Volunteer Spotlight: Prajna Ho

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANamaste! This is Prajna, from Hong Kong. I would like to thank OLE Nepal for giving me the chance to assist in the quality education in digital learning advocacy efforts. After having a week service trip in Nepal last year, the profound experience had triggered my motives and ideas to support the development of children’s education in the region, therefore, I designed another visit to Nepal after my graduation and before taking any full-time work, as my graduation project.

With the specific concern of the quality of education, I had been thinking of any social projects that can be facilitated for creating a better learning environment in Nepal. Having observed the major differences of education received in developing and developed regions, I would like to say that the accessibility to the Internet and quality content have largely determined the level of empowerment of one’s self-learning. The idea of donating laptops has come to my mind and that had motivated me to support Open Learning Exchange Nepal (OLE Nepal) who has been working on this social cause.

Before leaving Hong Kong for Nepal, I received an introduction of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project by the board member of OLPC Asia, Mr. T. K. Kang. I picked up the whole picture about the structure of OLPC project before my service in OLE Nepal. The pedagogy behind OLPC with the hardware design of XO Laptop plus the open-source Sugar system are appreciated and impressive, enabling children to learn by themselves, applying the concept of “Constructionism”.

Throughout the volunteering period, my service duty was mainly on Communications and Social Media. Thankfully I got the chance working on a strategic design of the social media and communication plan with the Communication Officer, Trishala and some more colleagues. I was also working on the implementation of content writing and media curation for advocating the E-Pustakalaya (E-Library in English) to the local community.

E-Pustakalaya is an education-focused, open-sourced, interactive digital library for all Nepali & English readers. The development of E-Pustakalaya follows a philosophy that provides quality education in Nepal through creating an interactive learning platform for users while collecting learning sources from widely-recognized institutions from the local and international community.

Definitely, the provision of digital library has given children new forms of learning, while both teachers and parents are able to access the resources without spending a penny for the quality teaching content and facilitation of interactive education. I appreciate that OLE Nepal is acting as a manager to manage the all-rounded learning experience for young learners in Nepal, supporting digital content creation – designed based on the national curriculum, platform management and teaching training. I see the existing and potential impact of this organization’s work in the country.

Having accessed to the Google analytics of the several websites, I was surprised to know the online library has been used by Nepalese and English readers from all over the world, users covering different continents.

I am glad that I could present in a meeting about an international-scaled fund deployment, it has enabled me to understand more about the NGO landscape and fund-raising considerations from the project donors. Funding is the important element to sustain the operations of most of the social projects which bring long-term social benefits.

Of course, self-initiation had a positive impact to my service experience. Proactive learning has brought me much more exposures, such as visiting the annual Kathmandu book fair and local community library.

After the period of mutual understanding and interactions, I found the colleagues in OLE Nepal are competitive and collaborative. They are open-minded and proactive to understand my observations of what I had been witnessing in those few weeks and what OLE Nepal has been working on.

The organizational culture is amazing; the management is generally much similar as the western-style. It seems voices from every co-worker can be respected and concerned. The hierarchy is not apparent; the culture is unexpectedly open. Employees are autonomous, independent and are strong team-players. I witnessed the systematic style in their collaboration, not only by the interactive and transparent communication tool but also the progress monitoring system across departments. I appreciate the work-life balance the colleagues have achieved since I presented at their birthday party for their colleague, as well as some after-work chill out and site visits.

13600164_10154240367830822_2699364360632631745_nA Chinese saying goes: “Never reject anything virtuous for its pettiness”. Truly, what I have realized from the experience is that: when you come across the right thing happening in front of you, no matter how big or how small that you think your impact can be, go and follow what is right and support the happenings rightly.

I would like to hereby thank all colleagues in OLE Nepal for facilitating my learning and showing your hospitality to me. The road to the mission is long, tough and full of obstacles. I deeply appreciate their hearts and commitments to work for some positive impact to the community. Their passion has led the OLPC project pass through milestones in the past decade and will continue in Nepal for many more.


