When Juliano Bittencourt of OLPC Rwanda said the government of Rwanda was buying 100,000 XO laptops, my first question was how they were going to finance the purchase - it would be $20,000,000 in equipment at the minimum, and over $100 million in Total Cost of Ownership over the next five years. That's in a country where the total education budget for 2008 was $109 million, and 70% of the total federal budget comes from international aid.
But it looks like the Rwandan government has come up with a novel idea: share the costs of XO ownership with parents. The New Times reports that State Minister of Education Theoneste Mutsindashyaka is asking parents to buy XO's for their children:
"We really want to encourage parents to buy these low cost laptops for their children because they are vital implements in their children's education, if they need to equip their children with the digital skills necessary in this era," said Mutsindashyaka. The laptops are acquired at a subsidised cost of $100 a piece and the aim is to have all primary-going pupils acquire one.
From that short quote I think we have a whole new XO financing scheme - co-buying with parents. And I like the thought. I have always maintained that parents are an under-appreciated financial resource for XO purchases, and getting even a $100 commitment from them (payable in installments, I would expect), gives them skin in the game.
Yes, you could say they have the most skin in the game already - it's their children in this grand experiment. But often it takes a physical action, and actual money allocation, to drive home the reality of participation and its related scarifices. $100 from every family for every child in primary school will focus parents, children, and the education sector like no other scheme yet devised.
If this is in fact the OLPC Rwanda payment plan, then I am in awe and in support. Its not going to be easy, Rwanda has a $900 per capita income, but it will be radical change for the better.