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Published: November 1st 2009
We have been contracted by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organisation to distribute laptops to the communities of Wiluna and Nullagine. OLPC is an international charity originating in the USA founded by Nicholas Negroponte with the objective to supply basic ICT equipment to disadvantaged children throughout the world with the aim of improving literacy. In Australia the disadvantage is isolation, it just happens that these communities are mainly indigenous. Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory were the first to receive the laptops, now WA is being targeted.
Rawa was a pilot school and on Monday, 19th Oct Kiwirrkurra on the WA/NT border was used to launch the scheme. We are now continuing this deployment with Wiluna on the 20th and Nullagine on the 26th October.
We left Perth on the 18th October towing the caravan, our first night at Mt Magnet, before completing our 1100km journey at Wiluna the next day. The next four days were spent distributing the laptops to pupils, teachers and teacher aides, Training in the use of the laptops continued over the 4 days with us firstly taking the classes and the teaching staff assisting, then later lessons were prepared & taken by the
teachers with us assisting. This proved to be a successful method and we intend using it in the future.
The caravan was parked in the school grounds during our time there, connected to water and electricity. We were fortunate that there was a toilet and shower facility for our exclusive use. As the school is fully fenced we felt very secure here. David, the principal, and his wife, Agnes live in the ex-mine manager’s house just out of town. They made us very welcome, with a dinner there on Wednesday night and again on Friday night when the whole staff attended.
Saturday morning was a little slow but we still managed to get away at about 9am. Rather than back-tracking along the bitumen we decided to take a pretty good dirt road for 200kms to get back on the Great Northern Highway, saving several 100 kms. We spent the late afternoon at the Kumarina Roadhouse in their pool rather than continuing to Newman. Temperatures have been in the high 30s for the past week, we expect them to rise as we go further north.
After an unsuccessful attempt to go shopping at Newman (nothing open on Sundays)
we continued on to Nullagine. The 190 kms of dirt wasn’t bad, we could cruise at 70-80kph without a problem. We met Peta, a Nullagine teacher assistant, on the way, her husband helping some locals get their Landcruiser going again.
Nullagine was very warm when we arrived, the temperature already in the 40s. the afternoon was spent in the airconditioned van. The principal of the school welcomed us the next morning and organised the school to close early so that we could have a training session with the staff.
Next day the laptops were presented to the pupils at a special assembly and we made ourselves available for training. The staff and students were all keen and we feel that this deployment has been very successful.
It was great to meet some of the new staff who have arrived since we were last here 4 months ago, and to have dinner with Jeremy and Kate, his partner on Thursday night. They cooked us up a treat with home made dip for starters, then tarragon chicken with vegetables followed by a cheese platter and flourless chocolate cake. A gourmet meal for Nullagine!
Mitchell the Principal mentioned he
had computers and laptops waiting to be unpacked so we were offered this work on Thursday and Friday. We also reimaged any other computers that were recent enough to stay on the network and Rags carted them around and ensured that all available ports in each classroom had a computer on them. The laptops on the whiteboard have to share ports but it was the best we could do, we're not cablers!
The 90 odd kms of dirt road to Marble Bar was an easy stretch, we now veterans of the dirt! The van has lived up to it being a dirt-road van not a highway van. By 11am the temperature was 42 degrees and after setting up the van in the caravan park we were quite content to remain in the air-conditioning for the rest of the day.
About 5pm we went to visit David and Carol and enjoyed a couple of drinks and a good chinwag. We will now be working at Marble Bar Primary for 2 days. By the time we left here it was time to eat so we stopped in at the Ironclad for a fish and chip supper.
Sunday was a
time for washing and other chores. Chatting to the caravan park manager she said that on the day last week when it was 45degrees in Marble Bar it had been 46degres in Nullagine. No wonder we were hot and kept our aircon running 24/7.
Tonight we are catching up with Peter and Maretta for a barbecue but it won't be too late as Peter takes off for Dampier tomorrow on a school camp.
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