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 ...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Microsoft Team in Maseru offers help to Laptops to Lesotho

There is a Microsoft team working with the Lesotho Ministry of Education and Training on an innovative educational project at Piting Secondary School (about 40 miles from Maseru). They contacted me and said they would like to help our organization.

I am in touch with a Dr. Kalanda Carlos Kasongo. He said he could offer us help and technical assistance. I don't have any more details about what form that will take. We are in the process of trying to arrange a meeting/phone call to discuss it. I will keep you posted as this develops.

In the meantime, you can check out information about the Microsoft School Technology Innovation Centre (STIC) project at Piting at Microsoft STIC (pdf).  It's a very interesting concept called a Compujector which uses one computer, a special projector, and multiple "mouses" connected to the computer. The teacher can give a presentation on a wall (no screen needed), and each student can interact with it via their own mouse. The system is portable, fits in a briefcase size container, and is powered by a solar array that is also about briefcase size.

It's based on a Windows system, of course, but we could still make use of it. If we wanted to stick with the XO Linux Sugar system for the teachers to learn and use, it is possible to download a program that emulates the XO system on a Windows computer.
This projector system is something we could use in the other grades until we can distribute individual XO laptops to those students. We could also use it for our training sessions on using the XO's and "traveling" presentations about our program in the villages around the school.

The Microsoft STIC team has partnerships with several organizations that provide educational materials -- MindSet, who I am already working with, LearnThings, and Microsoft Encarta. With Microsoft's help, we might be able to get access to extensive educational resources.

Microsoft STIC is also partnered with two Maseru-based ICT companies, DenverTech and Sha Computers. Through them, we might be able to get technical support and service.

All in all, there is great potential for a partnership with Microsoft. We'll have to wait to see how much we actually get. One thing I don't want is for Microsoft to appropriate our project. I think we should keep this a grassroots, community-based project, with decisions made in Ketane by the people of Ketane. We'll have to stay alert to Microsoft trying to give assistance with strings attached that give them control over how our project proceeds.

This is an exciting development, definitely something to think about.

- Janissa