Providing Lesotho's Children with Keys to the World

This is the story of our efforts to end the vicious cycle of poverty, disease, inadequate education, and early death
in a remote rural community in Lesotho, Africa, by providing quality education and life skills
to the young children there. Join us on our journey ...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Filing For Tax-Exempt Status

IRS Makes Applying for Tax-exempt Status Easier for Small Organizations
The Internal Revenue Service today introduced a new, shorter application form, Form 1023-EZ, to help small charities apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status more easily. Most organizations with annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less and assets of $250,000 or less are eligible.

The change will allow the IRS to speed the approval process for smaller groups and free up resources to review applications from larger, more complex organizations while reducing the application backlog. 

The new 1023-EZ form must be filed on
, accompanied by a $400 user fee. The instructions include an eligibility checklist that organizations must complete before filing the form.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Laptops to Lesotho Elects New Board Member

Henk Boshoff was recently elected as a new director of Laptops to Lesotho.  Henk is a tech company owner from Pretoria, South Africa.  He is a strong supporter of the Laptops to Lesotho philosophy and approach.

Henk and his engineers will be getting involved in getting the servers at Kokobe and Nohana up and running.  He will also work with training those involved with using the servers.  This alone has the potential to vastly improve the effectiveness of the project by making computer use at the schools easier and more productive.

In addition, he is very interested in seeing L2L expand. His advice will be invaluable in choosing the best hardware and software options.  He has worked with the Linux open source operating system, Edubuntu, and would handle installation of it and any educational software to the computers.

Affordable internet access at the schools is something he would like to see happen.  Another interest is finding ways to develop entrepreneurial endeavors with community members and students using laptops and internet communications to establish local businesses.

Welcome to Laptops to Lesotho.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

eBook Distribution Solutions Emerge from Africa

Article re-posted from

There is great demand for eBooks in emerging markets however the demand for eTextbooks is even greater. Countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, China and Brazil are struggling to gain access to eTextbooks in their classrooms and universities. The societal factors of some of these countries require easy-to-use solutions that are also scalable and specifically designed for these markets.

The spotlight will be on the London Book Fair during the upcoming days, one of the largest book fairs in the UK. South African startup, Snapplify, has been attending the London Book Fair since they launched in 2011 and has signed leading local and international publishers. The company has been working on new digital publishing models for high growth emerging markets and has recently given a stronger focus to the academic market. This year the London Book Fair has dedicated an entire stream to Education, with multiple seminars focusing on Academic publishing. Snapplify has extensive experience providing digital publishing solutions to education publishers, particularly those expanding into emerging markets via digital textbooks, a topic currently under extensive research by the Snapplify team.

The company has recently launched their Academic eReader which is being used by Macmillan Education. The eReader allows users to make notes, highlights and annotations on their eBooks which is associated to their individual profiles. Snapplify stores all actions made by students in secure cloud servers allowing students to safely access their eBooks on any device using their unique login details. This solution has been widely accepted in African countries where students are sharing devices and cannot afford to own individual ones.

There is a great demand to enable the distribution of eTextbooks to emerging markets where bandwidth and internet connectivity are strained and inconsistent however solutions to these problems are currently being solved in Africa by caching data at institutions and supporting offline reading capabilities. It is fundamentally important to build solutions to solve problems in emerging markets especially where literacy rates are low and access to education is difficult. The state of the academic eBook industry in South Africa has not been critically measured until now. A research paper which will soon be released by the Snapplify team will analyse the adoption rate of eBooks in schools and universities and will go onto expose major obstacles to mass adoption.

[07 Apr 2014 12:27]

Friday, May 2, 2014

Is the One Laptop Per Child Model Still Relevant in 2014?

The views expressed in this re-post from 
Educational Technology Debate 
are not necessarily those of 
Laptops to Lesotho Inc.
Join us for the Educational Technology Debate 

Is the One Laptop Per Child Model Still Relevant in 2014?


A decade ago, Nicholas Negroponte burst into the imagination of educators and technologies worldwide with a brilliant vision of every child in the developing world using a laptop to learn learning. At the time, this was a revolutionary idea, and it brought forth a seemingly endless stream of commentary, hype, and announcements of countries planning massive one computer per child programs.

Since then, the bright idea has run into the realities of technology change, inertia, and innovation, and while the One Laptop Per Child organization continues, no longer are there major announcements of deployments or even a groundswell of excitement around it. Which begs the question: Is the One Laptop Per Child model still relevant?

OLPC vs. 1:1
Now I think we can all agree that there are two models at play here. There is the concept of one laptop per student and the concept of one device per student, regardless of its form factor. While the primacy of the laptop versus the tablet or mobile phone can be debated (and should be), the reality is that we have entered the era where one educational ICT tool per student is an accepted practice.

That doesn’t mean that 1:1 saturation of devices is proven, or is actually the best practice to pursue, but that’s certainly the route that many politicians and parents want. And that brings us to what I think is the larger question: should we be aiming for 1:1?

1:1 vs. 1:Many
In our headlong rush to try and provide computing devices for every student, and with Nicholas Negroponte asking if we would suppose that children share pencils, I wonder just why we believe we need to have a 1:1 ratio of technology tools per student. To Negroponte’s point, yes, there are many schools where children must share pencils, or pencil supply is by parental purchase only, resigning some students to share pencils as a normal course of their school day.

