This week, I joined the OLPC Ethiopia team on their travels to a rural school in the Oromia region. The 2 hour drive was fascinating. You start off driving through typical Addis city areas, but slowly there are more and more animals on the road. People are jogging behind their donkeys, which are being used to transport wood and other materials. The landscape improves. After more and more animal-dodging, we reach a town with some basic shops, and the road becomes a dirt track. Oh good, we’ve arrived.
The journey continues. Houses turn into shacks and then into mud huts. Fewer and fewer people are around, and the countryside gets richer and richer. Never again am I complaining about bumpy roads in the UK/US. On every step of the journey, I’m thinking “there’s no way we’re sending laptops here!”
30 minutes later, we veer off road and start driving up a grassy bank. We stop at a gap in a fence. Welcome to Mulosayoo school.
The school is made up of a number of disconnected buildings, each one holding one or two classrooms. The playground/assembly area is just some grass. Cows are calmly wandering around (unfortunately we did not budget any laptops for them though). The children are fascinated by my presence, seemingly having never seen a white person before. One of the first things that strikes me about the classrooms is that they do not even have lights!
The teachers are excited but having little experience with computers, they are challenged by the training. Perhaps one of the most encouraging stories from the training days came from a daughter of one of the teachers. The teachers had been in possession of the laptops for a while beforehand, and this young girl had spent some time with it. She eagerly explained how she had learned to write, paint, and take photos, without any introduction or training whatsoever.
There was much excitement as laptops were distributed.
My favourite moment of the experience was driving back on the 3rd day. Shortly after leaving we drove past children walking home with their laptops. We then reached a scene where there was a rural-looking man on horseback, dressed in simple, rag-like clothing. Remember, we’re totally in the middle of nowhere. 3 children were following on foot, holding their high-tech XO laptops. This was easily the biggest mix of generations, lifestyle and technology that I have ever seen in a single scene. No photo, unfortunately, so it will just remain as a memory.
More pics on the OLPC photostream.