Bringing Raspberry Pi to classrooms

There is so much going on in technology these days. Technology has brought unprecedented changes in our daily life, retooling the way we communicate, the way we shop, the way we make our living and more. The things that were considered as science-fiction a few years ago, is now a real thing. But, compare the classrooms back in the 90s and now, do you see any change? For the major part, it’s more or less the same. It’s a no-brainer that we have been scared to adopt new technology to our classrooms. It is said that Socrates was scared of this new technology called “writing” which he thought would erode the memorizing power of human. There was a time when people were intimidated by the use of the calculator in the class, for it may jeopardize the calculating power of the human brain. Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the fact of how technology can be leveraged to extend the knowledge imparting process, for education today is not about what-you-know, but what you can do with  what-you-know. With growing MOOCs and learning materials available over the Internet, that are not only adding the new dimension in learning today, but also making the learning process more fun. Also, the students today are more adept in using technology, so taking technology out of the learning equation would be alienating the student of their abilities.

At OLE Nepal, we strive to bring the best new technology to our classrooms. It’s never easy to embrace a new piece of technology, for teachers are resistant to the change, with factors like power cuts and budget making up a huge share of challenge. So we set our selection of the technology based on the 3 prime constraints; low-powered, portable, and low cost. And for these traits, Raspberry Pi steps up as the knight in shining armor.


Computer setup with RPi image source


           [ image source]

Produced in Cambridge, Raspberry Pi primarily designed to demystify the technology in the classrooms for the learners, is a credit-card sized computer that costs only $35. The device plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. You can use this mini computer just like you would your desktop computer to do everything from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, or playing games.

How is OLE Nepal using Raspberry Pi?

Mountain View

Typical E-Pustakalaya lab setup

Predominantly we build Pustakalaya Server, which is typically a mini PC, hosting educational contents major section which is the E-Pustakalaya, which is digital library of more than 7000+ books of different genre build on the FEDORA (or Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture) digital asset management (DAM) architecture upon which institutional repositories, digital archives, and digital library systems are built. We also have added to it our home-brewed, curriculum-based interactive teaching material; E-Paath, off-line Khan Academy videos, Open-street map, Nepali Sabdakosh, PheT simulations and much more, with a regular update to books and educational content. Basically, Pustakalaya Server is the offline version of the pustakalaya.org. It’s more like bringing the Internet to your classroom.


After successful implementation of the XO and desktops computer as the client machine, Raspberry Pi, with its amazing community, is a pertinent technology to bring in our classrooms. We have been tinkering the popular Debian-based Linux-distro, Ubuntu-Mate. With its active popular community, it is best OS to our option. We have preloaded E-Paath content into the OS itself. Since most of the activities in our E-Paath are currently flash based; flash support was an important feature to have in the OS. Debian-based OS have much better flash support, it was another reason why Ubuntu-Mate was used. We also have loaded BalPaathmala, which is a small repository of the books, into the OS hosted on Apache web server.  We have been customizing the OS to make it more educational with the interactive games. Our work so far is just a tip of an iceberg.


Class 7-8 EPaath interface


Raspberry Pi Desktop




Pustakalaya Interface


EPaath Interface

Some of the features we are currently working on:

  1. Synchronization with Server.
  2. Student activity statistics collection in Server.
  3. Auto-running mount scripts.
  4. Using docker or lxc containers for  the installation and upgrades.

Where is this being implemented?

We have initiated a pilot program at Gorakhnath Secondary School, Kirtipur where 18 Raspberry Pi with preloaded educational content was deployed. It was a challenging experience as it was a-first-of-its-kind of deployment for us. We had a 5-day training for the teachers about pedagogy as well as the technical aspects of using the Raspberry Pi in the classroom. The primary purpose of the training was to inculcate, amongst the teachers, a culture of referring to additional reference materials. Looking at the excitement of the teachers, its just seems that ‘direction’ and ‘training’ were what was stopping technology from getting into their classrooms. We also installed the battery backup system for an uninterrupted flux of the lab. We are regularly providing technical support for the class as this is a pilot project for us.


