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

Innovation in Education (OLPC implementation in Nepal)

Innovation in Education

Since its inception in 2005, the One Laptop Per Child Program (OLPC) with its $200 XO laptop has simultaneously sparked excitement and hype as well as controversy, particularly within the realm of educational discourse. After all, in OLPC chairman Nicholas Negroponte‘s own words, “It’s not a laptop project. It’s an education project.” In Nepal, Open Learning Exchange Nepal (OLE Nepal) has created its own model. Instead of simply distributing XO laptops to children, the organization has taken matters a step further by creating original digital learning activities directly supplementing the current national educational curriculum, training teachers to use the new resources to best effect and creating a digital library with a wide range of educational materials before finally distributing the laptops in public schools all over the country. What they are doing in Nepal, in the systematic manner that it is being done, in conjunction with the government, is the first project of its kind and its success could inspire countries around the world to adapt the model to fit their own requirements.

With the start of the new academic year, OLE Nepal is in the midst of deploying nearly 1800 laptops in 26 schools in 6 districts around the country. The deployment was preceded by a series of district-based teacher training program on the basic functionalities of the laptop and how best to use it within a classroom. A detailed teacher-training guide as well as individual lesson plans and guidelines are available for teachers for each of the learning activities known as E-Paath (try E-Paath online or by downloading at: http://www.olenepal.org/e_paath.html). The laptop and the digital activities in no way intend to replace regular teaching but to complement it instead. E-Paath consists of both lessons and exercises. Students can use the lessons to revisit a lesson already taught by a teacher and use the exercises to deepen their understanding of the material studied. The machine, tailor made to fit educational needs, encourages ‘active learning’ drawing children and teachers away from traditional rote learning methods to learning by doing, hearing and seeing.

OLE Nepal has also created a digital library, E-Pustakalaya (www.pustakalaya.org), which adds an entirely different dimension to the work it is doing. In addition to allowing children to visualize what they’re learning, with E-Paath, the library provides children with a repository of information (materials on health, the environment, education, literature, etc) that they can visit and revisit searching for and reading up on topics that may interest them, ultimately helping them become independent critical thinkers and information seekers.

It is natural for some people to be skeptical about something so new and seemingly counter intuitive; how can spending money on laptops be justified in developing countries where basic needs, like food and clothing, aren’t being met? The initial investments in laptops may seem extravagant and unjustified at first, but on closer inspection it is clear that the possibilities for information sharing and empowerment are limitless. The potential achievements of a program like this reminds us of the old adage “give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Education is undoubtedly an integral part of all development models today. Even the biggest critics of formal education would be hard pressed to argue that education in some form is not essential for development. If education is so essential, then logic demands that giving the very best education possible must be a priority for effective development. The model being implemented by OLE Nepal both bolsters the current education system as well as aims to bridge the gap in access to information between different socio-economic realities. The success of the project will bring the students from different backgrounds in Nepal to a much more level playing field than before. If we are to make progress in leaps and bounds, we must focus on treating problems rather than just washing away the symptoms and this project aims to do just that.

Astha Thapa

This article is from the June issue of UNWO’s The Mirror.