Latin Business Chronicle champions businesses supporting ed reform, citing OLPC Nicaragua

Gabriel Sanchez Zinny writes about how businesses in Latin America are seeing education reform as essential to local growth, and starting to invest in it.  They make some thoughtful comments about our work with Zamora Teran in Nicaragua and the current work in Ometepe:

In Latin America, education reform – when it has even broken onto the political agenda – has long been seen as a stereotypical battle between the free-market right wing and the powerful, entrenched teachers unions. Now, however, a consensus seems to be growing, with leaders from across the ideological spectrum throwing their weight behind reform. In country after country, Latin American businesses are teaming up with NGOs and governments to deliver better educational outcomes.

In Nicaragua, the influential Zamora clan (one of the “twelve families” that have played an outsized role in the nation’s history) has teamed up with the non-profit group One Laptop Per Child to provide thousands of Nicaraguan schoolchildren with access to the internet for the first time. The Fundacion Zamora Teran is largely funded by the Roberto Zamora-owned Lafise Bancentro – a regional investment group worth over $600 million – and has handed out a total of 35,000 laptops in Nicaragua, with a donation most recently of 5,000 units to the island of Ometepe, making it the “first fully digitized island in Latin America”.

Michele Borba interviews children, parents and teachers in Nicaragua

Dr. Michele Borba, the inspiring parenting and educational consultant who has been working recently with OLPC, travelled to Nicaragua with Rodrigo and the deployment last week for the Ometepe project launch.  She writes, “[We] looked like a mini-United Nations representing Germany, Argentina, Italy, Colombia, Denmark, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Bosnia, South Korea, Belgium, India and the U.S. We were teachers, bankers, doctors, writers, embassy representatives, lawyers, and businessmen, but we all shared a commonality knowing that something immensely significant was about to happen on that Island, and could feel it the moment we walked onto a huge field.

She also visited a school that has been part of an existing OLPC project near Managua for over a year, and wrote about the history of the program there.

The first delivery of XO laptops to Nicaragua was in 2009, and the impact is already evident. Statistics show a 40% reduction in drop-outs, a decrease in retention and in violence. Best yet, parents are starting to come to the schools to be involved in their children’s learning, and the teachers recognize those laptops are affecting their teaching!

I visited a small rural primary school (San Francisco de Asís) outside of Managua using XO laptops since November 2010. There is now full OLPC school saturation. Positive changes are clearly apparent: the parents are more involved in their children’s education; there has been a high increase in school registration; and student learning is increasing, and here’s why.

The teachers were all trained by OLPC and continue with monthly staff development training.

Each computer is equipped with grade-level texts including natural science, geography, geometry, Nicaraguan history and culture, a dictionary, and Wikipedia, books (“Mine has Harry Potter!” one boy exclaimed), as well as programs that encourage children’s creativity, music and art. Teachers report that students are now far more engaged in learning. Parents say their kids are using the computers to continue learning at home.

Over the next hours I observed various teaching lessons using the XOs. Sixth graders working in base teams to learn how to mind-map different types of calendars (Mayan, Greco, Julian). Third graders paired with partners to identify bird species. First graders were learning how to use the XO drawing program and discovering beginning programming skills. Fourth graders were mentoring younger students…

Dr. Borba also spent some time talking to students and teachers outside of class:

[A ten-year old] told me that her computer has “greatly advanced my learning… Yesterday I learned about industrial agriculture. Tomorrow I’ll be giving a presentation in my classroom about farming techniques.” She added that her favorite laptop activity at home is doing research on Wikipedia. Her goal, she said, is to become an engineer. I have no doubt that she will.

The whole story is posted on her children and parenting blog.

Ometepe, Nicaragua: una Mágica Isla Digital

Ometepe, Nicaragua is a legendary and extraordinary place: a double-volcano island that has maintained its community and culture fairly distinct from the country around them. Daniel Drake and others have been helping them realize Nicaragua’s latest deployment (past coverage), thanks to the ongoing work of Fundación Zamora Teran, connecting every child on the island to the Internet and to eachother. After its public launch last week, Rodrigo shared this beautiful and inspiring report from the island (pdf).

En el corazón de Nicaragua, y en medio del lago del mismo nombre, el lago más grande de América Latina, millones de años atrás una erupción volcánica formó una curiosa isla compuesta por dos volcanes, uno de ellos activo aún. El nombre indígena, Ometepe, significa precisamente dos montañas. Con 245 km2, constituye la isla de agua dulce más grande de las Américas. Declarada como una de las maravillas naturales del mundo por la ONU, ciertamente posee cierto aire paradisíaco, tropical, exuberante, mágico, como un set de película. Sus 50,000 habitantes, indígenas en un 90%, vivieron hasta hace menos de una generación en un oscurantismo medieval, una especie de parque jurásico, donde ningún habitante sabía leer o escribir. El día de ayer, en un espectacular y malabárico salto de la rana, Ometepe se convirtió de repente en la primera isla de las Américas totalmente digital, donde el 100% de sus 5,000 niños de escuela primaria y la totalidad de sus docentes, recibieron uno de nuestros laptops XO, conectado al Internet de alta velocidad y con las aplicaciones pedagógicas inherentes.