If we are still working to support educational systems to provide the basics, like even teachers or pencils, might we also dial back our expectations of ICT investments? What exactly is wrong with using low-cost projectors so an entire class can learn from one computer?

Teacher vs. Student ICT

Or what about starting with ICT infrastructure for teacher professional development and school administration? In fact, isn’t the low-hanging fruit of ICT4E getting teachers to post grades, get support, and even simply report on attendance levels through mobile phones a great advancement in many countries? Just paying teachers regularly and on time via mobile money would arguably increase learning outcomes as much as laptop deployments.

School level educational management systems, reporting real-time data up to national administrators and out to classroom teachers, would revolutionize education and reveal the great flaws in current practices faster and more transparently that student-centered technology.
Not as flashy or exciting, for sure, but I argue, much, much more effective than one anything per child.

But enough of my rambling, what is your opinion? Do share your thoughts in comments or email us a Guest Post answering questions like these:
  • Is the OLPC model still valid?
  • Do schools still need one laptop per student?
  • Or is computing hardware now totally ubiquitous?
  • Is it time to again focus on curriculum, content, and pedagogy?
  • And can we finally remember the teachers? 
 OLPC News

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Generous Donation from the Keller Family

Karl Keller, Rebecca Keller Mondore, Sara Lee Keller,
Cindy Keller Barton, Vicki Keller Panhuise, Kent Keller
Laptops to Lesotho received a very generous Christmas donation, made in the name of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Marge and George Keller, and Marge Keller's sister, Mary Dewar.  The donation was made in memory of Marge (Dewar) & George Keller, and Ruth (Dewar) & Bob Balcomb. 

Dewar Sisters:  Ruth Balcomb, Marge Keller, Mary Dewar

Bob & Ruth Balcomb
Marge, George, Ruth, and Bob would be very proud of your generosity and would rejoice in your support of our work to provide a better education to the children of Lesotho.  Thank you so much! 
- Janissa Balcomb

Update from Tony in Maseru

I got the following email from Tony Anderson today.  He has been in Maseru the past week working with Florence Monoto.  It sounds like they have accomplished a lot in a short period of time.   In addition to the progress listed in this email, he also conducted training with five teachers from Ketane.   Thanks Tony and Florence for all your hard work for Laptops to Lesotho!
With help from Florence, we have been able to collect the Journal logs from all but one laptop. Laptop K36 has a bad screen (defect covers right half of screen).  It looks like the laptops were used throughout the year.

The Kokobe school server has all of the software. I am loading the content on the Nohana server at the moment. This will probably take most of the night (it seems to take about 14 hours for 800GB).

The primary remaining problem is to install a Flash player that Firefox 26 and the Browse activity recognize. Sugar has gnash installed which they see as a flash plugin but which does not work.

Ole Nepal has solved the problem but, unfortunately, only for the XO-4. They are still using 0.82 for the XO-1s. They also incorporate the changes in the build not by a post-install script as I am doing. I'll keep working with them until it is resolved.

The Pustakalaya library works (including the global map, full English Wikipedia plus the Simple English plus the Wiki4Schools, and Gutenberg collection). Khan Academy Lite works and includes the Khan Academy videos. These play although the IIAB versions don't - go figure. Old Time Radio works including mp3 but Talk English (also mp3) doesn't. Wiktionary works.

I installed the Learn activity because there were some problems with Browse and some of the new content. Actually, I think Firefox and Browse are on similar footing now. However, the Learn activity does allow the milestones to be downloaded. I don't have that implemented in the Browse version yet. This means that Kokobe and Nohana will have the same content as last year plus all the new stuff.

Florence will need to flash the laptops at Kokobe and Nohana when she goes. She spent most of yesterday learning the procedure.

We visited the electric store yesterday but our guy wasn't there. They have a 100w panel for 2500M which should do the job. Florence has the business card and can get the panel before leaving for Ketane.

Essentially, I think we did everything on the list (a first!). There will be some update opportunities for you when you go, especially enabling EPaath. I certainly hope and expect to have that under control by ScaleX12.

- Janissa

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Poem to Honor Donor Ellen Garber

I wrote the following poem, adapted from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, to thank my friend, Ellen Garber, for making a very substantial donation yesterday to Laptops to Lesotho.  Ellen made the donation in memory of my parents, Ruth and Robert Balcomb:
"Their lives were works of art that inspired us all.


'Twas the night before Sunday, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Dirty laundry hung carelessly over a chair,
In hopes someone else would remove it from there.

The cats were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of catnip danced in their heads.
With Carl in his pj’s, and I in my cap,
We’d just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

When from my computer there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my keyboard to see what was the matter.
Away to my inbox I flew in great haste,
And clicked on the email listed there in boldface.

Bright light on the screen glared like new fallen snow,
Making me squint and read words a tad slow.
Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a gigantic donation the size of a steer.

While the enormous number made my knees shake,
I knew in a moment it must be a mistake.
“Holy S**t, Ellen! That can’t be right!”
Your fingers a-slipping, you must have mis-typed.

The shock had me reeling, my mind was a-drift,
How do I say thank you for such a great gift?
A bundle of computers, solar panels too,
Will bring education to children Bantu.

I can hear all the laughter, their joy, and their glee,
When they see the technology arriving with me.
And so it was that I exclaimed with delight,
“Lesotho’s children will sleep better this very good night.”

- Janissa