OLPCorps Cornell Mauritania/Deployment Plan

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Working with Children

  • Our focus is on literacy - using the XO as a tool to improve students skills with the multiple languages (Arabic, French, English) that they need to know in order to succeed in school.
  • We are administering and deploying the laptops through the Girls Mentoring Center (GMC) in Tidjikja
  • School is not in session during the summer. We will work with the students who have volunteered to be a part of this program, Seth is working with the local Students Parents Association about this. Summer classes will be held in the GMC, as PCVs and students are always available.
  • Mauritania will be in the midst of a 2009 election, and most teachers (based on decades of Peace Corp experience) will have abandoned the schools to campaign. Therefore, the Superintendents of schools will be relied upon to select children to participate. The Peace Corps and the Superintendent of Schools have historically had a strong relationship. To the extent possible, PCVs will guide selection of students based on merit.
  • We plan to partner with other Mauritanian deployments to create pen-pal programs.

Local Partner

  • Ginger Tissier heads the GMCs in Mauritania, which are run by Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and are in the process of being handed off to the local community. We will work with the 6 PCVs in Tidjikja, our primary contact there being Seth Luxenberg. Seth has organized an English club and computer club. People are generally extremely interested in computers and constantly ask him for lessons. Long term sustainability of the program is assured through the Tidjikja GMC.

Impact On Grade School Children

  • The children's literacy level is quite low, especially for girls. (51.2% for the total population, and only 43.4% for women). We aim to use the laptops to improve their literacy in both Arabic and English. See this link for an in depth analysis of the issue.
  • According to UNESCO, high literacy rates are "key to enhancing human capabilities, with wide-ranging benefits including critical thinking, ..., children's education, ... and active citizenship." reference

Financial Support

  • Cornell OLPC's members will marshal aid from Cornell, their home communities, corporate and religious sources to raise money for the Tidjikja OLPC deployment.
  • Home Communities
    • Cornell OLPC members are in the process of drafting letters to the editor that will be sent to their local newspapers to raise awareness within their hometowns.
    • We will then embark upon a targeted letter writing campaign, identifying high value personal relationships that are most likely to result in donations.
    • Team members will leverage the contacts they have at corporations they, or people they know, are associated with. Companies often have grant programs to give back to the community.
    • Synagogues and churches, mosques are often socially conscious, and provide scholarship/grant programs. All team members plan to petition their local faith based organization if such programs are offered.


Community Support

  • We have support from the Students Parents Association, and from the local volunteers at the GMC.


  • Students speak hassaniya, an arabic dialect. They are learning French/English, with more emphasis on French
  • Seth speaks semi-fluent Hassaniya, as do all the PCVs.
  • James speaks conversational French.



  • Project Coordinator & Logistics Lead will fly from NYC->Kigali. ($1,182 * 2 = $2,364)
  • Project Coordinator & Logistics Lead will fly from Kigali->Dakar. ($900 * 2 = $1,800)
  • Pedagogical Lead will fly from NYC->Dakar. ($759)
  • We will all take a taxi together from Dakar->Rosso. ($30 * 3 = $90)
  • We will all take a taxi together from Rosso->Nouakchott. ($12 * 3 = $36)
  • Once we have picked up the laptops in Nouakchott & rendezvoused with Seth/Peace Corps, we will hire a car to drive us from Nouakchott->Tidjikja. ($144 for entire car)
  • On the way back, we will take taxis back from Tidjikja->Nouakchott->Rosso->Dakar (in order: $144 + $36 + $90 = $270)
  • On the way back we will not have to hire an entire car from Tidjikja->Nouakchott, but we have rolled the cost of Seth's trip out to Nouakchott the first time to pick us up into the Tidjikja->Nouakchott trip cost on the way back.
  • We have budgeted for one person (most likely Seth) to go back and forth from Tidjikja to Nouakchott once in case we need to pick up emergency supplies (a delayed shipment, extra computer parts if the server should break, etc.) ($40 * 2 = $80)
  • We will then all fly back from Dakar->NYC ($900 * 2 + $759 = $2559) The Pedagogical Lead's flight in/out of Dakar is lower because he can purchase a round trip. We separated out the different legs here so that the timeline of events could be seen more easily
  • Total: $8102.
  • A more easily read budget is available here.


