OLPCorps UArizona and UCDavis Namibia

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Our not quite finished proposal:

Our OLPCorps team will deliver 100 XO laptops to a rural school in the Otjozondjupa region of Namibia. The proposed school is close to Windhoek and the offices of the National Institute for Educational Development, which is one of the NGOs the team is working with. Our team is composed of two college seniors who attend the University of Arizona and University of California at Davis. Both students traveled in Namibia in the fall of 2008. Chelsea Schmidt, an anthropology major, holds multiple computer certifications and is eager to bring such a powerful, educational tool to the rural children of Namibia. Jeffrey Hilbert, a sociology major, has worked extensively with children of all ages and is eager to set up a fun, yet educational opportunity for the children. What resonated with both Jeffrey and Chelsea during their visits to Namibia was the hope, pride, and motivation of the Namibian people despite the visible poverty and inequality.

Having obtained its independence from South Africa less than two decades ago, Namibia is well on its way to becoming a leader and model country in Africa. Currently the Republic of Namibia spends over 20% of its national budget on the public education system. This places Namibia as one of the top three countries in the world with the highest percentage of GDP devoted to education (Cite).

Though, the school begins its final quarter on May 26th, the team will begin planning with the teachers before this date so the students are better prepared for the team’s arrival. Starting June 22nd, the laptops will be used at an after school program. Children in the 5th to 7th grades (ages 9-13) will be encouraged to attend the program and learn about the laptops. Using the model of last summer’s XO deployment in South Africa (Cite), the children will earn their laptops after a two week “training period.” Once this period is over, all the children in the upper three grade levels will be able to keep their laptops and take them home. We will also work with the teachers to help them incorporate the laptops into their curriculum.

The team has chosen to provide laptops to only the older children for a few reasons. First, although Namibia’s official language is English, in the lower grade levels, classes are often taught in both English and the local tribal language. Second, by providing the older children with the laptops, the team will help create a mentoring program. The older children will team with younger students on computer oriented projects.

Local support for the project at this preliminary period is very positive. We are in contact with two local educational organizations, CECS Namibia and SchoolNet. Both organizations are NGOs focusing on technology, education, and equality in Namibian schools. Through these two organizations, we obtained approval from the Ministry of Education. CECS helped us select a school near their offices and close to Windhoek. Both team members also have acquaintances in Namibia who are located in both educational and IT sectors. All this local support will help the team while they are delivering the laptops and help them set up a sustainable system for continued integration of the laptops in the school. Plans for funding the project after August are being made. Also, the team will set up a system to allow the children to develop their own funding project. In the budget, $200 has been set aside for the children to “microfinance” their own development project, such as a school garden.

The team is very adamant about OLPC’s five principles. The XOs work best under these circumstances and the team plans to develop the principles to bring the most benefit to the community. Children are often viewed as either having potential future value or as a work force. A different view of children is that of a valued member of the community who can contribute ideas not only in the future, but in the moment. The children in this project will become active members of their community and work to improve their town through education, knowledge, and action. The OLPCorps Learning Guide quotes the famous African proverb about teaching a man to fish. The team plans to take this concept a little future. As Bill Drayton said, “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish, or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” Namibia has the opportunity and the drive to revolutionize the educational system of Africa and the XO is a tool that could greatly help them in this mission.