South Africa: Building grassroots support for access to a modern education

As noted last week, Jackie Lustig has compiled a report from our South African projects. It draws on background data from the country, and highlights work done there over the past four years.

Starting with a gift of 100 laptops from donors on Boston, and expanding through the interest of a number of OLPCorps projects in 2008, South Africa has expanded its OLPC community to almost 1500 students and teachers today.

OLPC South Africa case study, 2008-2012

(This is an 8MB pdf, so may take a moment to load)

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.

A classroom in São Tomé e Príncipe

It’s 8am on Saturday morning, and 100 students and five teachers sweat in a single classroom. Most likely, there is no energy today, but with luck, students come to class with their computers fully charged from another neighborhood. In a concrete room with one door, the students spend hours working on their bright green XOs. The sounds: typing and talking.  And laughter.

Students working on XOs outside in Sao Tome

Students working on XOs outside in Sao Tome

This is the scene in São Tomé e Príncipe, a two-island nation of about 160,000 off the west coast of Africa, near Gabon and Nigeria, at the São João Secondary School. The school received 100 XOs in the summer of 2009 through an OLPCorps team of students and professors from the University of Illinois.  It now runs XO classes for its sixth grade students with help from Beth Santos and a local organization called STeP UP (São Tomé e Príncipe Union for Promotion).  The XOs at the school are  quite popular – the program has been covered by local and national news networks.  You can see pictures of the project and find other São Tomé-related links at the Sao Tome Blog.

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Newsletter, take 2: update for January 25

The latest issue of the new OLPC newsletter is out. I’m trying out different layouts for an archive, including having select past stories show up each week at the end.

As always, feedback on design and story selection are welcome. Current requests include a way to browse the newsletter online without leaving some sort of story navigation (with some sort of floating TOC?)

For the early-Feb edition we will try to gather & discuss stories and images in advance in the OLPC newsroom.  Please submit your muck-raking, globe-trotting, xo-loving ideas and links there.

January 25, 2010
About the OLPCorps program OLPCorps 2010:

apply now

2010 Internships: in Rwanda, Paraguay, and Peru Summer and year-long internships available
OLPC for Haiti Support relief efforts in Haiti OLPC in rural Peru New video:

XO is for Hope

2010 OLPCorps opportunities available

We’re incredibly excited to announce the 2010 OLPCorps program.  This year, university students and young adults will have opportunities to support OLPC deployments in one of five regions: Haiti, Mali, CamerounAfghanistan, and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Installing solar panels

Installing solar panels in Kenya with OLPCorps

We saw the passion and skills of university students in our 2009 Corps program, and restructured it to extend the program and focus on a smaller number of countries.  This will allow applicants to make a bigger contribution to our mission of creating educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children.

OLPCorps applicants must now commit to a full year, and applications are open to college students and young adults over the age of 18. We’re looking for passionate people who can work independently in challenging environments. Participants will engage in capacity building projects ranging from technical infrastructure support and local software design to advocacy, classroom assistance, administration, and strategy design.  Successful applicants will receive a stipend.   You can apply for the Corps online now.

For students looking for opportunities in established OLPC deployments or for shorter periods of time, applications for this year’s Internship Program are also available.

OLPCorps in Rwandan schools, Part 3: EPAK and Kicukiro

This is final part of a 3-part series on the initial learning workshops in Kigali, Rwanda,  focusing on EPAK and Kicukiro schools.

EPAK is located in Kigali. The school has a total of 420 XO laptops, 350 were given by the government; another 70 laptops were given by international humanitarian organization, Right to Play. There are 680 students and 15 teachers. So that each student at the school has access, students in the morning  session will share their laptop with students in the afternoon session. Laptops were first dispersed during the OLPCorps training. 15 OLPCorps members and Paul Commons, Reuben Caron, and David Cavallo of OLPC led the distribution and training sessions.

On day one, the team prepped by discussing a variety of issues which were likely to emerge, such as language barriers, how to address concerns of integrating the laptops into the curriculum, etc.  Teams touched upon each issue individually and designed approaches based on this discussion.  For language, a majority of the translation was led by Kaçandre Bourdelais from Laval University.  However, during the individual training sessions, French speakers were assigned to a separate teacher to manage translation. The training provided mostly individual attention on programs that teachers wished to explore in more depth.  Teachers varied in the activities they explored, from Measure and Scratch to Turtle Art.  Later that afternoon, the same teachers were seen explaining what they had learned to their students and how they’ll have the same opportunity the following week.

Day two began by reflashing and NAND blasting several hundred laptops before distribution–only to find out halfway though that the image file was corrupt.  As a result, the majority of the morning was spent installing the latest build.  By lunch time, however, all EPAK’s classes had laptops.  One particular lesson Corps teams took from this experience was the variety of teaching styles carried out in the classroom.  Some teachers, like P1, preferred more strict, instructional techniques, a few teachers valued individual exploration, and others attempted group work.  Unfortunately, unexpected power issues at the school forced us to stop by late afternoon.

Kicukiro Primary School is located in Kigali. There are a total of 3242 students, 44 teachers and 780 laptops. These laptops will be distributed after July holidays, so that each child has access, the Headmaster has decided that each classroom will have 20 laptops per classroom. The headmaster Felix says that “kids left their old schools to come here because they heard we would have laptops.”

OLPCorps students working with teachers at Kicukiro Primary School (Photo courtesy Michael Stein)
OLPCorps students working with teachers at Kicukiro Primary School (Photo courtesy Michael Stein)

Language was the main hurdle here.  More photos and conclusions after the jump.

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