ANGOLA: Successful Pilot Project with One Laptop per Child expands, impacting 1,700 students
(MissionNewswire) Salesian students in Angola have better access to education thanks to ongoing support from the African Innovation Foundation and the Angolan Sovereign Fund which helped bring computers into Salesian classrooms. The computers are from One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a U.S.-based nonprofit organization which aims to provide children in developing countries with a durable, low-cost, energy efficient, connected XO laptop. Started as a pilot project in two Salesian schools in the city of Luanda during the 2010-2011 school year, “Project Kamba Dyami” has provided more than 1,500 laptops to students across four Salesian provinces in Angola, impacting 1,705 students and close to 50 teachers.
According to an OLPC article, the Salesian school was chosen by AIF, because of its “suitability criteria that would allow the development of the project.”
When the project began, students and teachers were unfamiliar with the technology and unsure how to use the computers effectively in the classroom. The African Innovation Foundation provided learning seminars for both teachers and students to train them in the necessary computer skills and help them to understand the value of this new learning tool.
Given the success of the pilot project, several more schools were awarded computers and the necessary training to get started. With the support of the Angolan Sovereign Fund, the project expanded to include additional Salesian provinces during the 2013-2014 school year. In 2015, the project expanded again to include the town of Calulo, in Northwest Angola.
“This project greatly expands educational access for disadvantaged students in Angola,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “There are benefits for both students and teachers as it is a great learning and teaching tool. The computers bring knowledge into the classroom that these students might not otherwise have access to.”
The donated computers are being used by students in third through sixth grade. At first, students used the computers to learn Portuguese and mathematics and once comfortable with the technology, they moved onto using the computers for all their school subjects. The XO computer is specially designed as a learning tool and built specifically for children in developing countries, including those living in some of the most remote environments. The laptops are small, about the size of a small textbook, and have built-in wireless internet and a unique screen that is readable under direct sunlight for children who go to school outdoors.
“Salesian missionaries in Angola have long been providing services to at-risk and disadvantaged youth to help them get off the streets, gain access to education and better nutrition and find a path out of poverty. This project provides Angolan youth another opportunity to better their lives through education,” adds Fr. Hyde.
The people of Angola are still recovering from a civil war that ended 13 years ago. During the war, educational disparities were widespread but recent reforms have paved the way for more youth to have better access to education and social equality. According to UNICEF, more than 36 percent of the population lives in poverty in Angola. More than one in 10 children under the age of 14 has lost one or both parents and 43,000 are separated from their families. As a result, nearly a third of these youth are working and child trafficking has been an emerging problem in the country.
With a 67 percent illiteracy rate, the educational opportunities provided by Salesian programs can be truly life changing. Through Salesian programs, both youth and adults have access to schools and educational programs. Classes range from simple lessons in reading and writing for adults in refugee camps to shelter and education for street children. Students are also able to access life skills training, workforce development opportunities and nutritional programs.
UNICEF – Angola