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such an ever evolving field that the content developed for grade 2 to grade 6-using flash- have become technologically outdated.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.

Learn English Kids

OLE Nepal recently signed an agreement with the British Council to host ‘Learn English Kids (LE Kids)’ interactive software in the E-Pustakalaya. LE Kids teaches fundamentals of the English language to children and adults through the use of audio visual effects and flash animations.  In this regard, it is similar to OLE Nepal’s E-Paath activities, but the scope of LE Kids is not qualified to any curriculum. The partnership has expanded the reach of LE Kids to nearly 3400 students in 34 schools spread across ten districts in Nepal where OLE Nepal has implemented ICT-integrated classes using the OLPC model. By integrating the LE Kids in the digital library hosted in local servers, schools no longer require Internet connectivity to benefit from these activities. OLE Nepal has always emphasized the need for quality learning materials like LE Kids in order to realize a meaningful impact on children’s learning through computers. By making these activities freely available to everyone, the British Council has done a great service to students and learners who otherwise would have been deprived of this great tool to improve their English language skills.

LE Kids provides its users with a multitude of options such as solving puzzles, painting, reading, playing games and listening to songs. All of these choices enable people to learn day to day English. This can be something as simple as knowing English terms for food items sold at shopping centres or teaching comprehension skills with its various read and solve quizzes.

LE Kids also contains two person general knowledge quizzes. These quizzes allow healthy competition among children, teach children (and adults) interesting facts about our changing world and also enable and encourage kids to share their computers. This will be very useful for students in rural schools where even with the generous numbers of XO laptops provided by OLE Nepal there is a need to share. Some of the quiz questions also explain why an answer is incorrect. For example a question regarding the largest lake in the world has as an incorrect option the deepest lake in the world, lake Baikal. Thus, even while answering incorrectly children can learn a new fact as well as understand that there are differences between similar concept words such as ‘large’ and ‘deep’.

My favourite section in LE Kids is the Short Story section. The user has fifty two stories to choose from. Apart from being able to read along with the stories some of them are also interactive. The ‘Spycat’ story for example allows the children to solve the clues that Spycat discovers. This technique allows children to remain engaged with the story and not lose focus.

We can say with certainty that both students and teachers will greatly benefit from LE Kids activities as content to build English language skills is scarce. One can access LE Kids from the E-Pusatkalaya homepage. It is conveniently located in the upper right hand panel of the homepage under the title ‘अंग्रेजी भाषा सिकौँ’ (‘Learn English Kids’ in our English interface). Any one who has tried LE Kids will find it fun and appealing to the intellect.

Young Adult’s Literature: Seminar


As mentioned in an earlier post (http://blog.olenepal.org/index.php/archives/377), OLE Nepal has started the initiative to create content suitable for Young Adults. As a first step, a seminar was organized on the 22nd December, 2010 in Kathmandu to discuss the various issues, problems, and challenges faced by young adults in everyday life. The seminar was attended by eminent authors, artists, teachers, students, social workers, parents and others related to the literary field.

The program began with OLE Nepal’s Founder and Executive Director Mr. Rabi Karmacharya welcoming the guests and giving a brief introduction on OLE Nepal’s pioneering activities in ICT-integrated education. This was followed by a short demonstration of the digital library, E-Pustakalaya. Then Prof. Churamani Bandhu, a prominent writer and a member of OLE Nepal’s digital library advisory panel, presented a paper on the state of young-adult literature in Nepal. This was followed by another panel member and prolific author, Mr. Vinaya Kasajoo, shedding light on the importance of young-adult literature, as well as on various issues such as youth psychology, emotional state, and socio-psycho-economic factors affecting the youth of today. Then the floor was opened to all participators to share their thoughts on what the writers should address on this new genre of literature.

Founder and Executive Director Mr. Rabi Karmacharya welcoming guests

Mr. Ganesh Ghimire describing features of E-Pustakalaya.

All participants agreed that there is a dire need for literature content that is created for young adults. Several participants suggested that topics such as one’s growing sexuality and experience with drug usage during adolescence should be addressed in stark contrast to the traditional approach in Nepali society of not discussing such issues. Many youths today are addicted to drugs such as marijuana, brown sugar, lsd, sniffing glue (huffing glue) and acid. This has come about due to consumer goods such as glue being easily available in the market and pharmaceutical products being sold without prescriptions.

