Just yesterday, Room to Read launched a special pilot project called the “School Wireless Computer Lab” with the help of Qualcomm Wireless Reach that connected schools in Vietnam and Nepal to the Internet – for the first time! John Wood and others on the Room to Read team were witness to the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Shree Amarjyoti Gaunpharka Secondary School in the Kaski district of Nepal. John was joined by representatives from Qualcomm, Nepal Telecom, the Secretary of the Nepal Ministry of Education, students and community members. They all watched in amazement as students discovered what the Internet is all about and how it can act as a resource and educational tool for their future.
“Who is the 44th President of the United States?” asked John. Quickly, students went to Google or another search engine to find out the answer. “Obama! Obama!” shouted the children with delight. “What is the time in Sydney, Australia?” Fingers scurried to find the correct keys and soon hands went up. “5pm! 5pm!” Students also met new friends at another school in Nepal through a Skype video chat.
Each lab includes 20-25 computers that will serve as many as 50 students during a class period. Outside of school sessions, the lab will be opened for the community so they can learn from it as well. The community, through Room to Read’s challenge grant, has a stake in the project’s success because we required each school establish a Computer Lab Development Fund. For each computer in the lab, a school must deposit $1,500 Nepalese Rupees (NR), which translates to approximately $20USD. Therefore, the Shree Amariyoti School raised on their own $30,000 NR ($400 USD). This money goes into savings account managed by the Computer Lab Management Committee so that the community can be responsible for and afford lab management and equipment maintenance after Room to Read’s support ends. Amariyoti raised this money through fundraising activities like going door-to-door to collect contributions, sponsoring cultural events, and appealing for funding through the local temples. While this is a challenge for any community, including Amariyoti, their success means they feel personally invested in the project and are owners toward its success.
In addition to providing training for students to learn basic computer skills through a government-sanctioned curriculum that Room to Read developed, each lab will use technology to teach other subjects such as English, math and science.
The pilot established five wireless labs in the Kaski and Kavre regions of Nepal and six in Can Tho Province of southern Vietnam because it’s in these regions where landline access is limited or unreliable. By providing affordable and high-quality Internet connectivity to government schools, these wireless lab pilots will help underserved students bridge the digital divide and addresses the goal of universal access and opportunity in education. In Nepal, all the labs were established in schools where Room to Read was already working. For example, at Shree Anarjyoti, we had already been working in the community and provided them a Reading Room library in 2007. With the added value of a wireless lab, these students will be able to check out and learn from the over 2,000 library books and then continue to research and learn more on a subject that peaks their interest through the Internet.
Thank you Qualcomm!
To learn more about our pilot projects, click here.