OLPCorps MIT Mauritania Kaedi

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Our Vision

We are a team of three undergraduates from MIT who are enthusiastic about the promise OLPCorps holds for the youth of Mauritania. Through a partnership with the Peace Corps, our team aims to introduce a new style of learning to Kaédi, Mauritania. Previously, Mauritian education has depended heavily on memorization of facts and figures with little to no application element. Supplied with XO's, these students will be able to learn through experience and develop skills to launch their future development.

Team Profile

  • Lily Xu (Community Relations Leader) is pursuing a degree at MIT in Environmental Engineering. She is an avid tree-hugger and a promoter for sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. At MIT she is a Tour Guide, a Medical Link, a member of the Undergraduate Association's Committee on Sustainability, the coordinator of MIT's recycling competitions, and engaged in bioengineering research. Lily loves working with children and would be absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to go and interact with the children in Kaedi, Mauritania!
  • Sumi Sinha (Education Leader) is majoring in Biology at MIT while pursuing passions outside academics. On campus, she participates in the Society of Women Engineers, MedLinks (providing medical services for students), Global Poverty Initiative and Greek Life. She is also a mentor at the Edgerton Center where elementary school kids learn science through experimentation. What excites her most about OLPC Mauritania-Kaedi is the chance to work alongside the Peace Corps and the talented girls of the local Girls Mentoring Centers (and also the chance to wear native clothing!).
  • Jack Jester-Weinstein (Technical Leader) is an MIT student majoring in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering. A tinkerer by nature, he is involved in the MIT Electronics Research Society, programs semi-professionally, and spends free time building projects with friends. When not building, he plays in the Wind Ensemble and performs as an Emerson scholar. He also teaches with the MIT Educational Studies Program and volunteers on occasion for the Undergraduate Association's Sustainability Committee projects. Jack enjoys few things more than teaching and technology and would be elated to get the chance to teach tech in Kaedi.

Proposal

We are a team of three undergraduates from MIT who are enthusiastic about the promise OLPCorps holds for the youth of Mauritania. Through a partnership with Peace Corps[[1]] Mauritania, our team aims to introduce a new style of learning to Kaédi, Mauritania. Previously, Mauritanian education has depended heavily on memorization of facts and figures with little to no application element. Supplied with XO's, these students will be able to learn through experience and develop skills to launch their future development.

We have been collaborating with Ginger and William, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), based in Nouakchott who will act as our project liaisons. Matt, an Information & Communication Technologies PCV, will serve as our technical specialist in Kaédi and will receive and store the XO's.

As students will be on break when we arrive, our project will be established as a summer program for interested students. A conference amongst education directors and teachers representing all 17 schools in Kaédi will convene in early April. During this conference, an equitable means to determining which 100 students should participate in the program will be ascertained. Students from the schools come from socially, economically, and ethnically varied backgrounds. Chosen participants will represent the diversity of Kaédi and will be drawn from the fifth and sixth grades. Teachers will also propose learning goals from which our team and local partners can create a curriculum tailored to the needs of the students.

On June 19th, our team will arrive at the Maison de Jeune, a youth center, and initiate a two-day training for the teachers and high school mentors from the neighboring Girls Mentoring Center (GMC). Afterwards, our team will launch the program with games and activities that will familiarize students with the XOs. The remainder of the program will be dedicated to supplementing what the students have previously studied with new dimensions of visual and interactive learning. Guided by OLPC's emphasis on child ownership, the students will be able to bring home their XOs and further investigate their new discoveries. Based on the Peace Corp's experience in Kaédi, the close-knit community fosters an honest environment in which students can be held accountable for their laptops. At the conclusion of the program on August 21st, students will be asked to present their discoveries to an audience of peers and mentors, through which they will demonstrate new avenues of communication and connectivity with the broader world. These presentations will be used to assess the impact of our program, which will strengthen future projects and our sustainability efforts.

Although cyber cafes are available, fees and accessibility limit community usage. We plan to establish and sustain internet access at the Maison de Jeune with the help of the Peace Corps and financial backing from our team. In order to provide sustained support after deployment, we are in the process of receiving recognition from MIT as an official student organization[[2]]. This status will provide seed money through which we can further fundraise to maintain internet access for the laptops. Furthermore, because our team will exist as an organization long after the initial deployment, we will be able to provide logistical and financial support for our collaborators in Kaédi. Our local partners, the Peace Corps, has pledged to ensure the sustainability of the program by supporting teachers and helping to integrate the XOs into the classroom lessons.