The older generation seem to have been caught unaware of this development. They tend to regard cough medicines as only medicine and do not recognise the danger of their children ingesting such pharmaceutical drugs in large quantities. While Young Adults tend to be aware of a drugs ability to get them high they do not understand the dangers that come along with ingesting products which is easily found in their household medicine cabinets. Regarding sexuality, participants opined that since girls discover that their physical changes occur faster than that of boys their age, it is important to make girls aware that such changes are not unnatural. Without much information nor adults who they can turn to for answers, girls are more likely to be introverted as well as become victims of bullying and eve teasing. These changes, coupled with the existent gender discrimination girls face in Nepal, means that adolescence is the most difficult period for a girl to come out of without being mentally and emotionally scarred.

Prof. Dr. Churamani Bandu presenting his working paper

As marginalised genders’ get empowered it is also important that we prevent violent backlashes against them. Young Adult literature should deal with complicated issues such as third gender and importantly how they fit into our society. YA literature is a new genre thus, it has the capability to break away from the traditional boy-girl relationship or the old concept of what it is to be a woman or a man. It was also made clear that while presenting such social issues, literature should create an atmosphere which is not too far from reality. Old authors may not understand how new technologies and greater access to consumer goods have affected today’s youth. New age problems such as cyber bullying, perils of amateur pornography and sharing others’ private information on social networks need to be kept in mind.

Mr. Vinaya Kasajoo moderating the seminar.

Others pointed out that there is a real need for historical fiction. Many young adults struggle with identity crisis; on the one hand they believe they are adults, yet adults around them treat them as children. This coupled with a lack of historical knowledge tend to have negative affect on teen aspirations and spirits. Few teachers present in the seminar felt that knowledge of historical figures should be depicted in the literature so that young-adult readers not only feel a sense of patriotism, but also have proper role models they can look up to. Further, such historical content will help put the achievements of young adults in perspective.

Participants of the Young Adult Literature Seminar

Many of the social workers present pointed out that teenagers tend to be rebellious by nature. They tend to commit illegal acts by making graffiti in public areas, using firecrackers and attempting other acts of vandalism. This type of rebellion is caused by their frustration at not being taken seriously by adults in authority. It has been found that a well reasoned response go further than just telling teenagers what it is they can and can’t do. In this way literature should allow them to better deal with these emotions and show them alternative paths where they could direct these energy for constructive purposes.

The information and suggestions collected at the seminar will be used in the young-adult literature writing workshop that will soon be organized by OLE Nepal.

Nepali Young Adult’s Literature: Content Creation Project

OLE Nepal has started an ambitious project to create content relevant to Young Adult (YA) in Nepali literature. Over the span of two years we spent collecting and archiving work of Nepali literature, we realized that there was a real dearth of literary materials for YAs between the ages of eleven and eighteen. After a number of discussions on this topic, E-Pustakalaya’s Advisory Panel met on November 30, 2010 at OLE Nepal office to plan the content creation process to meet the literary needs of teenagers in Nepal.



E-Pustakalaya Advisory Panel meeting to discuss Young Adult literature workshop

From L to R: Bishwambhar Chanchal, Vinaya Kasajoo, Geeta Keshary, Churamani Bandhu, Rambabu Subedi and (not seen Dhruva Ghimire)

The panel decided that we need to better understand the social and psychological issues relevant to Nepali youth before starting the content creation process. OLE Nepal will be organizing a day-long seminar on December 22, 2010 at the Russian Culture Centre to discuss the areas that should be addressed by this project. With our target audience narrowed down to students who have just finished their School Leaving Certificate exams (grade 10), we hope that the literary that will eventually be produced will address key social issues regarding this challenging period in a teen’s life.

The seminar will be attended by authors, illustrators, teachers, authors and students. Two papers, one on the importance of YA literature in Nepal and another one on current styles and popular techniques used in YA literature around the world, will be presented by Prof. Churamani Bandu and Mr. Vinaya Kasajoo respectively. After the paper presentations, participating teachers and students will discuss their real life problems while dealing with or being an adolescent. We believe this preliminary seminar will provide the necessary literary spark and base to aspiring authors present at the seminar. They will then be able to bring these ideas with them to the writer’s workshops conducted at a future date.

Per Child Cost Analysis of OLPC Project in Nepal

OLE Nepal prepared a preliminary “per child cost” of the One Laptop Per Child project based on the pilot project carried out in the last academic year (April 2009 – March 2010) in 26 schools in six districts of Nepal. The project was implemented in partnership with Nepal Government’s Department of Education (DoE)’s and funded by the Danish Government’s Local Grant Authority, UN World Food Programme’s Nepal Country Programme. The laptops were donated by the Swift Banking group through the OLPC Foundation.

The following are the key assumptions and considerations taken while computing the cost:

  • The XO laptops’ lifespan is 5 years, as stated by the manufacturers

  • The repair and maintenance cost for equipment is 2.5% of the purchase cost

  • The content development cost for certain subject and grades can also be considered negative cost as they are already prepared during the pilot phase.