  • We are shipping the laptops to Nouakchott.

Laptop Distribution

  • When we get to the GMC, we will set up the server & wireless network. Then, with the students at the GMC, we will hold a community ceremony at the beginning of laptop distribution to educate the community about who the laptops are for, how and where they will be used, and how they will help the students excel in school. This will plant the seed for community involvement, as well as forestall theft.

Explanation of Food Expenditures

Budget for 3,000um (ouguiya) per day. The going rate right now is: 260um : $1 Per day = 3,000um = $12

Typical meals:

  • Breakfast: bread = 100um butter/jam/cheese = 50um (per 100um bread) coffee = 50um coffee with milk = 100um
  • Lunch: restaurant meal = 300-500um (rice with different sauces - meat, fish, and/or veggies)
  • Dinner: (bean or meat) Sandwich = 200um 1/4 Chicken = 1200um couscous = 400um
  • 1.5 L filtered water bottle = 200um snacks (cookies, milk, etc) = 100um-300um per snack little hard candies = 5um/piece


Flashing the Laptops

  • SD memory cards and or USB memory sticks will be donated
    • Companies interested in donating, contact adg29@cornell.edu
  • Bandwidth is limited in Tidjikja. Hopefully the most up to date version will have been made available before we go out there. That way even if the laptop software is out of date when we get them, we can reflash the operating systems once we get there.

Tidjikja's XO School Server: Capacities

The XO school server will be setup to serve as

  • An educational resource.
    • Educational resources will be preloaded with documentation on how to utilize these resources and how to search and obtain further resources.
      • Wikipedia
      • Internet archive?
      • Creative commons content?
  • A collaborative resource.
    • Moodle's collaboration software will be preloaded.
  • An administrative tool.
    • Filtering functionality is necessary and available.
      • Cornell OLPC will train selected Tidjikja staff to monitor and control the filtering tools.
    • Remote desktop control is necessary and available. Laptops that are not returned can be blocked.
  • A backup tool.
    • The server can automatically back up content all the laptops.

Tidjikja's XO School Server: Setup

Alan Garcia is the technology lead and is working with other Cornell OPLC team members (Jamie and Eli) and collaborators (Cornell Free Culture's Rob Oschorn and Cornell Computer Reuse) to setup a server for testing purposes.


  • Hassiniya is the oral dialect of Arabic that the Moors speak. Written Arabic is standardized as MSA (Modern Standard Arabic). Though all keyboards provided through OLPCorps will be lettered in English, the keyboard configuration can be changed to Arabic through the operating system. We will create keyboard overlays and diagrams so students are not confused.
  • There are Arabic language packs for OLPC. Translation seems mature see here
  • Reverse Localization (taking what the kids said and letting the world understand it... probably in English) - at first, this may be done by the PCV's working with the students. In the future, it could be done by the teacher/kids themselves, as their English matures.

Internet Capailities

  • DSL will be run to Tidjikja next month.
    • The installation fee is 25,000 ouguiyas ($150).
    • Monthly fees are 9,700 ouguiyas ($40).


