OLPCorps Muskingum College Lesotho

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This was our original proposal. It will give you an idea of what we hope to accomplish, though the plan is going to be changed slightly because of changes to the OLPC 2010 grant program:

Two U.S. college students, a Mosotho college student, two Basotho primary school teachers, a Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV), two Returned PCVs, and a South African I.T. specialist have teamed up to distribute 100 XO laptops to children at Ha Nohana Primary School in Ketane, Lesotho from June through August 2010.    Our goal is to provide the children of Ketane with tools to educate themselves, expand their learning community, and develop critical thinking skills with the ability to identify and solve problems.    We hope that, through strong community organization and mentoring of key individuals, the laptop program in Ketane will become completely community-run and self-sustaining.    Ultimately, our goal is to make the 2010 Ketane project the beginning of a multi-year program that provides laptops to disenfranchised children unable to attend school, in addition to students, and eventually expands to include all children throughout the region.

Ketane is a remote rural community accessible by road and small plane.    The area is not on an electrical grid, but it does have wireless access to the internet via a GSM 3G modem.    There is a small computer school, started by team member Andrew Dernovsek, adjacent to the primary school.    The computer school has a solar power system for running its computers.    The primary school owns two XO laptops donated by G1G1 owners.

Tsela Mapeshoane, our Project Manager, and Matlabe Teba, our Treasurer and the school's principal, teach at Ha Nohana Primary School where there is strong support from teachers and parents for this project.    PCV Aaron Laufman-Walker is serving as mentor to Tsela.

The Ketane community has several organized groups and dedicated individuals we are working with to provide long-term support for our project.    Peace Corps/Lesotho staff members have also expressed support and are helping us.    We will be seeking additional support and funding from local leaders, community members, national leaders, and NGOs in Lesotho and the U.S.    Team member Janissa Balcomb has established a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, Laptops to Lesotho, to raise additional funds for our project.

Sarah Balcomb and Amy Balcomb will lead the laptop deployment and training in Ketane with Lineo Motsoeneng and Shaun Ilderton providing technical support.    XO computers will be given to all the children in standards 6-7, and the computers will be owned solely by the children, not the school.    The teachers will also receive XOs, and a half dozen will be owned by the school.

Andrew, Tsela, Matlabe, and Lineo are fluent in Sesotho and English, as are the primary school teachers.    The students study English, but most are not fluent.    The other members of our team are studying Sesotho but do not expect to be fluent by deployment, so, initially, the others will translate for them.

Because students will be on break for the majority of the deployment period, we will be working outside the normal classroom setting most of the time.    We are working with the school staff, students, and parents on scheduling and logistical details.    If possible, we would prefer to have teacher training first, then train small groups of students, with the first students helping to train the next group, and so on.    Each group will be given a community-based problem-solving project to work on.    Teachers will be taught how to incorporate the XO laptop in their lesson plans, and the school-owned computers will be available for small group projects by students in grades 1-5.

June through August is winter in Lesotho, with below freezing temperatures and deep snow possible.    We will be providing heaters for the classrooms to ensure a comfortable learning environment.    Because snow may make logistics difficult at times, we are prepared to be flexible in our scheduling.

We will expand the computer school's existing solar power system so it can be used to charge all the XO computers at the primary school.    We also hope to raise additional funds to acquire individual solar chargers so children can use the computers on their own after school hours and on holidays.    We will provide a gas generator for times when solar charging is not possible.    We will build storage and charging cabinets at the primary school and will set up the network server either there or at the adjacent computer school.    We will acquire the necessary hardware and establish a contract with the cell phone company, Vodacom, to provide internet access to the children.

During deployment, equipment will be stored in locked rooms at the school.    We will work with the local police and the community regarding security issues.