Per unit cost to implement the project comes to be Rs. 27,628 (US $ 368)1 during the project/pilot phase considering 26 schools in six districts and around 2100 students and teachers. At present, if the XO laptops are assumed to have life span of five years, and everything else associated with the pilot/project is assumed to remain constant, then per child cost per year for next 5 years (for a child who uses the XO from grade 2 to grade 6) can be calculated as Rs. 5,500 (US $ 77). Per unit cost or per child cost can come down significantly if the number of students are increased as some of the costs associated with the project such as content development remain constant no matter how many students are targeted. Furthermore, the content development cost for certain subject and grades can also be considered negative cost as they are already prepared during the pilot phase and can be used for further expansions. The cost associated with the project is given in detail in the attached sheet.

The costs taken into consideration to derive per child cost based on 26 pilot schools are:

1. Cost of Laptops

2. School infrastructure

3. Teacher Training

4. Deployment cost (at project launch)

5. Running costs during pilot year

6. Content development cost

7. Project development cost

8. Network cost

Laptops: OLPC XO laptops are priced at US $200 and another US$ 25 is factored in as shipping and handling cost. Although the laptops for each child will cost US $ 225 at present day cost (OLPC insists the price will come down by up to 25% as the volume of orders increases), and assuming that the laptops lifespan is 5 years, the child will have the laptop from grade two till grade six. Hence when the current cost of laptop is spread over 5 years, then cost per child cost for the laptops comes to US $ 45 per year. Further, as the overall price of the computers are declining and other computers similar to XO laptops are also emerging fast it will be safe to assume that better and cheaper laptops will be available in the market.

School infrastructure: The initial setup at 26 schools required Rs.4,599,934, which included networking and power equipment installations. Hence, the per school cost comes to Rs.176,000. This amount can be largely taken as one time cost and for a period of over 5 years 2.5% or Rs. 4,400 should be considered as repair and maintenance cost for the equipments installed in each school. Details of type of equipment required at school level are given in attached sheet.

Teacher training: Rs. 2,089,000 were incurred in teacher training from each school. This cost also includes training package preparation, master trainer development from DoE and NCED systems, training for OLPC focal persons from the districts and 113 teachers from 26 schools in six districts. Teacher training costs can also be considered as one time cost with refresher training given to teachers every other year. Cost associated to train a school teacher to be able to integrate ICT based education in daily teaching and learning will be around Rs. 18,500 per teacher.

Deployment cost: Deployment cost at program launch for all 26 schools was Rs. 1,112,975, roughly about Rs. 43,000 per school. The costs factored in are for travel and other related costs associated with deployment plus laptop transport and network setup for each school. This cost can also be considered as one time cost for each school if laptops for grade 2 -6 are deployed at the same time. This cost will also decrease significantly as the number of schools increases per district.

Running costs during pilot year (Rs.958,593): Running costs such as electricity, internet fees and monitoring and supervision costs are associated in this category. Running cost for all 26 schools is estimated to be Rs. 958,600 or Rs. 36,800 per school per year.

Content development cost (Rs. 5,902,000): The cost for content development for grades 2 & 3 (Nepali, English and Mathematics) and 6 (English and Mathematics) was Rs. 5,902,000. This cost is only associated with human resources cost. This can be considered onetime cost and constant for any number of children, with additional budget required to develop additional activities in additional grades and subjects. This also assumes a small budget each year for updating and changes required in the existing activities.

Project development cost (Rs. 4,901,000): Project development cost mentioned here is a one year cost of the project management cost associated with the OLPC project. Besides human resource to manage the cost no other costs are associated with this segment. This cost is strictly associated with implementing partner and may not be necessary if the project is implemented by the government.

Network Cost: Similar to content development and Project Development cost, Network cost also reflects the human resource cost to staff the network team with engineers to develop architecture and install wireless networks for schools.

Budget Summary is given in the table below:

Budget summary

Area

Total cost

% of total

NRs.

US $

1. Laptops

35,523,360

473,645

63

2. School Infrastructure

4,599,934

61,333

8

3. Teacher training

2,089,000

27,853

4

4. Deployment cost

1,112,975

14,840

2

5. Running costs per year

958,593

12,781

2

6. Content Development Cost

5,902,000

78,693

10

7. Project Development Cost

4,901,000

65,347

9

8. Network Cost

1,716,000

22,880

3

Total cost excluding laptops

21,279,502

283,727

Total cost including laptops

56,802,862

757,372

100

Per student cost with XO

27,628

368

Per student cost without XO

10,350

138

Exchange rate (US$ 1 = NRs.)

75

1Exchange Rate: US $ 1 = NRs. 75

E-Pustakalaya Initiatives

E-Pustakalaya has come a long way since its public launch in February 2009.