Raspberry Pi Lab Setup


Students taking EPaath Class

OLE Nepal’s venture into open sourcing E-Paath(2-6)

OLE Nepal’s pursuit of digitizing educational material up to grade 10 recently reached a major milestone as we completed the development of content for grade-8. Although this is quite the achievement, computer technology is such an ever evolving field that the content developed for grade 2 to grade 6-using flash- have become technologically outdated. Consequently OLE Nepal in our endeavor of improving education through computer science decided to make our code base for grade 7-8, developed using HTML5, JS and CSS, open source and involve the students, in various fields of computer science, into our project to redevelop the content for grade 2-6.

The college we have currently approached and have started working with, to a certain extent, are:

  1. Thames College(10-15 students) ashish
  2. Apex College(10-15 students)
  3. Pulchowk Campus(10-15 students)
  4. Kathmandu University(10-12 students)

We are also looking into other possible colleges to collaborate with.

So far the response from the colleges and the number of students interested in being involved with our project has been very encouraging. Thames college, so far has been very proactive and we have already had multiple workshops with their students where we introduced them to the various programming approaches, good programming habits and libraries used in our project. Currently they are busy appearing their board exams however as soon as they will be done with their exams we will move into the next phase of our collaboration with them where they will develop the content of E-Paath for grade 2-6.
On a more personal note is was very interesting to see a good number of female students interested in our project. Female participation is something the field of Computer Science has not been able to attract for the longest time but the current bulk of female students pursuing a degree in Computer Science/Engineering seem intent on breaking the trend of male dominance in our field and bring some fresh perspective that can reinvigorate the existing crop of people in the technical sphere. It was very encouraging to meet the IT club of Apex college, where both the Chairperson and Secretary were female and their group had a good bulk of female participants.The other group that I was really impressed by were the students from Kathmandu University. These students took the initiative and approached us on their own and their group visited our office for the workshops all the way from Dhulikhel which had me in awe because personally, I was never as resourceful as this bunch during my college days. Their active participation and desire to better themselves by going beyond their prescribed syllabus is indicative of their pro-activeness.
We intend to have at least two workshops in each college so that the experience of the students in transitioning from a college environment to the sphere of IT professionals-open source contributors-is as smooth as we can possibly make.
Finally, we at OLE Nepal are very positive with the amount of progress we have made with integrating the colleges into our E-Paath 2-6 project and feel that the approach we are taking has the potential to be a mutually beneficial venture where the ultimate beneficiary will be the students seeking quality education in various parts of our country.

Process to get approvals to construct schools damaged by the earthquake

As we are getting ready to start constructing schools damaged by the earthquake in Gorkha district, we thought it’d be helpful to share the official process that we went through to secure all the approvals and paperwork. This might come handy to other organizations looking to build school buildings.

Activity Location Detail What to get
1. Site survey, community meetings Schools Survey the location, take stock of the situation, meet with school management, teachers, parents and community members. Check the number of students, and if the total number is low, ask if they are planning to merge with a nearby school.
  1. School, student, community information
  2. Community expectations
2. Preliminary school design & cost estimation Office Prepare a preliminary design that is in agreement with the government’s recommended school design and meets community expectations. and cost estimation that includes the cost of raw materials, transport, skilled and unskilled labor, regular monitoring and supervision
  1. Preliminary building design
  2. Tentative cost of school construction
3. Meeting with community Schools Discuss with the school community regarding the number of rooms needed, locally available construction materials, nearest place where other construction items can be procured, availability of skilled masons and other construction resources. Information to prepare detailed construction plan and accurate cost estimation
4. Secure funds Secure funding required to construct the school(s), if it has not been done already Funding
5. Recommendation from District Education Office (DEO) District Headquarter Once you are ready to build the school, submit a letter of interest to the DEO with the name and location of the school(s). The DEO will check to make sure that the school(s) has not received funds or commitment from other sources to construct the buildings, and also to make sure the school is not in the process of being merged. In such cases, the DEO will recommend other schools, or you can identify alternate schools yourself. Recommendation letter from DEO with names and locations of the schools.
6. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Department of Education (DoE) Kathmandu Submit the following:

  1. Recommendation letter from DEO
  2. Organization’s registration documents
  3. Funding source details with signed agreement
  4. Proposed school design They will review all the documents and sign an MoU with your organization.
  1. MoU with DoE to build the schools
  2. Letter to DEO requesting coordination with your organization for the construction of the schools
7. Letter from DEO to District Development Committee (DDC) District Headquarter Submit DoE’s letter and a copy of the MoU and request a letter to the DDC to provide necessary approvals to construct the school(s). Letter to DDC
8. Recommendation for extension of work area District Headquarter If the district is not in your organization’s work area, you will need to get extension of work area in the district from the District Administration Office (DAO) Letter from DDC to the DAO to extend work area in the district
9. Extension of work area District Headquarter Apply for work area extension at DAO with the following:

  1. Request letter
  2. Organization’s registration and bylaws
  3. DDC’s recommendation letter
Letter from DAO to DDC recommending the extension of work area
10. DDC’s recommendation to Social Welfare Council District Headquarter Submit documents to DDC:

  1. Letter from DEO
  2. MoU with DoE
  3. Organization’s registration and bylaws
  4. Detailed work plan
  5. Request letter for recommendation to Social Welfare Council (SWC)
Recommendation letter from DDC to SWC for the project
11. Approval from SWC Kathmandu Apply for approval from SWC with the following documents:

  1. Detailed work plan
  2. MoU with DoE
  3. Organization’s registration and bylaws
  4. DDC’s recommendation letter
  5. School building design
  6. Funding source detail with signed agreement
  7. Cost estimation certified by an engineering firm
Approval from SWC for the project
12. Finalize school design School locations and office Prepare the following:

  1. Detailed site survey and measurement
  2. Detailed engineering design
  3. List and quantity of building materials
Final design with budget
13. DoE approval of final school design Kathmandu Get approval of building design from DoE as per school building structural design criteria Signed MoU with SMC
14. MoU with School Management Committee (SMC) Schools Sign an agreement with SMC to outlining the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders


DoE: Department of Education

DEO: District Education Office

DDC: District Development Committee

DAO: District Administration Office

SWC: Social Welfare Council

SMC: School Management Committee



Volunteer Spotlight: Srikaran Masabathula

Srikaran Masabathula is our Earthquake relief volunteer from Knox College, Illinois.

During his second year at Knox, he was looking to make a positive difference and decided to head to Nepal to support OLE Nepal with their earthquake relief efforts in the severely destructed area.

Following is the experience shared by Srikaran on his visit to Nepal.


Srikaran Masabathula [left]

“Hello, this is Srikaran Masabathula and I would like to thank OLE Nepal for giving me and my good friend Matt Surprenant the opportunity to assist in the earthquake relief efforts. When the earthquake hit Nepal, along with a few of my Nepali friends at Knox, we were sleeping peacefully completely unaware of the devastation going on on our planet. The next morning western media didn’t really give it too much coverage and it tried to undersell the devastation. However, my Nepali friends were very quick to post the personal destruction that their families and friends had experienced overnight. The pictures shared, stories told, were absolutely heartbreaking. That is when it really hit us that our friends, the ones we have studied and played with, may not have a home to go back to. Their towns and houses were destroyed and they had to be away from it all, not even with the comfort of their family by them. We started looking for volunteer opportunities when we found out about OLE Nepal through Ms. Manisha Pradhananga, an economics professor at our college who helped us greatly also in acquiring funding for our trip to Nepal.


Destruction caused by Earthquake in Gorkha

I landed in Nepal completely amazed at the beauty of the place and the sense of togetherness among the people. My first day at OLE, I loved the way the office worked. Everyone at the office was very closely knitted and it seemed more like a big family working together for a great cause – enhancing the quality of education through the integration of technology in rural classrooms. The first week at office, I got to know a lot about the activities that OLE was involved in and also learnt how to work on the XO laptops which were rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. OLE Nepal had a very popular program called E-Paath where they designed and developed educational contents with various features of technology such as audio, images, animation and text to be built into the laptops with their team of graphic designers and software programmers. OLE has already designed over 500 lessons and activities for students of classes 2 through 7 in the subjects of Science, Mathematics, English and Nepali which were in complete accordance with the national curricula. Another great programme of OLE is E-Pustakalaya is an open digital library which provides free access to over 7000 full text documents, books, educational videos, audio books, learning software, reference materials.