  • The Tidjikja GMC has power currently, though they will need help to pay for the additional power that 100 laptops will consume. We estimate power consumption at 10,000 ouguiyas a month, or $40. ($40 * 12 = $480)
  • Make sure our power strips have sockets that are aligned = = = - parallel to the strip, so that all sockets can be used by power adapters.
  • Calculate the total number of watts needed - oh look, the awesome deployment guide here did it already! We replicate here for readability.
  • Education

    • The sugar platform is designed to underscore the importance of collaboration as an integral component of learning. We will focus on creating an environment in which student learning will be supplemented through an active relationship between teaching leads and their laptops well beyond our visit.
    • We must first introduce the new technology to the teachers, and make sure they understand that the laptops are there to be integrated into preexisting school/ lesson plans, and are by no means stand alone teaching tools.
    • We will provide the teachers with an adapted manual of how the laptops actually work. This manual will be rewritten in Arabic or French, and abridged so that it is more accessible.
    • Among casual usage, teachers will be taught things like how to provide maintenance for the laptops, how to monitor and filter the children’s activities, how to clear laptop memory, and how to troubleshoot the laptops.
    • The children are on break for some of the time that we will be there. This will give us time to hold workshops for the teachers.
    • Our primary goal is to focus on getting the children comfortable with the laptops so that they may explore and develop skills on their own with guidance from the teaching leads.
    • Multiple levels of teaching for the different skill levels will be defined, so students do don’t become intimidated by activities above their capacity.
    • The children are learning science, math, physical education, French, Arabic, Islamic education and civics. We will adapt certain things to the curriculum such as typing
    • Activities for the laptops can be found at the following locations:
    • We have developed a basic plan to follow at the beginning of our stay, however, given the circumstances, we realize that it must be highly flexible.
    • Simple games/getting used to the computer
      • browsing the internet
      • maze application
      • implode application
      • music games
    • Math:
      • patterns and shapes, geometry: shape applications, paint shapes in paint
      • comparing numbers
      • arithmetic- addition, subtraction, etc: calculator
      • measurements
      • fractions and ratios, probability
      • algebra
    • Science:
      • moon application
      • videos on the internet
      • planet earth or animal planet
      • using objects from outside the classroom and measuring them.
      • environmental problems: desertification, garbage
      • internet scavenger hunts
    • Writing/Language/Arabic/French
      • daily journals/how their day was/what they learned- in both languages?
      • look up new words
      • creative writing
      • sharing with the class or with one other individual
      • translator program
      • word processing
      • speak application
      • chat
    • Islamic Education
      • Quran on the server
      • Use the internet to teach them stuff
      • Quran reciting program
    • Physical Education
      • Stopwatch and distance applications may be used.
      • distance competitions
    • Other subjects
      • painting
      • music
      • geography

    Support After We Leave/Repairs

    • Peace Corps will be in town
    • Hopefully teach the students @ a local vocational school how to use the computers, as they may be older, and may learn more quickly?
    • (Tentative) Morph Seth's current English club into a support group for OLPC? They seem very enthusiastic about Western Technology.
    • Since we get 1% overstock (not a lot, only 1 extra computer), we anticipate raising funds for additional ones that we can leave for teachers/repairs.
    • In keeping with OLPC DIY philosophy, we plan to teach the children how to repair the computers themselves.

    Internet Safety Training

    • Pedagogical lead will explain that while the Internet is great for obtaining varied information, there are others who may misrepresent information or try to scam people.

    Partnerships with other Organizations @ Cornell

    • The Cornell Computer Reuse Association has a history of sending computers to Africa. Perhaps they can ship some standard (beige box) computers out to us so they can be used in the vocational school? This is ancillary to our primary goals. Their website is here
    • Cornell Free Culture
      • Very enthusiastic about project - head of this club has two OLPC's. We may be able to borrow one from him to test servers, etc.
      • Website is here.

    Cultural Notes/Misc

    • A cool article about Mauritanian schools/manuscripts is here
    • An EXCELLENT document detailing current cultural norms in Mauritania is here.
    • Peace Corps wiki about Mauritania here
    Number of unitsAvg. WattsTotal power required
    Laptops1005 (15 peak)500 Watts
    School Server120 (24 peak)20 Watts
    Connectivity (i.e. modem/wifi)15050 Watts
    Total Power570 Watts