OLE Nepal has managed to build partnerships with contemporary Nepali writers of children and other literature and acquired a large number of their work for E-Pustakalaya. Two workshops were held, in April and in October 2009 at Martin Chautari, for writers. Those present included some of the most prominent writers in Nepali contemporary literature. A large number of authors have readily given their material to the library for free. Given the context of Nepal where reading books, aside from school books for kids, is hardly encouraged, the authors are hopeful that E-Pustakalaya will expand the reach of their books in Nepal and abroad and encourage more Nepalis to read.

With the same intention of expanding readership of Nepali and other literary work, OLE Nepal has joined forces with like-minded organisations with the aim to promote a healthy reading culture amongst children in Nepal through the establishment and expansion of physical and digital libraries in the country. OLE Nepal, together with Nepal Library Foundation (NLF), Help Nepal Network (HeNN), Room to Read, Kathmandu Valley Public Library, Prakash Community Library, CCS Italy, Children’s Community Library group, and READ Nepal have agreed in principle to work on four major areas to develop libraries all over Nepal– advocacy, training teachers and librarians, resource mobilisation, and ICT issues. This close collaboration amongst the various partners will help overcome hurdles in the fight against widespread illiteracy, and highlight the importance of reading culture and libraries in Nepal’s development. The group also plans to collectively attract the Nepal Government’s attention towards the importance of libraries and its importance in enlightening and developing a nation. OLE Nepal is the leader in Nepal in the development and deployment of digital libraries, and has developed a first of its kind education-centred digital library, E-Pustakalaya. OLE Nepal hopes to expand access to E-Pustakalaya and other reading resources in Nepal through this alliance.

OLE Nepal has also set up an advisory board for E-Pustakalaya. Given that E-Pustakalaya is not just a repository of any and all materials, but a specifically education-focused library, it was deemed necessary to have an advisory board to suggest worthy materials for addition as well as to review existing and other additions to make sure they fit OLE Nepal’s vision to create a unique education focused digital library. The first advisory board meeting took place on March 18, 2010.

OLE Nepal is fortunate to have the following notable personalities from Nepali literary circles on the E-Pustakalaya Advisory Board:

Bishwambhar Chanchal has been serving the Nepali literature scene for over four decades. He was President of Nepalese Society for Children’s Literature (NESCHIL) for several years. He has been bestowed with numerous awards some of which are Mainali Katha Puraskar, Rastriya Bal Sahitya Puraskar, Ratna Bal Puraskar, Nepal Bal Sahitya Samaj Puraskar.

Dr. Churamani Bandhu is an eminent linguist of the Nepali language, he is also the current chairman of the Nepali Folklore Society. The Tribhuvan University professor was recently honoured for his ongoing services towards Nepali literature during the hundredth birth anniversary of Laxmi Prasad Devkota.

Dhruva Ghimire is a renowned children’s author and a teacher of Nepali Language. His works such as Khuta Gaane Khel and Jeet Kasko Huncha have won the NESCHIL award for writing children’s literature.

Geeta Keshary was the first female Member Secretary of the Royal Nepal Academy. For writing over a dozen novels she has been bestowed with various awards such as Lok Priya Award, National Talent Award, Dharani Dhar Award and Gamki Basundhara Award.

Hiranya Kumari Pathak is the current Chief Editor of Nari Patrika and Mahila Chetana Maanch. For her numerous works in literature she has received some of the highest civilian honours which include Trishaktipaadh Chautho and Gorkha Dakshin Bahu Chautho.

Rambabu Subedi had his first poem published over forty years ago. Today he is the president of NESCHIL which hands out two annual awards for writing and illustration in children’s literature.

Vinaya Kasajoo is the current Chief Information Commissioner of the National Information Commission. He has written over 20 books in Nepali and is a strong proponent of spreading knowledge through the power of various mass media.

E-Pustakalaya can be accessed at www.pustakalaya.org. For more information on E-Pustakalaya please also visit: http://olenepal.org/e_pustakalaya.html

OLE Nepal Newsletter published

OLE Nepal has published its first bi-monthly email newsletter that intends to keep its readers uptodate on the organisation and its activities. It includes an introduction to OLE Nepal as well as updates on the recent visit by the Director General of the Department of Education to Dadeldhura and on the OLE Global Assembly. The full newsletter can be accessed at:

http://www.olenepal.org/ole_newsletter/OLENepalJanFeb10.pdf

Watch out for more newsletters in the future! The next newsletter will feature in detail the second round of deployment of E-Paatis (OLPC XO) laptops in Nepal.

If you wish to subscribe to the newsletter, please email newsletter@olenepal.org.