OLPC provides laptops for children in the world’s poorest countries to help them improve their learning capabilities.
(Images: Cadine Pillay)
The fifth Global Dignity Day was celebrated on Wednesday 17 October, and Brand South Africa hosted several NGOs with interests in youth empowerment in Sandton, north of Johannesburg.
Rodrigo Arboleda, the CEO of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) – an international organisation that provides laptops for children in the world’s poorest countries to help them improve their learning capabilities – attended the celebration.
“When you educate children, you empower them with self-esteem and a sense of pride,” he said, addressing those present.
Other speakers included Phuti Mahanyele, CEO of black empowerment company Shanduka and chairperson of Global Dignity in South Africa and Vuyo Jack, founder of Africa Empowered and Tsheli Lujabe, CEO of OLPC South Africa.
Empower, educate, uplift
OLPC aims to help bridge the gap between disadvantaged communities and the dynamic, rapidly-changing digital world.
“When every child has a connected laptop,” reads the mission statement on their website, “they have in their hands the key to full development and participation.”
The laptops are not only cost efficient, but require a low supply of power as well, so the costs are limited for poor communities. They also feature an integrated design of the XO Laptop digital device, along with the open source Sugar software learning desktop environment.
The OLPC initiative was incorporated into Global Dignity South Africa’s plans to help the latter achieve its aim of empowering children through education-related projects.
“There is a sense of pride in ownership that also empowers these children,” said Arboleda. “Self-esteem and self-pride is how you can live a dignified life, and with these laptops that enable children to educate themselves, we are giving them dignity.”
The OLPC foundation will seek funding from Global Dignity as well as South Africa’s private sector in order to expand their initiative into the country. The foundation currently serves over 40 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, and provides educational tools in 21 languages.
Children are eager to learn
Arboleda said their mission is to groom productive leaders of the 21st century. “These are the inventors and creators of our future, who are not waiting to be taught, but are eager to learn.”
Mahanyele concurred: “Young people are looking for inspiration. They have an important role to play in being able to shape our future.”
She added that someone needs to run the government of tomorrow and be able to make the tough decisions.
“Children have wisdom, but often it is the language barrier that prevents them from being understood,” said Jack, adding that if they are educated in their own language, they can understand concepts faster and will be empowered.
The empowerment of teachers was also discussed, as members of the audience felt that teachers should be given a lesson on dignity as well so that the message can be taught to children on a consistent basis.
“Teachers are the enablers,” Arboleda said. “If we honour the teachers, they will empower our children. That is why we also provide teachers with laptops to help their pupils.”
The discussion also led to the topic of entrepreneurship and how South Africa can go about encouraging it to combat unemployment. Lujabe said there will be modules on the laptops for children to get a head start on such topics that will inspire them at a young age and expand their goals.