Saturday, June 6, 2009

Politics and OLPC Ghana

The 'One Laptop Per Child' (OLPC) is a project which stirs strong emotions (My original post) in me because I believe it offers the chance to enhance learning and imparting knowledge to school children in developing countries. Many of us have in our own ways lamented on how the lack of practical education from basic to tertiary levels in Ghana, hampers the growth of knowledge and the quality of education Ghana.

The XO-1 laptop offers to a great potential to correct this, if there is enough passion, willpower and thought put into implementing the OLPC vision to enhance our learning and provide a new way to gain knowledge in Ghana. Politics threatens this potential.

Politicians have great power to do good and inspire change but too often we have seen only the dark side of power exhibited. Today another dark cloud looms, one I hope is merely a misunderstanding.
"The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating the payment for 10,000 Xo Laptops which it perceives was done in haste a day before Professor Mils government was sworn in" (source: Daily Graphic)

I believe earnestly that the SFO has every right to probe into any such possible misappropriation of public funds. My only hope is they realize the payment for US $2,050,000 although done in haste was not illegal. If they find otherwise, OLPC Ghana could be in trouble.

The most important emotion in the implementation of such projects as OLPC is public perception for national good. If any illegality is found, public perception could become anger at another political gimmick to steal public funds. This I fear could be disastrous. Currently 'OLPC' is not exactly a buzzword and for it to become 'popular' only because of another political scandal would be disastrous in the least.

This leads me to another fear I have in my heart about OLPC Ghana, that unless the Ghana Education Service and the Ministry of Education truly understand the potential, this project may get a C instead of an A+. We have enough of such projects, example the Aveyime Rice Project!

I believe putting the XO laptops into the hands of pupils is itself a powerful social and educational change as is evidenced by Nigeria’s experience. (Read BBC article).

My favorite from the Nigerian experience is a boy who went from not so popular to 'Senior OLPC Repair Engineer’ (hope the video is still available) because he could fix most common problems with his and other XO laptops. Also significant is the pride and curiosity the laptops arose in both children and adults.

I believe that the real impact (A+ scorecard) will be for the Ghanaian organizations (GES, MOE, OLPC Ghana) to enhance the curriculum to include practical education, similar to what Thailand and other test countries have shown work.

I hope again this is just a misunderstanding.

OLPC Ghana
For Educators
For Developers
How OLPC Ghana began
Paper on OLPC Ghana by SF Buchele