I am Anders Mogensen, co-founder of Seismonaut - a Danish idea and innovation consultancy. At Seismonaut we map emerging technologies, new media and user trends in the changing global landscape.
A few weeks ago I was in Nigeria taking a closer look at the OLPNC (One Laptop Per Nigerian Child) initiative. During my five day visit I had the opportunity to meet with the key stakeholders in Abuja, and pay a couple of visits to L.E.A School Galadima.
Over three days, I will share some of my findings in short write-ups. One Laptop Per XO'ing Child with OLPNC was the first one, this is the second.
An Interview with the headmaster of L.E.A Galadima School
I step into the office of Mrs. Juliana Okonkwo, headmaster of L.E.A Galadima School. It's Monday morning, and this is the first day of school after the summer holidays. Outside some kids have started coming to school, most have brought along their XO, and a few have opened them up and have started working on them.
A teacher calls out the name of a girl. She comes forward and is handed a broom and told to start sweeping one of the classrooms I guess that's what you get for coming early to school :-). As she starts sweeping, dust is whirled up all around her. Only half floor of the classroom is covered with cement.
The headmaster calls me in and asks me to please sit down. She finds the visitors book and asks me to please sign it. I quickly scan through it I always find it interesting to study visitor books, and this one in particular is interesting, as it gives a perspective on who has been following the Galadima project.
Looking through I see the signatures of a large number of people from the ministry of education, people from the Nigerian Communication Commission, UNICEF, Alteq ICT and when turning the book back to March I see the signature of Khaled Hassounah from OLPC, who handled the initial distribution of the laptops to the kids at the school.
I thank Mrs. Okonkwo for taking out time for a meeting and emphasize that I am not here to evaluate the project but to listen to her story, and her view points and most especially to find out how this project is changing her school.
The first question I ask her is how her school was picked for this project. She replies:
"In anything God knows everything and I feel it is God that destined it to us. Because when you look at this school it is not no. 1 in the whole federation, but God with his mercies chose us."I smile and nod politely. This is typical Nigerian rhetoric. She continues:
"One day the Head of Department from the headquarters of Universal Basic Primary Education in Abuja met me and told me that some people are bringing in a project to this school.Excited to know more I ask her how she experienced the day when the laptops came?
The project would be giving each child one laptop. When he told me the story, I was sure that this is just a man talking. It was not until we suddenly started receiving visitors, people coming from ALTEQ ICT and NCC that all were talking about this laptop project that I started believing in the project.
So as God had made it the project became real in March 2007 and all children in primary 4-6 got their laptops."
"Ahh... the day was a very unforgettable day in the life of these children. You have seen the environment we are mixed up of low and middle class people, we don't have any rich people attending school here.An area I was eager to know more about was what her thoughts were on the constructionistic approach to learning. Her answer was smart:
That day the school everybody, the children and teachers were happy, and most especially after giving a laptop to the children they gave the teachers. It was an interesting day, in the life of the people of our school. Even the life of our local education authority the stakeholders of education."
"You know education is not static. Education changes, and as it changes the world it self changes. The way I passed through education is not to compare with nowadays education. Also children themselves today are more curious than before."When asked as to whether these laptops have stimulated this curiosity she replies:
"You know browsing (this is the Nigerian term for surfing on the internet), in class if the teacher writes something on the blackboard, before you know it they (the kids) have opened up the internet to check on that to see if they can get different meanings of that particular area. That is what they do.The question on whether they have experienced kids selling their laptop was also touched upon, as this has often been an issue often discussed. Mrs. Juliana Okonkwo boldly said that this had not happened, and continued:
And for a child in primary school to start operating with laptops, even if he can just finish primary school and can make use of it, it is good for that child. You know some people are employed because they can operate laptops. The children here can now compete even with their seniors that are in offices. To me this project is changing our lives."
"Before the computers were distributed to the kids we called a PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meeting. We got the parents to understand this project. We told them that as far as Nigeria as concerned there are no other schools than L.E.A school Galadima that has these laptops, so any other place we see these laptops we will hold the person responsible.I was happy to get a chance to talk to the headmaster and I feel that she gave me a good insight into the project. I would however like to say this.
We emphasized that this thing is not for sale it is for the child to help himself or herself in the education, and that they should help them take good care of it. We even advised the parents to get a bag for the kids to be protecting it, as they are coming to school."
This blog post is not intended to be yet another OLPC praise. There are numerous issues and plenty of work for the project coordinators, teachers, and other stakeholders involved in the project.
On walking around school I saw kids that had laptops with spoiled screens, torn off "ears", and defect batteries one kid even told me that his laptop had been stolen. There are teachers for whom the idea of using the laptops in learning is not yet natural, and there are challenges regarding how to digitalize the curriculum the kids must go through during primary school.So despite the obvious success and hype :) there is still plenty of work to be done in the project at L.E.A Galadima School.