Last month, OLPC Oceania shared a summary of David Leeming’s recent XO workshops for 12 schools across Oceania. The Oceania and rural Australia deployments continue to be a model for efficient, distributed, small-school programs. (Hat tip to Mike Hutak.)
The Bank of the South Pacific (BSP) this week became OLPC Oceaniaâ€™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.
OLPCâ€™s Regional Director for Oceania, Mr. Michael Hutak, thanked BSP for its generosity and welcomed the partnership as a breakthrough for Pacific education. â€œWith BSPâ€™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.â€
BSP Group Chief Executive Officer Mr. Ian B. Clyne said the new partnership was a perfect fit with the Bankâ€™s corporate social responsibility goals and would broaden the reach and impact of the BSP Childrenâ€™s Foundation, complementing programs such as BSPâ€™s widely-praised BSP School Kriket program. The partnership continues BSPâ€™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 BSPâ€™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.
Niue, a small island nation in the Pacific, became the first country to provide one laptop per child, over two years ago. At the time, OLPC Oceania was just taking shape; since then, another 8000 children and teachers have implemented programs across the Pacific.
Last week Niue’s acting Director of Education, Lisimoni Togahai, said that although the first two years went well, they were phasing out the program. “The school could not afford to pay for the high cost of maintaining the V-SAT thatâ€™s connected to the satellite for the internet access.”
Niue supported child ownership, and children there take their laptops home and keep them when they graduate. About half of the 500 XOs deployed belong to students who are still in the school system. While schools may be phasing out their subsidized connectivity, the children can use their XOs elsewhere. The country has abundant free wifi – it was touted as the first “Wifi nation” in 2003 for the availability of wifi in all of its cities.
Michael Hutak, coordinator for OLPC Oceania, has been in touch with them hoping for further background. He recently posted a summary of lessons learned so far from Pacific pilots. An excerpt:
* There is country-level demand and political and community support for OLPC in the Pacific;
* Small pilots provide an insufficient evidence base for policy makers;
* Monitoring & Evaluation should be integrated at the outset of an OLPC programme;
* Broad-based regional technical assistance is needed to aid country capacity building;
* Laptops and hardware peripherals should be centrally maintained in the region to efficiently support trials;
* There is suppressed demand for internet connectivity in rural and remote schools.
Oceania continues to be a model for solid deployments. The Marshall Islands project has a clear project document and technology plan, and is moving steadily towards implementing them. Last week the national team held an educators workshop with teachers from across the region, and Mike Hutak and Ian Thompson.
Acting Minister of Education Mattlan Zackhras encouraged all teachers to take advantage of the workshop so that everyone in the islands could benefit from the program. As he said at the opening ceremony,
“By bridging the digital divide to an inclusive global community, our students here in the islands can share ideas with other students in the Pacific and from around world“.