OLPCorps University of Victoria SierraLeone
Below is UVic's application for Sierra Leone.
The University of Victoria team consists of Cavan Gates and Rachel Flowers. We intend to distribute laptops in Taiama, Sierra Leone, West Africa from the end of the training session in Rwanda to late August 2009. Firm dates are pending approval and air travel flight times. Taiama is a small, rural village in Sierra Leone, just southwest of the country's center, and on the Freetown-Bo highway. It has no electricity or running water, but is adjacent to a river. The school we are interested in is Ahmadiyya Primary School where most of the students are under 12 and english is the language of instruction. The school was largely destroyed in the ten year civil war and is being rebuilt by our charity partner, the Victoria-Taiama School Project. So far, they built two five classroom structures and a latrine for the five-hundred or so students that attend the school. They recently received preliminary approval for funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to finish and maintain the shool and proposed medical clinic. This will allow them to complete the school as well as sponsor professional development for some of the teachers. Furthermore, they will be able to sustain the laptop deployment after our team leaves because they will be sending volunteers to Ahmadiyya Primary School within the next year for the next phase of construction.
The charity has roots in Victoria and Taiama thanks to Sama family who were sponsored as refugees to come to Canada during the war. Eric Sama went back to supervise the construction of Phase I and II of the school and was able to negotiate the intricacies of the local business system to buy materials at the local rate rather than the foreigner NGO rate. Our local partner, therefore, is both the school, whom we are in direct contact with through the charity, and the Victoria-Taiama School Project itself. Moreover, the school has expressed interest in the program and one teacher in particular is willing to supervise the program directly when the team leaves. He will also be able to provide limited technical support once the team trains him, while the nearby college in Bo can provide in-depth technical support.
Unfortunately, the school breaks for July and August; however, this presents us with the opportunity of working with the children and teachers without disrupting the regular school program. We plan to establish contact with the teachers and children who are interested in the program at the end of June while school is still in session, and arrange for summer training while the school is on break. In talking with our overseas contacts, it is feasible for the students and teachers to attend our summer workshops without disruption. Finally, we are able to pay for accomodations with members of the community.
The Victoria-Taiama School Project combined with Ahmadiyya Primary School have the resources to arrange for pickup and transportation of the laptops from Freetown (the capital) to Taiama where they will be stored in the secure school building. Ideally, the UVic team and laptops would arrive in Freetown within a few days of each other so that we could combine transportation, but there is flexibility to accomodate a variety of arrival dates for the packages. We can then distribute the laptops directly from the school to the children.
The impact of the laptops on the children will be great. Taiama doesn't even have electricity, let alone advanced computers, so this will help to bridge the technology gap between these children and the rest of the country and the world. At the very minimum, the laptops will give the children basic computer skills that they would have no other way of obtaining; moreover, allowing them to compete for higher education and better jobs in Sierra Leone. The optimistic vision is of the children using these powerful learning tools to engage with one another and form a new generation of citizen armed with the tools and knowledge to profoundly change Sierra Leone's post-war society. We hope to offer the children of Taiama a rare opportunity to learn in the most advanced, best way possible by giving them laptops so that they can become both teacher and learner. Sierra Leone’s torn social fabric needs strong youth to heal its war wounds; indeed, by enhancing the educational opportunities in this small village, we see the children becoming strong agents of change.
N.B. There is no electricity in Taiama; therefore, an alternative energy source like solar panels are required.