Fingers are flying in five schools across the Dominican Republic, where more than 600 students and 50 teachers are learning to use new laptops provided by Barrick in partnership with One Laptop Per Child. The initiative will benefit educators, students and parents in the provinces of Sánchez Ramírez and San Pedro de Macorís, which are home to Barrick’s Pueblo Viejo mine and the company’s Quisqueya power plant.
One Laptop Per Child was founded by faculty members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. Since 2007, the organization has helped make modern education possible for children around the world through mobile computers. This partnership with Barrick brings the program to the Dominican Republic, where many schools lack computer labs and it's rare for students, particularly in rural areas, to own their own laptop.
"This will improve learning," says Bernardo Sánchez Belén, Principal of Lower Zambrana Primary School, which is located in the town of Zambrana near the Pueblo Viejo mine. "The children will be able to learn with greater ease and be more motivated thanks to these computers."
Laptops are assigned to individual students in grades one through eight, which they keep until they graduate eighth grade. Once students graduate, they turn in their laptops to be formatted and refurbished for new first-grade students.
"Each laptop has its student’s name on it which helps to give that student a sense of ownership and build a sense of responsibility to take care of it daily," says Faby Manzano, Barrick Pueblo Viejo’s Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility. "All of this will contribute to building a student’s self-esteem and a sense of self."
The laptops have interesting features like a dual-display screen that can be read in black and white or switched to full color. This allows students to take their laptops home at night to draw, read, write and do their homework.
The computers can also network with each other without the use of external routers since each laptop is equipped with wireless broadband. This means that students and teachers will be able to access the Internet using a single connection and students will be able to interact with other One Laptop Per Child program participants from around the world, sharing their stories, art and learnings with each other.
The laptops are also designed to withstand the wear and tear of being moved to and from school by students; they're also ergonomically-designed for children.
"In these past months, we have seen how educational professionals in local communities and the students of the five participating schools, together with our teams, became involved in this pilot program to make it a success," says Manuel Rocha, Barrick Pueblo Viejo’s Executive Director. "To offer a modern education to each boy and girl in the world by providing them with laptops is a wonderful goal and we are pleased to be able to contribute in a small way here in the Dominican Republic."
As part of the program’s implementation, the company has already delivered 600 laptops to students in five schools in Cotuí and San Pedro de Macorís. Staff from the Pueblo Viejo mine received training to maintain the computers, as did teachers from the five schools.
Participating educators have signed a commitment to use the computers for teaching and learning. Parents have committed to ensuring that their children will bring their laptop to class every day, and to making sure that their child will take care of the laptop. The company committed to maintaining the program and helping with repairs and training.
"Eventually, we’d like to get the Ministry of Education involved at the national level and have local universities train teachers to keep the program going," Manzano says. "Our idea is to measure the program’s effectiveness and share those results so that the Ministry of Education can sponsor it and incorporate it into its curriculum."
Barrick helped to get Internet service to the schools and, in some cases, also provided electricity to ensure that the program is properly implemented in each school.
Barrick also received guidance from the Zamora Teran Foundation from Nicaragua, an organization that has experience implementing the program in Central America. This strategic partnership helped the Barrick team learn best practices for implementing this type of program.
"With this project, we’ll be able to achieve great things with each student now that they are empowered by the ability to work from home with this technology," says Marleny Marte Adames, an education coordinator at Lower Zambrana School.
Learn more about the program: unacomputadorapornino.do (in Spanish)