The children of Kaédi speak four languages: Hassaniya, Halpulaar, Wolof and Soninké. Our translators will be PCVs and the GMC mentors, who speak both English and the local languages. Prior to deployment, our team will familiarize translating staff with our curriculum, goals, and XO capabilities to further guarantee effective communication.

Our host community uniquely dovetails OLPC's vision with long term sustainability and meaningful application. Furthermore, our partnership with the girl mentors from the GMC strengthens the program by providing academically minded role models for the students. Many girls across Mauritania are married between the ages of 12 and 14. However, exposing students of this age to new technology will provide them with a skill set and learning capacity that makes them valuable members of their communities. Teaching both boys and girls in the same classroom and promoting collaboration will also help reduce gender inequalities. In addition, the XOs will provide incentives to pursue higher education for the students who may otherwise fall through the cracks of the Mauritanian education system.

Partnership

Peace Corps in Mauritania: We have been in contact with Ginger and William, Peace Corps volunteers, located in Nouakchott, the capital city of Mauritania. Ginger is the overall project leader and William is the technical specialist. Our point contact in Kaédi is Matt, the information and communication technology volunteer, who is able to receive our XOs from Nouachott, transport them by car to Kaedi, and store the shipment in either the Girl's Mentoring Center, the library, or the community center.

There are a number of Peace Corps volunteers in Kaédi, including ones who work in the following program areas: girls' education and empowerment, environmental education, information and communication technology, and English education. Our team will be working directly with the Peace Corps' Girl's Mentoring Center which is sustained through the girls' education and empowerment program. There are three types of Girl's Mentoring Centers established in Mauritania, most of these serve high school aged girls because often times high schools are unavailable. Thus, volunteers have been working with these girls for several years. By partnering with these high school girls, our team can benefit from additional mentoring staff while the children can benefit from working with academically motivated older students.

Our team will be working in the maison de jeune, a local youth center. Thanks to the hospitality of the Peace Corps volunteers, our team will be staying with education volunteers Bryan and Kristey with subsidized rent.

Kaédi, Mauritania

Kaédi is a large departmental capital along the Senegal River, approximately 350 km from the Atlantic coast. The majority of the population is Haal Pulaar. The city has approximately 20 thousand inhabitants. There are 17 schools in the region, including 14 primary schools, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school. The country itself is known as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and the majority of the population lives concentrated in the capital city in the north. Half of the population still relies on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood. Two-thirds of the country is Saharan Desert.

Educational System

Much of Mauritania's educational system is hindered by the corruption within the government. Many of the school's resources such as textbooks, pencils, desks, and even food are intercepted by corrupt government officials.

Education for girls is much worse. Fifty percent of the girls enrolled in first grade in Mauritania will not make it to the first year of secondary school. Only 73 out of 1000 girls will get a diploma allowing them to find decent employment. The ability to retain girls in secondary and in higher education is a serious challenge for Mauritania.

One of the country's greatest educational flaw is the welfare of its teacher, who are mostly unhappy due to the disorganization of the educational system. They usually have no say in which teaching positions and communities they are assigned, and thus do not respond well to their teaching assignments.

Power & Electricity

We will budget $1,000 for electricity. Although Kaedi receives electricity, there are major fluctuations in power. Regulators (220V) will be purchased in Nouakchott, Mauritania because they are heavy and inconvenient to ship. Mauritanian households are beginning to install power lines, each of which costs 20,000 um. Further maintenance and the purchase of more lines should be included in the budget. The current rate for electricity is 65 um per kilowatt-hour.

The Peace Corps volunteers have agreed to maintain the electricity when we leave with the backing of our financial support.

Internet Accessibility

Although Kaédi contains a few computers in cyber cafes, internet access is not readily available in the learning community. However, prior to our arrival in Kaédi, our team will have arranged for DSL installation in the school. Our technical support volunteer, Will, estimates the installation begin one month before we initiate the program. We have included cost estimates for modems and monthly airtime fees for the time we will be in Kaédi. The school can connect to a network for about a $150 for installation of a modem and $60 per month charge. We plan on sustaining internet access for one year after our deployment.

Food & Water

Conversion Rate: 260 um : $1

Budget for 3,000 um (ouguiya) per day or $12 per day

Breakfast: Bread = 100 um Butter/jam/cheese = 50 um (per 100 um bread) Coffee = 50 um Coffee with milk = 100 um

Lunch: Restaurant meal = 300-500 um (rice with different sauces - meat, fish, and/or veggies)

Dinner: (bean or meat) Sandwich = 200 um 1/4 Chicken = 1200 um Couscous = 400 um

1 gallon of water per day (include chlorine dioxide tablets and water filters)

Note: Food prices are high because Mauritania imports 80% of its food.

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