OLPCorps BU WM Stellenbosch South Africa

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OLPCorps: BU, William and Mary, U of Stellenbosch SOUTH AFRICA

Team Members:

Hillary Weimont, MA student at Boston University, International Relations and African Studies
Eric Scalzo, JD student at William and Mary School of Law
David Rock, MA student at the University of Stellenbosch, History
Alexandra Rock, Honours/MA student at the University of Stellenbosch, Economics


Our team consists of four graduate students, all of whom studied abroad in the deployment area and volunteered with our partnering organization. Two of the team members currently live five miles from the deployment site. We believe that our experience in the area and our strong connection to our partnering organization, combined with the team’s faith in education as a tool of empowerment, our motivation to make this project succeed, the determination of the learners at Ikaya Primary, and the support of the school, make our team ideally-suited for the OLPC Program.

The Township of Kayamandi is located just outside of Stellenbosch, South Africa and is home to 32,000 residents, half of whom live in informal housing amidst strained and limited infrastructure. Despite these conditions, there has been a marked investment in youth development initiatives in the community.

The International Student Organization Stellenbosch (ISOS) Kayamandi Project is a student-led volunteer program at the University of Stellenbosch, recruiting nearly 100 international student volunteers every semester. To learn more about the ISOS Kayamandi Project and its programs, please visit www.sun.ac.za/isos.

ISOS has agreed to integrate our OLPC project with the after-school program it runs three days a week at the Ikaya Primary School in Kayamandi. This program is part of a bridging program for seventh-grade learners prior to entering high school; it is a comprehensive after-school program that provides homework help, supplementary educational activities, as well as excursions, snacks and physical activities for the students. The inclusion of the XO laptops in the afterschool program would provide the students with much-needed information technology skills that will allow them to create their own opportunities and to shape their futures as they see fit.

There are 82 learners currently participating in the after-school program. The program is open to all enrolled students who have parental permission to participate in the program. Although the school has sufficient electrical power and internet availability for a computer classroom, it currently has no working computers. While the students are on the older end of the OLPC age spectrum of 6-12, they have had virtually no exposure to computers and would benefit immensely from access to such technology.

During the school holiday, we will work with ISOS to deploy the laptops begin an intensive training program for those students available over the holiday. This intensive training course as well as commitment to the program will be prerequisites for students to be able to take their laptops home, instilling a true sense of ownership for the students. Once school resumes, we will work through the after-school program to continue training, monitor those laptops that have been taken home, and develop lessons, projects, and activities for learners that emphasize the use of the XO. After our team departs, ISOS will ensure the continuation of the program, coordinating volunteers and planning new and innovative projects for students with the aid of a training manual that our team will create for this purpose. The students at Ikaya Primary are native Xhosa speakers, but have been taught English since the fourth grade. There have been no communication issues with English-speaking volunteers in the past. Two of our team members will be living in Kayamandi as part of a homestay established through our local contacts. This will allow us to more fully integrate into the community and more easily engage some of the students over the school holiday.

Our team will be able to ensure the initial receipt and storage of the equipment at the University of Stellenbosch International Office. The University of Stellenbosch IT Department has agreed to provide technical support as needed, and the University has also offered to provide any necessary in-country transportation support and minor additional expenses associated with the implementation of the program.

As future leaders of their generation, these children hold the fate of their community, country, and continent in their hands. Our goal is to expand the educational opportunities available to these students, and this is exactly what OLPC can do for the learners of Kayamandi. By equipping them with the educational tools they need, we can help to foster self-motivated learning and develop in these children a confidence and determination that will help them to achieve their own goals and aspirations.