Christoph Derndorfer recently interviewed Rangan Srikhanta, CEO of OLPC Australia, about their plans for the coming year. An excerpt:
You recently launched a new initiative called “One Education” and received $11.7 Million in government funding… Can you tell us more about these developments?
We pitched to the Australian government to kick-off a pilot for 50,000 XOs… a $20m project that would including funding from schools, corporations as well as from government. The program will also provide at least 15 hours of teacher professional development (via moodle) to over 2,500 teachers [to] kick-start a movement to make OLPC the program of choice for primary school children.
What are the biggest challenges that you need to address before you can turn OLPC Australia’s vision into a reality?
Scaling our operations to meet the demand (2 months ago we were a 2,500 XO an year organisation, now we are proposing to do 50,000 in one year) that will be coming through our very small offices in the next 12-18 months. In Australia there are high expectations for service delivery/support.
Cameroon is about to become an OLPC hub for francophone West Africa! The Islamic Development Bank and OLPC today are announcing a pilot project to connect 51 schools in six regions, deploying 5,000 XOs to primary school children and teachers. The team will also design a program that could extend this deployment across the country in the future. The idea for the program was started back in 2008, and has developed steadily since then, with help from a strong national team.
The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral financing institution: it pools resources and supports economic development and social progress among its 56 member countries, including Cameroon. The Cameroon project represents the first time that the Islamic Development has financed an OLPC deployment, and may serve as a model for other francophone countries in the region. A team from Cameroonâ€™s Ministry of Education has already provided training assistance to an ongoing OLPC project in Mali. Other countries in the region are expected to launch XO deployments in 2012.
Rodrigo Arboleda, announcing the program, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Islamic Development Bank on the financing of projects that support our mutual objective of fostering economic development and social progress. We are seeing tremendous interest in OLPC throughout Africa and look forward to working with both public and private sector partners in a number of countries to launch, expand and support other initiatives in the months ahead.”
Cameroon will be the first country in Africa to receive the ARM-based XO-1.75, which enters mass production this month. These XO laptops have the same sunlight-readable screen and other design features of the previous models, but draw only half the power.
Earlier this week, the municipality of Bluefields in Northeast Nicaragua received 7,500 XOs from the FundaciÃ³n Zamora TerÃ¡n. These were distributed to all primary teachers and children in the rural community, which is a mix of Miskito, Mestizo, Rama, Garifona, and Creole families.
Roberto and MaryJo Zamora, the husband and wife owners of LAFISE-BanCentro bank, founded the Zamora-Teran Foundation last year to train teachers and students involved in the OLPC projects in the country, and to distribute and manage the logistics and telecommunication infrastructure of the project. This is an extraordinary example of a private sector, non-profit entity helping to motivate their country by example, in launching a project like this — and we are lucky to be working with such a skilled and dedicated regional partner.
Students at the handout ceremony
This marks the first regional saturation in the country, in an already remarkable community — they already have a thriving Bluefields forum online covering everything from art to civic development. Nicaragua may well become the next educational success story in Latin America.
In early May, Save the Children‘s State of the Worldâ€™s Mothers 2010 report ranked Afghanistan last among the 160 countries surveyed, in terms of how easy it was to raise children.
While medical care is often limited, and being an infant in Afghanistan poses many risks, it is also a tough place to grow up. Only 52% of primary aged school children are enrolled in school, where classes are often made up of more than fifty students. Despite the extraordinary restoration of public schools and teachers over the past decade, there is still a lack of teachers and school buildings, and children receive an average of 2.5 hours of school a day. That is half of what children in developed nations (OECD) receive.
These numbers reflect a vast improvement from when the Taliban controlled the country – over the past three years, school enrollment has grown from 800,000 students to 4.5 million. But youthful curiosity is not bounded by time spent in school.Â We are working to make sure that, district by district, these children have tools and projects to explore and to experiment with, so they can have time to learn even when school does not have time for them.
A class of Afghan girls at work on their XOs. Photographed by Elissa Bogos
Note: Some information comes from the latest OLPC Afghanistan Briefing Note.