CHANGES: Deployment will be slightly delayed, and the number of computers available for deployment in 2010 may be less than 100. Funds to purchase the computers from G1G1 owners will come from fundraising by Laptops to Lesotho and possibly from a similar charity to be organized by team member Shaun Ilderton in South Africa. Sarah and Amy will no longer be able to lead the deployment in 2010, but hope to be able to participate in coming years. Lineo may or may not continue to work with the team providing technical support. Shaun and/or Janissa will probably travel to Lesotho sometime in the latter part of 2010 to begin deployment and set up the network server, internet access, and power infrastructure.

Our Treasure Highland Computer Project   |   Laptops to Lesotho

"Opening Doors to Hope with Keys to the World"

At the end of January 2010, OLPC changed the rules for OLPCorps participation, limiting it to just a handful of countries. Unfortunately, Lesotho was not one of them, so we can no longer qualify for their intern and volunteer grants.

This is a setback for our dedicated team and for the students and teachers at Ha Nohana, especially considering all the work everyone has already done to prepare based on the 2009 guidelines. We started laying the ground work for our project in July 2009, hoping to get an OLPCorps grant in 2010. We wish OLPC had given us a bit more advanced notice that they were considering such drastic changes to the program, but despite this setback we will adapt and move ahead with our program.

Steps we're taking to adapt:

  • Janissa has contacted OLPC to see if there is any way they will make an exception for our project based on the strength and dedication of our team, our long-term commitment, and the strong community support in Ketane, Lesotho.
  • We will also work with OLPC to try to get one or more of our team members training by OLPC regardless of whether we receive an OLPC grant or not.
  • We have started using the Laptops to Lesotho funds to purchase XO laptops from "Give One Get One" XO laptop owners via eBay and other open-market sources. As of 8 February, we have purchased 20 laptops and are in negotiations for 24 more.
  • The team will look for donations of other low energy computer hardware for the network server and to expand the adult computer school.
  • Everybody will ramp up fundraising efforts. Grant-writing becomes a crucial element now.
more to come soon ...

Your Comments & Suggestions are Welcomed

Your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated. Click on the Discussion tab above and let us know what you think.


Follow our blog, OLPCorps Lesotho 2010, to see what we've done and where we're at in the process.

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Lesotho is located in southern Africa and is completely surrounded by South Africa.

<googlemap lat="-18.145127" lon="28.125" zoom="2" width="350" height="200" scale="no">

-29.630771, 28.399658, Lesotho</googlemap>


Lesotho is a mountainous kingdom in southern Africa. The terrain is rugged, there are few roads, and many villages are isolated and only accessible by foot or horseback. The mountain soils are poor and only about 10% of the land is arable. Lesotho has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Winter weather can be especially harsh with below freezing temperatures and snow. The country is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades, drying up water supplies and leaving many residents reliant on outside aid for food.

Obstacles Children Face

Lesotho is one of the poorest nations in the world. Isolation, poverty, poor nutrition, and an extremely high HIV/AIDS infection rate make life extremely challenging for the children of Ketane. Lesotho has the third highest infection rate of HIV/AIDS in the world with nearly a third of the adult population infected. The average life expectancy in Lesotho has dropped in recent years to just 39 years of age. The epidemic has had devastating effects on family structure. The current generation of young adults and parents has been decimated so that a large number of today's children have lost at least one parent, and many have lost both. Some orphans are raised by grandparents, while others live in homes with a child as the head of the house. Primary education is free in Lesotho, but because of responsibilities at home, some children are unable to attend school. Secondary education is not free, and many students cannot afford it.