Llegamos a Ometepe acompañando una comitiva de empresarios no solo de Nicaragua sino de todo Centro América y de representantes de organismos multilaterales, ONGs, medios de comunicación internacionales y funcionarios del gobierno, interesados todos en ver por si mismos lo que la fundación Zamora Teran viene haciendo en Nicaragua.

Fundada por el banquero Roberto Zamora y por su esposa Maria Josefina Teran, han logrado en menos de 30 meses una transformación educacional y al mismo tiempo una buena aplicación del concepto de filantropía transformadora, sin precedentes. De su propio bolsillo y con aportaciones recientes de clientes, personas naturales y hasta de un país, Dinamarca, han logrado ya entregar 28,000 laptops en varias regiones de critica pobreza en este país, de por si uno de los más pobres de las américas. Como si fuera poco, anunciaron que aspiran a implementar 500,000 unidades, es decir el 100% de los niños de primaria de Nicaragua, incluyendo discapacitados mentales (autismo, síndrome de Dawn), discapacitados visuales o físicos (ver foto) antes del 2015! Al ver lo que han logrado en estos 30 meses, no me queda la menor duda de que lo lograrán.


Para llegar a la isla hay que tomar primero un bus por más de dos horas hasta llegar a uno de los varios puertos en las riberas del lago. Luego, un Ferry que tiene varias frecuencias de viaje por día, se tarda otras dos horas para llegar al puerto de Ometepe. Desde la distancia, se vislumbran las siluetas de los dos volcanes como guardianes de un ecosistema de exuberancia tropical que necesita cariñosa vigilancia. Carreteras adoquinadas evocan épocas pasadas y al mismo tiempo entrevén aplicaciones prácticas de adaptación a los continuos movimientos telúricos. Los adoquines son más flexibles y se acomodan ejerciendo una labor de amortiguación cuando la madre tierra manifiesta su vitalidad y fortaleza con unos terremotos como el de 1972 que destruyó Managua. Tierra fértil por ser conformada por cenizas volcánicas, la agricultura y el turismo constituyen las principales fuentes de ingresos de sus habitantes. El clima es un poco más benigno que el de Managua, conocida por su calor asfixiante, pues las laderas de los dos volcanes producen corrientes de aire que refrescan un poco el ambiente.

La paradoja consiste en que los niños de esta población estarían marcados a seguir la suerte de sus ancestros, agricultores artesanales de pequeños minifundios con costumbres milenarias pre-colombinas pero que precisamente dichas culturas estarían en vías de extinción por pura inercia. El traer estas culturas a la modernidad, lejos de acabar con ellas, ofrece una oportunidad de poderlas difundir y compartir, como ya estamos haciendo con casos similares en Mexico y Perú.

Convencidos de que la única solución a ese circulo vicioso destructivo es la educación, el matrimonio Zamora Teran decidió embarcarse en esta misión de rescate de las juventudes Nicaraguenses para lo cual adoptaron el proyecto One Laptop Per Child como vehículo de cambio educacional y de inclusión social y económica.

Meses de preparación previa con los docentes, padres de familia y algunos estudiantes claves, garantizan que inmediatamente recibidos estos laptops podrán comenzar a producir el cambio de paradigma educativo y social buscados.

Varios conceptos básicos hacen esto posible… Continue reading

Nicaragua: Fundación Zamora Terán expands to the legendary island of Ometepe

Fundación Zamora Terán recently expanded the work of OLPC Nicaragua to include the community on the beautiful and legendary Ometepe, an island formed by the two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua.



Teachers play a key role in the use of the XO laptop, incorporating it into daily planning and classroom activities. Maria Josefina Terán Zamora, its founder, said of their new island initiative:

During the past two years, we’ve been working hard to ensure that our OLPC project is one of the best in the world and delivers the maximum benefit to our children. Today we are very happy to include the children of Ometepe and connect them to the rest of Nicaragua and to the world.

The Fundación coordinates and executes XO purchase logistics and installation and provides a high level of technical support. A pedagogical training plan has been developed with the support of a qualified educational team that facilitates the integration of the XO into the existing Ministry of Elementary School Education Curriculum. Schools participating in the OLPC project must meet specific selection criteria.

The Ometepe initiative has been supported particularly by contribution from the LAFISE-BANCENTRO Bank, and brings to 25,000 the number of XOs distributed to children in schools across the country.

You can read the official press release.