After three weeks in Kathmandu, volunteering for OLE Nepal, my impression of the project can be summed up in one word: wow!
Before coming to Kathmandu, my knowledge of OLPC and the XO was limited to what I had read in the news. I really have learned much in the last three weeks. My first lesson was that OLPC is not an implementation organization. Don’t get me wrong, the development and distribution of an affordable laptop is great. It’s the XO that initially drew me to OLE Nepal, however, there is so much more to the OLPC model than the XO.
My second area of learning involved the current situation of education in Nepal. Through discussions, reading, and a trip out to Bishwamitra, it became ever apparent how desperate the situation actually is. There are many problems, ranging from infrastructure, physical structures, and a lack of funding which leads to a lack in teaching resources.
At Bishwamitra, I did not see a single book. Coming from a liberal arts background, this is indicative of a great problem. While much learning occurs through video and interpersonal communication, my personal experience has taught me that the best way to learn subjects such as history and social sciences is through reading – something that is hard to do without books.
Thankfully, one of the primary elements of the OLE Nepal project is an electronic library. Sure enough, this library will take a great deal of time to compile and refine in addition to solving some technical issues, but I have littleÂ doubt that a large gap will increasingly be filled with the distribution of XOs with access to the OLE Nepal e-library.
While I have only learned a fraction of what there is to know about OLPC and OLE Nepal, I do think I am starting to “get it,” and in getting it, I am grateful to be working this summer at OLE Nepal. There is so much potential, and an even greater need. Hopefully, I will be able to add at least a little to this wonderful cause.