The next week we travelled to Gorkha with a team of two other people Ms. Sofila Vaidya and Mr. Ganesh Ghimire to survey schools that were destroyed in the series of massive earthquakes that struck Nepal towards the end of April and early May. We hiked across 8-9 villages in the Gorkha region through a period of 5 days to visit schools in the vicinity and talk to the management of the schools and assessing the needs of the schools that would benefit from the interactive learning XO laptops. We surveyed about 7-8 schools and we were to pick 5 schools on the criteria of availability of electricity, student size, teacher qualifications and community involvement. Some of the schools were completely destroyed by the earthquakes and classes were temporarily being conducted in the thatched huts while a new building was being constructed nearby.

srikaran with kids


With the work being done by OLE Nepal, I definitely see a bright future for the kids studying and it also is a great way to keep their mind away from the horrific earthquake. I am forever grateful to get the opportunity to work for such an incredible organization and glad we got to work for a great cause. My sincere thanks to Mr. Rabi Karmacharya, the director of OLE Nepal and the rest of the team, our Professor Ms. Manisha Pradhananga for all her continued support and help in getting us the funding. Without the Richter grant and Stellyes funding, the trip could have never been possible. Special thanks to the Stellyes sisters and the Vovis center and last but not the least, Knox College.”


Hit the ball for Nepal

DougieDougie Foster is an Evolutionary Anthropology student working as a research assistant for the project run by the University of Oxford investigating the transmission of caste status. He has traveled to Nepal couple times in order to conduct the research in his field of study. During his third visit to the country, which happened to be around time when Nepal was hit by the massive earthquake, he came to know about OLE Nepal.

After learning about our work , he decided to organize a fundraising event in London, United Kingdom to help us in our earthquake relief efforts towards school rebuilding. Dougie organized a fulfilled tennis match on 19th of July, 2015 which was attended by more than fifty enthusiastic participants and was named “Hit the Ball for Nepal.”

The event was a great success in terms of the funds raised as well as in spreading an awareness about OLE Nepal’s objectives. The fundraising campaign run through indiegogo met the target of 1500 pounds.

OLE Nepal team would like to heartily thank Dougie for organizing the fundraising event to help uplift the education of children affected by recent earthquakes in Nepal.

Re-posting Dougie’s story about OLE Nepal:

OLE (Open Learning Exchange) Nepal open up whole new worlds of learning for children in Nepal who have limited access to adequate educational material, or none at all. By providing remote schools with cheap, custom-designed laptops that store a wealth of engaging content, OLE Nepal provide the keys to unlock children’s potential, desperate as they are for exposure to new ideas and technology. Not only that, but the laptops have been shown to actually redefine pupils’, teachers’ and communities’ approaches to what education is. Rote learning fizzles out as pupils take more initiative in their classrooms, and truancy levels plummet because they are motivated to come in to school and use the OLE Nepal computers to discover troves of information. The PCs offer multilingual interactive exercises in Nepali, English, Maths and Science, as well as a host of other incredible features- access to 1000s of online books, Wikipedia, virtual instruments, lessons in coding, and the ability to chat with pupils from other schools. And it is all open source (which, if you’re a Luddite who hasn’t heard of the phrase, is something really cool!) For more information on the content provided, see here: http://www.olenepal.org/E-Paath/

Having taught in and observed a group of rural schools over the past 3 months, I arranged to meet the OLE team the other day at their office in Kathmandu to find out exactly what they’re up to, and can personally attest that what they are doing is revolutionising Nepal’s education sector. The Ministry of Education are fully backing their work, well aware as they are that the system needs shaking up, and that technological literacy will play a vital role for the future of Nepali children.

tennis court

A fun tennis match to raise funds for OLE Nepal

After the harrowing earthquakes earlier this year, OLE Nepal are zoning in on the worst affected communities. Pupils there may have to sit under tarpaulins while their schools are rebuilt- we can help to provide them with the necessary materials to continue and greatly enhance their education, and, in turn, their lives.


