Officer Mr. Ian B. Clyne said the new partnership was a perfect fit with the Bank’s corporate social responsibility goals and would broaden the reach and impact of the BSP Children’s Foundation, complementing programs such as BSP’s widely-praised BSP School Kriket program. The partnership continues BSP’s commitment to Pacific development and follows a recent Fiji$100,000 donation to emergency relief efforts following the devastating floods in Fiji.

As Lead Private Sector Partner, BSP will join the regional initiative OLPC Oceania, which is a coalition of national governments, educators, donor agencies, academia, the private sector, civil society and community organizers, all working to assist Pacific Island countries to establish the OLPC concept in schools. Mr Hutak said BSP will bring much-needed private sector expertise and know-how to the Pacific initiative.

Currently there are OLPC projects running in 10 Pacific countries, with approximately 10,000 laptops being used by children in 50 schools. Across the globe, OLPC has distributed over 2.4 million laptops to poor children in 40 countries.

Some 200 laptops donated by BSP’s Children’s Foundation will be deployed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in the Solomon Islands in remote Marovo Lagoon, the site of the first Pacific OLPC project in 2008. The remaining 800 laptops with be distributed in two demonstration schools in Suva, Fiji, in partnership with Government of Fiji and the University of the South Pacific. The schools will be where Fiji’s teacher and technical training will occur. BSP plans to promote the establishment of similar demonstration schools in Port Moresby and will work with the PNG Govt, the World Bank and other partners to scale up OLPC in PNG.

BSP has also agreed to facilitate the collection of public donations to OLPC Oceania projects, both online and through its branch network.

OLPC Oceania teams up with University of the South Pacific

Mike Hutak, OLPC Oceania director, signed an agreement with the University of the South Pacific this week, committing to work together to further research and teacher training on 1-to-1 Computing in the region.  Mike commented on the handover in Fiji:

USP is the leading teacher training institution in the region with campuses in all 10 Pacific countries where there are OLPC projects. Governments and ministries of education will now have access to the best minds in the region for their country to using the XO laptop in the classroom. And at the Japan Pacific ICT Centre, they will now have access to the best facilities too.

Mike: thanks for the update!