OLPCorps MIT Mauritania Bababe

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University: MIT
Team: Mary Wang, Owen Derby, Janet Li, Madeline Mirzoeff
Contact Information: olpcorps@mit.edu
NGO: Peace Corps
NGO Contact: Ginger, Peace Corps Volunteer
Local Contact: Zach, Peace Corps Volunteer and Environmental Educator
Deployment Location: Bababé, Mauritania
Deployment Date: June 20th-August 22nd, 2009

Project Specifics

General Information
Our goal is to give children the tools needed to fully learn and to explore the world. We want to empower them with the ability to share their ideas and to teach others.

We are working with a Peace Corps [1] volunteer, Zach, on this initiative. Zach is an environmental educator in Bababé who will work with us throughout our deployment and provide facilities to store and charge the laptops. Zach will meet us in the capital Nouakchott to help us pick up the laptops and equipment and transport them back to Bababé.

We will set up a summer program based in the local réseau de jeunesse, or youth center, in Bababé, where the XOs can also be stored. There are normally over 200 students in Bababé who are aged 10-12, so we will have to address the issue of having more students than laptops. Since the children are on break for the nine weeks we are there, it's hard to gauge how many students will be available to participate. We will work with Zach in the coming weeks to address this issue. In a male-dominated education system, we will provide equal opportunities to both genders.

Impact on Children
We hope to use the laptops and the internet to broaden the childrens' horizons and to show them that there is more to learning than just rote memorization. We will hopefully connect all five deployment sites in Mauritania [2] [3] [4] over the internet, allowing the children to record their observations, share the designs and ideas they come up with, analyze the information they find on the web, and present their learnings to their peers and parents. Learning through the XOs can help the children jumpstart change in their country.

Our goal is to let the children bring the laptops home while they are learning to use them. However, in Mauritanian society, anything the child brings home becomes the property of the family. To address this problem, we will set up a loaner library where the laptops will be the property of the Peace Corps, but the children can still take them home. They will charge the laptops at school using power we will fund, since most homes in Bababé still don’t have electricity. Internet will be provided by World Vision, another NGO operating in Bababé that subscribes to satellite internet.

The languages spoken in Bababé are Pulaar, Hassaniya, and French. Since three of our members know some French, we plan to communicate basic instructions in French. However, we will work with the volunteers to make sure that the children receive the most accurate instructions. We will also need to make superficial alterations to the keys on the XOs, changing the English into a French keyboard.

The Peace Corps has been involved in Bababé for 20 years now and will continue its involvement. The volunteers we train will pass their skills to new volunteers, continuing our program long after we leave. We will work with local educational providers and Peace Corps volunteers to design lesson plans which follow the 5th grade public school curriculum while incorporating the XOs.

We will document the work we do in Bababé as reference for future deployments; if successful, this project will serve as a pilot for future Peace Corps programs internationally.

We are looking into setting up a penpal exchange program between Bababé students and the students involved in other deployments, both across Mauritania and all of Africa. This will facilitate cultural awareness amongst all students involved. We will further develop this in the weeks leading up to June 8.

Our team is planning on establishing an official MIT OLPC chapter dedicated to promoting awareness of the non-profit and initiating new projects while supporting ongoing ones, including this one. Becoming an official club will allow us to apply for funding from MIT's finance board, fundraise on-campus, and solicit alumni and corporations for sponsorships. The money we raise will provide continuing financial support to Bababé volunteers who will maintain internet connectivity, power, server connections, repairs and eventual replacement of the laptops, and will also raise the necessary funds to send new OLPC teams to Africa every summer.