Group picture of the participants. Thank you guys!!

A huge thank you to everyone at OLE Nepal for their hard work, and Jai Nepal!

Technology in Nepal’s classrooms: Using impact evaluation as a learning device


Re-posting a blog by Quentin Wodon, a lead economist at the World Bank expressing his understanding and perspectives gained from the presentation by Mr. Rabi Karmacharya in a seminar organized by The World Bank Group in Washington D.C. about OLE Nepal’s successes and challenges in implementing laptop-based integrated learning initiative programs from pilot phases to scaling up.

students with laptops

“Impact evaluations are key to how we think about development. Pilot programs suggesting statistically significant impacts are hailed as breakthroughs and as candidates for scaling up. Programs without such clear impact tend to be looked down upon and may be terminated. This may not be warranted.  A primary function of impact evaluations should be to improve existing programs, especially in fields where evidence of positive impacts remains scarce. The experience of OLE Nepal, which is part of the OLE network and aims to improve learning and teaching through technology, is instructive in this regard.

Last week, Rabi Karmacharya shared his experience at OLE Nepal at a  seminar co-sponsored by the World Bank, the Global Partnership for Education and the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, a supporter of Rotary Club of Kathmandu Mid Town in expanding OLE Nepal’s programs. After a successful career in enginerring and technology in California, he launched OLE Nepal in 2007. Now a social entrepreneur, Rabi wants to use technology to transform the way children learn through engagement, exploration and experimentation.

OLE Nepal has achieved quite a bit over the last eight years: deploying 5,000+ laptops in 100+ schools, training 600+ teachers on integrating ICT in the classroom teaching-learning process, developing 600+ learning modules for use by teachers, and creating a digital library with 6000+ books and other items used in schools and community libraries. Its ultimate objective is to help transform and improve Nepal’s education system with technology, working closely with the Ministry of Education and other partners.

What I found most interesting about Rabi’s presentation is how OLE Nepal – as well as donors that support the NGO such as the World Food Program, responded to an evaluation of its programs in 2009-11. The evaluation used a quasi-experimental design: English and mathematics tests administered to students, with collection of additional data through student, teacher and household surveys.

The results were disappointing, with no effect on student test scores even though both teachers and students reported liking the digital contents and finding them useful. The results contradicted field observations and other evidence from teachers and students on the fact that the program was making a difference.

Several factors may have led to an apparent lack of impact on student learning, according to Rabi. First, the program had been implemented only for a relatively short period of time, and improving student learning takes time. Second, it turned out that not all teachers reported to the one-week intensive training session that was held before launching the program, which may have decreased overall impacts in the schools that benefitted from the program. Third, some teachers may not have used as the available digital resources as much as expected due to the increase in workload that this entailed. Fourth, after the initial training, the support provided to teachers was limited. Fifth, it could be that the digital content, while following the curriculum taught in school, was too difficult for students to grasp.

These and a number of  factors (including questions about variations in exam difficulty between the baseline and endline tests in the evaluation, and the possibility that some students spent more time on games available through the digital libraries rather than on study for examinations) may have led to the results.

What is important is that the evaluation did not lead to the demise of the program. Witnessing firsthand the changes in classroom dynamic and student engagement brought about by the program, donors continued to fund the NGO, which has been able to grow with support from the World Food Program, the Embassies of Denmark and Finland, and most recently the Air Asia Foundation.

In response to the evaluation, OLE Nepal introduced a number improvements in its programs:

  • It now promotes a shared model between grades for a more effective use of laptops and digital resources by schools and teachers;
  • The use of resources by students is better supervised and teachers receive more extensive support after the initial one-week training.  In addition, a volunteers program is available  for additional support;
  • The educational contents have been revised  to follow the curriculum even more closely; and
  • More emphasis will be put on enhancing the ability of students to read in early grades, since this is a prerequisite for them to be able to learn subsequently and use digital resources effectively.

OLE Nepal’s experience is a great lesson in social entrepreneurship, humility, and resilience from an innovative NGO that strives to help teachers and students harness the power of technology in the classroom.”

This blog has been retrieved from blogs.worldbank.org/education