What will OLPC Afghanistan's XO laptop mean to children receiving it in government schools? We hope it means an alternative to rote memorization. We hope it means an education based on induction and science, experimentation and imagination, an education that will help the children develop analytic skills and critical thinking. One Laptop Per Child is, as always, not a laptop project, but an education project.
But half of Afghanistan's children today are not in regular schools, have no teacher, and will grow to adulthood without them. Many of these children, approximately four million of them, disproportionately over eighty per cent of them girls, will grow up totally illiterate.
This sad statistic is from the government's Strategic Plan for education. (No criticism at all is intended of the Afghanistan Ministry of Education, which is doing the very best it can under very difficult circumstances.)
Here is a video of our solution:
Master Teachers by Satellite for Afghanistan is an organization focused on these children without real schools or teachers. It is seeking to deploy the XO laptop in tiny community or home-based village "schools." These consist usually of one group of children of various ages, from a handful to sixty or so, with one "teacher" who may be literate, or who may not be literate. The job of the "teacher" is to gather and supervise the children rather than being a repository of the curriculum, which is delivered in school books -- if there are books, which is not always the case.
In a historic partnership, OLPC-Afghanistan was formed in September 2008 among the Afghanistan Ministry of Education, the OLPC Foundation, Roshan, USAID Small Business Agency and others. In February 2009 they placed the first XO laptops, at a public school in the city of Jalabad.
Shortly after, OLPC-Afghanistan agreed to conduct a Pilot Project of the MTSA plan, to place 50 of the XO laptops in home-based "schools" in a rural area close enough to Kabul for reasonable safety from educational terrorism.
Additionally, an economic development program for the parents of the children in the class was developed by OLPC-Afghanistan. And MTSA has added the possibility of using bootable inexpensive flash drives to contain Sugar on a Stick, one for each child, with the OLPC educational applications, and a separate stick for her parent, with health and economic information.
Additional elements being developed by MTSA focus particularly in two areas: the creation of a unique Afghan literacy program, the Nasrudin Literacy Adventure Video Game, and the integration of the experiences from India of the Hole in the Wall Education Project.
As Project Manager for MTSA, I will arrive in Kabul in mid-July to work on this project for a week, and further reports may be expected.
Thanks for your interest. We are still looking for volunteers with the video game skills to help on the Nasrudin project, and for tax deductible financial contributions which can be made at our web site.
Honorable Carol Ruth Silver, Project Director of MTSA, is currently visiting Afghanistan