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Ketane, Mohale's Hoek District, Lesotho:

<googlemap version="0.9" lat="-29.573457" lon="28.399658" zoom="8" width="1000" height="500" scale="yes">

-30.133741, 27.882613 Ketane</googlemap>


Ketane is a widely dispersed community made up of small enclaves and villages scattered over an area 20-30 km. in radius. It is very remote. Ketane is a 12-hour bus ride from Maseru, Lesotho's capital, but many of the homes, especially in the outlying areas, are only accessible by horseback or on foot. There are few facilities in Ketane proper, just a police station, a health clinic, a small store, a Catholic mission, a small computer school, and a primary school. Most members of the community live at the subsistence level. The primary source of income is cattle ranching and raising sheep and goats for wool. There are two chiefs and a local council that govern the area. There is an active widows association called Diamonds of Ketane. Several innovative ideas have taken hold in Ketane, including a large solar oven used by the Diamonds of Ketane to bake bread to earn money, as well as efficient "keyhole" gardens for households.

Primary Schools

Ha Nohana Primary School is one of 10 primary schools in Ketane. The school has 314 students in grades 1-7, nine teachers, and a principal. Students walk up to 1½ hours to school. There are no boarders at the school, but some students from outlying areas live with relatives in the village in order to attend school.

Ketane is not on an electrical grid, and the school has no independent source of power, but it does have access to power from the adjacent computer school (see below).

Two XO laptops, acquired via the Give One Get One program, were donated by the Balcomb family to the primary school in June 2009. Enthusiasm by staff and students over these two computers prompted a request to find a way to get more of the XO laptops, and that gave birth to this project.

The students held a contest to name the project and design a logo. The winning name is Our Treasure Highland Computer Project and a draft of the winning logo is below. The winners are Makhotso Makanke and Manatala Thopa, 14-year-old girls in standard six.

Our Treasure Highland Computer Project Draft Logo:

Secondary Schools

There are several secondary schools in the Ketane area. The closest, Nohana Secondary School, is run by a Catholic mission, but has been experiencing many administrative difficulties, forcing some students to leave the area to attend secondary school.

Computer School

There is a small computer school, established in 2008 by our team member Andrew Dernovsek, which is now run by another member of our team, Tsela Mapeshoane. The computer school is located adjacent to Ha Nohana Primary School. It has two Windows-based computers and a new printer/scanner/copier, along with a small solar power system for running the computers. It offers computer instruction to secondary school students and adults. Most of the teachers at Ha Nohana Primary School have been trained to use these computers, and they operate and maintain the solar power system. The community is in the process of constructing a new building to house the computer school. The school earns additional money by offering to charge cell phones, and it was this money that paid for the new 3-in-1 printer.

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Our two OLPCorps Africa grant applicants

Sarah Balcomb

Sarah is a senior at the University of Evansville in Indiana, majoring in Elementary Education, and will be graduating in May 2010. She spent one term in her sophomore year studying in England and did short-term volunteer work in Mexico. Sarah spent one term of her junior year teaching kindergarten students reading, writing, and language arts for 12 hours each week. She spent the second term of her junior year teaching first grade students science, math, and social studies for 12 hours each week. She will be student teaching in a 3rd grade classroom from January to April 2010. Sarah has also tutored students in various after school programs, working with fourth and fifth grade students in science, math, and social studies and working with first and second grade students in reading. Sarah is the secretary of our affiliated nonprofit, Laptops to Lesotho. She designed the Laptops to Lesotho website.

Amy Balcomb

Amy is a sophomore at Muskingum University in Ohio, with a major in Special Education and a minor in Music. She has worked extensively with special needs children at Stepping Stones. She performed concerts throughout Europe in 2008 as part of Sound of America.

Sarah and Amy are learning Sesotho and studying Lesotho culture in preparation for this project. They will attend the OLPC training in Kigali, Rwanda, and will be running the on-the-ground XO laptop deployment with 'Ntate Mapesh. (Note: This will be delayed due to changes in the OLPC grant guidelines.)

Our other team members

Tsela "Mapesh" Mapeshoane

Mapesh is a teacher at Ha Nohana Primary School in Ketane. He has eight years of teaching experience and recently received his diploma in Primary Education, with a first class, from the Lesotho College of Education. He is currently teaching grade 4 and previously taught grade 7. He is also the technical director of the school football team. He has been learning computer skills from 'Ntate Thabo (Andrew Dernovsek). Mapesh is our Project Manager and is the lead for all local community contacts and organization. We hope to get additional funding to send Mapesh to the OLPC training in Kigali, Rwanda, in June 2010, and to send him to training in community organizing and fundraising in 2011.

