LUBANG ISLAND, Philippines – The local government of Lubang Island, non-government organizations, and private companies have launched the “One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)” project that aims to provide free laptops to elementary students in the island.
The first 100 units of XO computer laptops were distributed to Grade 4 students of Lubang Integrated School and Maligaya Elementary School during the event that saw the presence of Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro, Lubang Mayor Juan Sanchez, and Occidental Mindoro Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato.
Sanchez said the project aims to increase educational opportunities for the school children in order for them to cope with developments in global information technology.
The project was put together by past and current employees of the National Computer Center (NCC) who had Sanchez as its first managing director in 1969.
Private organizations such as MetroBank Foundation, Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation and Philippine Military Academy Class ’55 Foundation also helped in putting up the funds in acquiring the first 100 laptops. Sanchez is a member of PMA Class 1955 and is a retired colonel of the Armed Forces.
Education Kindling (E-Kindling), a non-stock and non-profit organization, collaborated with NCC for the deployment and program design of the education project.
The OLPC program is an initiative started in 2002 by Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create educational opportunities by providing children in developing countries with a rugged, low-cost, low-power and connected laptops.
The laptops have content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning.
Luistro said the school children of Lubang, though not lacking in their capacity to learn, do not have the same opportunity as their city counterparts to acquire their own personal computers.
“For us at DepEd, this initiative of NCC staff equalizes the learning opportunity of learners in urban centers and those in remote areas,” he added.
Luistro stressed that the students will be relieved from the burden of carrying their heavy school bags
Sanchez said that the OLPC project was chosen over the option to just donate personal computers to schools because support infrastructure is available locally, internationally and online, for both hardware and software.
The technology is appropriate for remote areas. The laptop is sturdy, requires low power use and is easy to maintain. It also uses free and open-source software that can be customized in the field.
“These advantages make OLPC an ideal approach for implementing computer based learning in a country like the Philippines or Lubang for that matter,” Sanchez explained.
“Compared to my grandchildren who have all the convenience of a computer, anong magiging future ng mga bata sa Lubang, they’ll remain poor forever. I felt I should do something about that could close the gap” he added.
Sanchez said he was invited by the NCC to join their reunion in Sydney and convinced his former classmates to donate 60 laptop computers to Lubang.
The school curriculum or lesson plan will soon be integrated in the laptops’ content. The content development for the Lubang pilot school will be part of the project.
The XO laptop is designed for the use of children ages 6 to 12-covering the years of elementary school-but nothing precludes its use earlier or later in life.
The XO has been designed to provide the most engaging wireless network available. The laptops are connected to each other, even when they are off. If one laptop is connected to the Internet, the others will follow to the web.
Children can be permanently connected to chat, share information on the Web and gather by video conference, make music together, edit texts, read e-books, and enjoy the use of collaborative games online.
Upon success of the pilot test, 400 additional students will get their own laptops.
Currently, OLPC is being implemented in Uruguay , Peru , Rwanda , Mexico , Mongolia including the school district of Birmingham , Alabama in the United States. It recently expanded to Australia.