OLPC Pakistan, Report 3

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Atlas Public School may be History, but OLPC’s is Making the Children’s Future!

Equipped with their OLPC’s; at home, on the road, while traveling, playing and at work, the former students of Atlas Public School, have shown their enthusiasm to keep learning despite the odds. The grilling heat and continuous power failures here in Pakistan, make it difficult for even the best of us to work and think in air conditioned rooms. The story for the slum dwellers who mostly live under the poverty line, is quite different. Hot or cold, these poor people are forced to work for their livings. Every individual must contribute to the family’s income for them to survive. Such is the case of the former students of the Atlas Public School. Their hunger for knowledge is the same as their hunger for food. Yet they strive to make ends meet. And they strive to keep learning. Last week we reported that our first Pilot Project, the Atlas Public school was shut down by the owner of the building as he was unable to cope up with the expenditures being incurred. The news was disturbing for the children as well as the entire OLPC team. However, when we sought out the children of the school, we were pleased to learn that the children had taken the initiative to create an OLPC XO Club. With or out without a building, learning with the OLPC was on! This week we dedicated another day to these children in order to guide them, tutor them and observe changes in their behavior. We also attended another session of the XO Club Meeting.

Observations:

The day began with the children setting out for work in the morning, each heading for their respective jobs.

Some of these kids sell fruits and vegetables in a nearby market, while others rummage through junk yards in search for recyclable materials.

We worked and talked to them between work breaks as the day progressed. The kids had many questions which we answered. They showed us the things they had learned. Their behavior and talk was a sure indication of the importance of the OLPC in their lives. The OLPC has been serving more than a just a learning tool, it’s become a factor for social change. The OLPC children engage in positive learning activities, when ever possible. The level of conversations has risen not only between their peers, but also in their interactions with their friends and family members.
Heading for the meeting

The impact on this community at large also needs to be mentioned here. During evening Jirgas (Local Community Center Meetings) sessions are held where the adults use the children’s XO and try to benefit from the learning tools available on it, thus the OLPC has triggered Adult learning. Parents are pleased that their children have been provided with the rare opportunity of learning. At home the siblings share the XO and are thus benefiting. The environment within homes is witnessing a gradual change. It is indeed a pleasant change with a renewed motivation to learn and smiles all around.

During the XO Club Meeting, the children shared the wonderful things they can do with their laptops with their friends. The club meeting is not only a learning session but has also become a showcase of talent. The children strive to learn and thus impress each other with the various things they can do with their machine. This has created a healthy competition amongst the members and participants to excel and outshine. The meetings are light and fun. The kids showed us and each other picture albums they had created with their XO’s of all the interesting events that take place during their day. The pictures are helpful in indicating what’s important to these children and how they perceive things.

Conclusion:

With or without a school building, learning with the OLPC has continued. It’s created a major impact on the lives of these children who have begun to display great potential. The enthusiasm to learn and to seek knowledge is great and can be found not only on the children, but the adults as well. Thus the OLPC is serving not only as a learning tool, rather its becoming a factor for social change. Despite the setbacks, the changes are positive and extremely encouraging for us all.

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