Andrew "Thabo" Dernovsek

Thabo was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ketane from 2007 to December 2009. He worked primarily on HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, and support. He set up the computer school for adults in Ketane and has been instrumental in getting our project started. He mentored 'Ntate Mapesh in computer skills and community organizing. Thabo left Lesotho in December 2009, but he will continue to act as a consultant. He is on the board of our affiliated nonprofit, Laptops to Lesotho. You can see Thabo's blog of his experiences in Lesotho at News from Lesotho. It contains a great deal of information about Ketane.

Janissa Balcomb

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho way back in 1977-80, Janissa taught middle school math, tutored primary school teachers, and later worked as a wildlife biologist at Lesotho's national park. She currently does volunteer work for Friends of Lesotho and International Association for Bear Reasearch and Management. She is president of our affiliated nonprofit, Laptops to Lesotho, and will be spearheading the additional fundraising for this project. She is serving as a mentor to Sarah and Amy. Depending on the success of her outside fundraising efforts, she may attend the Kigali training and/or travel briefly to Lesotho to assist with deployment. Her motivation for this project came from reading the book Three Cups of Tea about building schools for girls in rural Pakistan.

Matlabe Teba

Matlabe is the principal at Ha Nohana Primary School in Ketane, and he also teaches class. He has been a teacher for 29 years and principal for 19 years. He has a Bachelors of Education with Honours. He handles the school's finances and is serving as our Project Treasurer.

Aaron Laufman-Walker

Aaron is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ketane. He arrived there in August 2009 and is working with Catholic Relief Services and the Mountain Orphan and Vulnerable Children's Empowerment project (MOVE), a comprehensive approach to caring for orphans. Aaron will take over some of Andrew's work when Andrew leaves, including serving as 'Ntate Mapesh's mentor and facilitator for the project. You can read his Ketane blog at ALW.

Lineo Motsoeneng

Lineo is a college student good at working with computers and computer networks. She will be providing technical support for our team and will oversee the set up and installation of all hardware. We hope to send her to Kigali for OLPC training, and we are working with the NGO Inveneo to try to arrange additional I.T. and power system training for her. She will probably not need to volunteer for the entire duration of deployment.

Shaun Ilderton

Shaun is an IT specialist for a company in Durban, South Africa. He will be providing technical advice and possibly traveling to Ketane to help install the network and internet hardware. He may also be able to mentor Lineo. Shaun hopes to set up a charity in South Africa similar to the Laptops to Lesotho organization in the U.S.

Family/Community Ties

Sarah and Amy are sisters, and Janissa is their aunt. We believe that the combination of these close family ties along with Mapesh's and Matlabe's long-standing roots in the local community and Janissa's long-term ties to Lesotho will add extra cohesiveness and long-term stability to our team and the project. We also believe that a "family" team may garner more support in Lesotho where there is a long tradition of respect for the role of family in the culture.

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Also see Letters of Support and Supporters

At the local level, the teachers and principal of Ha Nohana are very supportive of our project. Team members Tsela Mapeshoane and Andrew Dernovsek have been working in Ketane with community leaders, the local council, existing community groups, parents, and others in the community to build a strong local support system for the project before the computers arrive. And, the entire team will continue to work with these people throughout deployment to insure their continued participation and long-term investment in the project. Contact with the community will include one-on-one dialogues, small group meetings, community meetings and presentations, tours of the XO laptop 'facilities,' and observation of training sessions.

At the national level, we will be seeking support from ministry officials, members of parliment, the prime minister, and the king. We hope to work with the Ministry of Education and other aid organizations to create a digital library of education, language, and health resources in Sesotho that will be accessible to the children on their XO laptops. We will be contacting Mission Air about possible assistance with transportation.

