This past weekend, OLPC Afghanistan reached Baghlan province, working with the Ministry of Education’s deployment team to provide XOs to 280 children and teachers in grades 4-6 at Firdausi High School. (In Afghanistan a ‘high school’ can refer to any school whose upper grades reach past 9th grade, but can include students in 1st grade as well.) Firdausi becomes the seventh school in the country to take part in the Ministry pilot program. The Ministry is working on plans for extending this early work into full-saturation regional or national efforts.
The Firdausi project will integrate the XOs into the school’s teacher planning and curricula, as well as in after-school projects. They may be used outside of school by families to access training, job information, and resources to develop and improve farms and small businesses.
This pilot rollout was assisted by USAID Afghanistan. At the end of the day, Earl Gast, the national mission director, commented: “These computers are an investment in Afghanistan’s most important resource – its people.”
Since 2008, we have worked with the Afghan Ministry of Education to build capacity for OLPC in Afghanistan. The initial pilots over the past year have been with 4th-6th grade students, in MOE schools and community-based education groups.
OLPC has committed 5,000 laptops to pilots throughout the country, starting with Esteqlal High School in Nangarhar Province’s Jalalabad city. There the program engaged all fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, with a ‘3 phase implementation model’ (below) used by the ministry.
The next project involved five schools in Kabul city. Initial feedback has unfortunately only been measured in terms of standardized test results (in math and literacy), but initial results showed a 20% increase on those tests.
In the coming months, national team plans to include schools in other provinces. They also aim to recruit and train more technical people to help with planning and preparing teachers and connectivity teams for schools across the country.