OLPCorps Carnegie Mellon/Teachers' College/Williams College Kenya

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Letter of Support from local partner Education Without Boundaries: Media:olpc_kenya.doc

Update: Skunkworks-Mombasa, a local ICT group, has agreed to be a local partner. See Project Management and Technical Details.

Update-2: LitWorld, an international literacy organization with experience in Kenya, has agreed to be a partner. See Project Management and Literacy.

Team Members

Technical Lead: Nick Doiron, Carnegie Mellon University

Pedagogical Lead: Ariella Goodman, Teachers' College, Columbia University

Logistical Lead: Claire Hsu, Williams College

OLPCorps Proposal

Problem Definition

Computer education remains absent from the educational experience of the children of Magongo, Kenya. All of the grades in the three public primary schools in the area (Bomu, Mwijabu and Kwahola) have no computer education. There is only one Internet café in the area, but there are too few computers for the amount of children interested in taking computer education classes.

Breadth and Scope of the Problem

The problem seems to be pervasive among the three public schools in the area. Although families generally do see the benefits in computer education for children, they cannot afford the costs of training at the local Internet café. The local community does realize that computer education can in fact transform the educational experience of young students. Therefore, this program will focus on primary school children, which is the group on which computer science education is bound to have the most decisive impact.

Gravity of the Problem

Children in primary schools are not only receiving poor quality education, they are also not learning basic critical thinking skills, structures of knowledge, and are constantly seeing no purpose in a system of certified education that can ensure no job security.

Program Goals

This program seeks to foster the learning skills that can be developed through computer education (but that can be applied to all academic and non-academic disciplines) by opening a computer classroom in the Mombasa Olympic Youth Organization’s (MOYO) community center, which is located just a few steps from Bomu Primary School. Bomu is the largest of them, with a student population of over two thousand and less than thirty teachers who must teach with less than 4 students per textbook. With few resources to achieve the national standards for education, children in Magongo need desperate assistance to learn the material to pass their courses. We shall use OLPC's XO laptops to supplement the knowledge attained by students in the classroom so that they may be prepared to take the Kenyan Primary School Exams.

Duration of the Program

Our goal is to sustain this program throughout the expected 5-year lifespan of the laptops. As laptops break down, they will be stored and used for replacement parts on the other laptops. Members from the local partner will be trained to troubleshoot, report problems, and safely replace parts on XOs.

Breadth and Scope of the Program

Location: The project will take place at the Mombasa Olympic Youth Organization’s community center, which already has electricity and Internet access.Bokey Glad's House

Frequency: Four times a week. A member of the Mombasa Olympic Youth Organization shall receive training to conduct four classes a week, with each class instructing 20-25 students.

Number of Students: Between 80 and 100 will enroll in the program each session. This is an arbitrary number, since once the program grows in popularity more children will enroll. But for the first few months of the program, it is a fair educated guess. We expect each session to last approximately one semester, with a new set of students being instructed during the 1st semester, the 2nd semester, and the summer vacation.

Program Outputs

Targeted skills

This program will seek to make the children who enroll in the program:

  • Learn basic computer skills;
  • Supplement their classroom learning so they will be prepared to excel on the Kenya Primary School Exams.
  • See the value of learning through an immediately gratifying learning environment, in which they will be able both to play and acquire new knowledge and skills;
  • Feel accompanied by their tutors, and feel comfortable to learn in a hostility-free and very friendly environment.

Project Management:

Participating Organizations: Education Without Boundaries (EWB) [1], MOYO, OLPC and the Bomu Primary School.

  • EWB will provide supplementary funds and project management. Letter of Support from EWB: Media:olpc_kenya.doc
  • Fredrick Achola, the director of MOYO, will provide on-the-ground support by providing the space for the program, overseeing instructors, and assessing program effectiveness. MOYO shall also hire instructors who shall undergo training in computers.
  • Skunkworks Mombasa will be a local technology partner, providing technical assistance for the program and inspiring the students to learn about technology's applications in Kenya.
  • LitWorld has offered to help with defining a curriculum to develop a literacy program for the students.

Type of Program

The program combines a training component (the computer education workshops per se) and a creative application component.

Training Component: The instructor shall conduct four workshops once a week for two hours each session. The teacher will provide computer science education for two age groups (grades 1-3 and 4-6). The training component shall last for the first 1.5 months, with students learning typing skills, Internet usage, and blogging.

Creative Application Component: For the remaining 2 months, students shall apply these skills into creating a blog that shall be shared with sister primary schools in the United States. Students will be able to blog about topics of interest (school, family, health, sports). The sister school program shall be arranged through EWB. Students will form pen pal relationships and perhaps video chat with the center's existing computer. The hope is that this communication will initiate cross-cultural learning.


Transportation: JFK-KGL-MBA roundtrip $1900 x 3 $5700
Accomodation: MOYO Community Center $0 $0
Food $100 x 3 $300
Classroom Equipment $1900
20 desks and benches $300
Electricity extension $300
Internet extension $300
Padlocked Locker $100
Internet and electric services $900
Instructor salary $100/month x 12 $1200
Instructor training $900


Project Ideas

Writing Independently and Collaboratively

Writing independently helps students develop confidence in their language skills. Students will be encouraged to write to present their ideas and tell about their experiences and dreams for the future. Students would also collaborate on reports for valuable teamwork skills.

A collection of writing tutorial videos and articles, including eHow will be a resource for students and instructors.


Connections have been made with appropriate schools in the United States. Students at these schools would be paired with a Kenyan student of the same age. An existing desktop computer at the local partner may be used for a video chat between pen pals.


The XO Laptop's Record application, combined with writing and blogging skills, allows students to become journalists. Students would conduct interviews and report their findings in their blogs.


A digital library interface will embed audiobooks from LibriVox side-by-side with their text from Project Gutenberg. The students will also have access to modern e-Textbooks and collections of interesting and useful content to suit the project's needs.

LitWorld has agreed to be a partner and will be instrumental in developing a curriculum and supporting students' literacy.


A "community map" can be made with collaborative use of the Paint application to make map sections. Students can then embed photos and written descriptions (placemarks) onto the map canvas. The goal is not to make an "accurate" map, but a fun and creative project to share their community with the outside world, while being introduced to mapping technology. Find out more about uses of maps and mapping in Kenya.

Technical Details

  • Free and/or open source software will be used. Local partners will be aware of the value of open source.
  • Our technical lead has an XO laptop, has experience programming it, and can program and test before deployment
  • Update: Skunkworks Mombasa, a group of local members of the ICT community, has offered to assist the program
  • Update: Deitel, Inc will donate programming textbooks.
    • Instructors and volunteers with ICT experience will be trained to develop laptop applications.
    • Appfrica.net notes: "If you're a developer in Africa then you know Python is one of (if not the) choice language here for web and mobile application development."
  • For blogging, considering Maneno - a platform targeted for Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Small page size for rapid XO browsing, even with a slow connection
    • Good reviews
  • Any custom web applications will be hosted on Google AppEngine
    • Free hosting of 500MB and around 5 million pageviews a month (well over our needs)
    • Open to share site with other OLPCorps teams
    • Python source code would be made available
  • The Mapping project would be handled with a custom tile set in the Google Maps API
  • XO-adapted video player and search with YouTube API - example
  • Audiobooks from LibriVox will be OGG, embeddable and playable in Browse.