OLPC Zambian Language Literacy Program
Something unique and very special is happening at the Fountain of Hope Lubuto library. At the beginning of the year, we received a grant from eIFL.net, a sub-grant through the Gates Foundation, to use our popular OLPC (one-laptop-per-child) computers to create programs to teach reading in Zambian languages. Based on the idea that children initially need to learn in their first language, we have been working with Zambian reading teachers to fill this gap in the education system, making these resources accessible to those children who are left out of school. Every Saturday, our project team meets for several hours at the Fountain of Hope. After our first weeks of working with the teachers, it became obvious that in order to expedite the process, we needed to involve students. Creating student/teacher design teams, however, became so much more than just a means to an end for producing programs quickly; it became an inspiring experience for all involved.
I know that I have already bragged about Moses Zyambo in previous blogs, but I don’t believe I can overdo it. He is truly a remarkable young person. He was introduced to the OLPCs in February 2009 and quickly mastered using the machines. Since deciding on the introduction of student/teacher design teams, Moses has been the star of the project. His computer skills are extraordinary and invaluable. His confidence has grown tremendously as a result of his technical competence, and the teacher designers and other student designers rely on him to assist whenever a challenge arises. Not only has this project been able to create something important and unique for educating Zambia’s children, but it has made a profound impact on an exceedingly bright child’s life.
In addition to unleashing the gifts of our student program designers, the project has also afforded LubutoArts members the opportunity to contribute beautiful computer graphics to the programs. David Shampwali, in particular, has really come out of his shell as a result of his involvement. Every time I go into the library, David is there, creating new drawings on the OLPCs. As the months have gone by, they have become more intricate and accurate. My personal favorite is a rendering of the library itself. Having spent many hours trying to successfully grasp using Microsoft’s Paint program, I am truly in awe of all our graphic designers have accomplished.
The implementation of this grant has been a complex process. We’ve been beset by some technical challenges with the OLPCs, and teachers with limited computer experience have had to work hard to become comfortable with the laptops. But these are really minor roadblocks when I think about the project’s significance. These programs, created by Zambian children for other Zambian children, can be made accessible for all children, but especially those who cannot go to school. They are a gift for Zambia, and I am honored to be a part of this incredible project.