At the regional level, we are on the wiki OLPC mailing list for OLPC-za (OLPC South Africa Interest Group) and will be contacting recipients of previous OLPCorps Africa grants in South Africa for advice and possible support, including help with translation and localization. We will work with the South African group, Translate.org.za, currently translating OLPC information into Southern Sotho using pootle. Some adaptations will have to be made to their translations because the orthography for Southern Sesotho used in South Africa is different than the older, traditional Sesotho orthography used in Lesotho.

At the international level, we are already working with the Peace Corps staff in Maseru, Lesotho, on ways Peace Corps can support the project. We also have an existing affiliation with the U.S.-based group, Friends of Lesotho, and hope to get support from them.

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Partnering Organizations

Local partnering organizations will be the Ha Nohana Primary School and the local council.


Our nonprofit organization, Laptops to Lesotho has been incorporated with the State of Idaho, and we have filed for a 501(c)(3) tax-exemption with the IRS, which we are waiting to hear about.   This organization will raise additional funds to support our project now and into the future.   Laptops to Lesotho will be applying for additional grant monies and donated materials from a variety of sources, primarily to:

  • provide travel expenses, room and board for all our team members,
  • provide a broader range of electrical power options,
  • pay for internet access fees,
  • provide additional reference materials,and
  • pay for translation services and localization.

As of 3 December 2009, we have received approximately $2600 in cash donations.

Due to changes in the OLPC grant guidelines, the primary use of Laptops to Lesotho funds will be purchasing XO laptops from G1G1 owners on the open market. As of 10 February 2010, 21 XO laptops have been purchased and negotiations are in progress to purchase 20 more. We hope to acquire approximately 50 XOs for 2010.

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See more details at our Action Plan page.


  • develop suppport at the local, national, regional, and international levels
  • develop measurable goals to use later to determine the success of the project
  • raise funds through various fundraising projects and grant solicitations
  • acquire IT and power system hardware
  • arrange security in Maseru and at Ketane
  • arrange logistics - travel, housing, shipping, deployment facilities, school & community schedule
  • set up an internet subscription at Ketane
  • become familiar with XO laptop, Sugar/Ubuntu operating system
  • investigate additional educational materials in Sesotho
  • investigate HIV/AIDS educational materials in Sesotho designed for younger children
  • develop detailed deployment & training plans
  • study Sesotho, as needed

OLPC Training in Kigali, Rwanda

Note: Due to changes in the OLPC grant guidelines, Sarah and Amy will no longer be able to attend the training. Depending on the amount of independent funding we raise, and whether we receive permission from OLPC, Mapesh and Janissa may attend the training in Rwanda.


  • Shipping & Receiving
  • Travel
  • Community meetings & presentations
  • Hardware, Network, and Power Installation
  • XO Laptop Training

    - Teachers: operation & maintenance, classroom use, curriculum
    - Students: Problem solving & projects

more to come here ...

Post Deployment

analyze success of project
make recommendations for future deployments
continue fundraising and development of future deployments

Longterm Goals

Educational Opportunities for Disenfranchised Students
Alternative options for learning outside the normal classroom setting are vital in order to educate the disenfranchised children who cannot attend school. After we have set up the XO laptop network at Ha Nohana Primary School, we hope we will be able to distribute laptops to children unable to attend school. However, because these children are scattered over a vast area, and because there may be some resistance from family members who fear the laptops will distract the children from their family responsibilities, this will require far more time than we can devote to it in the first year of our project. If we have time in 2010, we will start laying the ground work for this portion of the project by locating some of these children and, where possible, meeting with their families to gauge their receptivity to the idea.

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Our OLPCorps Application Supporting Documents & Information

Our Project Blog

Our Affiliations & Member Blogs

Our Fundraising Efforts

Organizations Working in the Ketane Area


Information about Lesotho

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