UN, non-profit group to provide computers to children

A non-profit organization that helps make computers available to children is partnering with the United Nations to provide laptops to nearly half a million refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Under the partnership, the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) charity will distribute XO laptop computers in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the agency said today.

“Core to our mission is providing the world’s most isolated and vulnerable children access to modern forms of education and the opportunities that follow,” said Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC chairman and founder.

“The XO laptop has a special place in children’s education in regions that are disrupted by ongoing political unrest and violence. With the XO, the children can continue to stay connected and gain the skills and knowledge required to participate fully and thrive in the 21st century – even when getting to school is impossible,” he added.

Today in the city of Rafah, about 30 kilometres south of Gaza City, officials from OLPC, UNRWA, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local dignitaries, parents, teachers and children celebrated the deployment of the first 2,100 laptops at the Rafah Co-Education Elementary School D. The project is also supported by the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization (JHCO) and the office of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority.

“Our partnership with One Laptop per Child has much potential to help us improve the way we work,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi. “It combines so much of what I consider to be to important priorities for UNRWA: concrete partnerships, innovative technology and new educational initiatives, bringing hope and a belief in a peaceful future for the next generation of Palestinians,” he said.

OLPC has worked closely with UNRWA on teacher training and the development of localized software and content for the computers. Some 200 teachers have already been trained and more than 150 electronic learning modules are being adapted for use on the XO. OLPC and UNRWA are also collaborating on electronic textbooks and workbooks for a primary school curriculum.

UNRWA has been the main provider of basic education to Palestinian refugees for over six decades. The agency provides primary schooling free of charge for Palestinian refugee children in the occupied Palestinian territory (West Bank and Gaza), Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

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