Updates: Training, Customs, and Meetings

July 19, 2009 at 8:03 am 1 comment

A brief update:

Customs issues are not done, and we’re looking at going into town a few days this week. Patience is a virtue. So they say.

Customs is, to be short, messing with our jam. They want 13 000 000 ariary (~$6500) [which neither we nor our NGO can pay]. We don’t want to pay them 13 million ar. It turns our Madagascar is party to some document…I believe it’s la Reunion de Florence or the Treaty of Florence or something. Anyhow, all signatories must all tax-exempt import of goods going to primary schools (thanks to Joseline at MSP for finding this somewhat-obscure document). Well, customs didn’t like that. The letter sent from OLPC with the XOs mentions child ownership. Customs told us that if we’re going to be tax-exmept under Florence, we cannot give the XOs to the kids, and they will send inspectors every month for three years to ensure that all the computers are at the school. If any are missing, MSP will be fined 3x the stated value of the XO(s) (which is $180).

Child ownership is a fundamental principal of OLPC and of our project. The computers last longer, have a far greater impact (see previous posts for a discussion of this), and are used better. I can’t describe the disappointment and anger we have regarding customs’ insistence. Therefore, I’m not going to try – it’s still too frustrating and disappointing.

We’ve devised a system in which we can best approximate child ownership if we do end up getting the laptops under Florence. We’ll assign a child the XO for his or her time at Lova Soa. That child will be the sole user. The children will be allowed to bring the computers home under a check-in/check-out system, so that all XOs are always accountable by MSP. This is far, far less than ideal for us, we know. And if more than 3 or 4 are lost (which is the risk MSP is willing to assume), we’ll have to stop the children from taking them home.

There’s a slight, slight glimmer of hope – we may be able to work through the US Embassy and USAID (thanks to contacts from OLPC) to get the laptops released not under Florence. I can’t hold my breath, though – it seems like we keep getting excited, and then nothing. We also can’t get the laptops any time soon – apparently everything has gone through too junior of an officer at the Ministry of Tax.

It’s kind of funny at this point, because what else can we do but laugh and continue brainstorming? OLPCorps Madagascar: our customs sucks worse than yours. (Unless anyone else wants to fight us for the title.) Also, OLPCorps Madagascar: Now with rats, giant spiders, two chickens and a dog (kind of. Long story).
We had our parents’ meeting on Friday, and it went amazing. We were very worried about turn-out. I went down to the school around 10 and just played with the kids (it was the last day of school). They’re becoming more and more comfortable with us. Some of the girls wanted to braid my hair, which ended up…interesting (but removable). Around noon, we anxiously waited in one of the classrooms with 4 parents. Then there were 10. Then around 40! It seems that almost all the parents came. We passed around the XOs so that everyone could see them. Then, with a speech that was outlined in English and French (English for us, French for the principal), I spoke in English, while Mme Raline (the headmistress) translated into Malagasy. The parents, once they realized what was going on, started clapping and smiling. It was fantastic. Here’s the outline we worked off of (apologies for the franglish):

I. Who we are
-Americans from an organisation non-gouvermmental (ONG) called One Laptop Per Child (Un Laptop Par Enfant?)
-received a grant to give computers
II. Computers
-called an XO
-made especially for kids in developing countries
-durable, okay with some water, virtually indestructible
-many deployments around the world
-the first deployment in Madagascar
III. The program
-next year, Lova Soa will receive 100 XOs
-explain library system
IV. Camp
-will begin on Monday, August 3 with a presentation ceremony to the community
-M-R, 9-1130
-ends August 23

Well, we start making the announcement of camp when all of a sudden, we realize something we’ve missed. About 100% of these parents are farmers – and Mondays are the market day. Oops. We quickly discuss changing the date – now camp begins August 4, and runs T-F. Much better.

After the parents meeting, we had an in-depth meeting with the teachers. We had these plans for training – only to realize (just in time), hey, we should probably ask them how much more training they want. Duh. So we did. We presented a few ideas, and asked them what they thought they needed. It was a consensus among the teachers – Intensive training will be 3 hours a day, starting the Tuesday after this and running for four days. We’ve been keeping our trainings to about an hour, so the 3 hours will give us more time to get in-depth. We’ll also be able to do it at Lova Soa, which will hopefully have power by then (the company came out yesterday to scope out the project). Two teachers will come to camp each day (out of the 4), and after camp, we’ll have a half-hour wrap-up with the teachers about projects, suggestions, and problems. We might do more training as needed. We also want to train some of our NGO staff in the computer and how to maintain it. If I can take an XO apart, anyone can. As we’re holding 10 computers back for parts, there will be the ability to fix any if they break.

In the meantime, we have this week “off”. School is out, and no training. By “off”, I mean there’s still plenty of work to do. We were hoping to get the computers this weekend, but, uh, yeah. We’re going to help wire Lova Soa (when I say “we”, I mean not me, because power is not my area of expertise; it’ll be Mike and Mary and Sean on deck for this, and I’ll stand around and get in the way and hand people things), start setting up the server and the APs for the school. Lova Soa is a two-room building with a neighboring house. We’ll have our server locked in the house. Lova Soa is also expanding to include the next year of school, so they’ll be building a third classroom, hopefully during this winter break. We’ll try and prepare as much infrastructure (or at least diagrams) to encompass that class, too.

Questions? Know anyone in Malagasy customs? – leave us a comment or email me at katherine.e.doyle@gmail.com.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Waiting and Working The Laptops Finally Arrive!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Stella  |  July 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Sorry to hear that customs is being so incredibly frustrating. Here’s hoping things work out with the US Embassy. *crosses fingers*

    The response you got from the parents at the meeting was awesome! I really hope camp goes well next week, and that you get your computers soon.

    “OLPCorps Madagascar: Now with rats, giant spiders, two chickens and a dog (kind of. Long story).” I’d really like to hear the story behind that one!!!


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OLPC Ampitso

This is the OLPCorps team from GWU and UMD. We'll be deploying 100 laptops to a rural village in Madagascar this summer. Stay updated by subscribing to our feed and checking back regularly. For more information on what we're doing, use the tabs above!
July 2009
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