OLPC Canada in Saskatchewan

Years ago I bought two XO laptops from the OLPC program. I got one, and the other went to a child in Mongolia or another country where technology is scarce. Back in 2009 (or was it ’08?) it was hard to get an XO as a Canadian. There were no plans then to distribute them to First Nations in Canada. I’m pleased to see, that has changed.

With the support of people and organizations like Belinda Stronach and Buffy Sainte Marie, One Laptop Per Child is teaching Canadians how to use Open Source Software for education and eventually professional development.


Poppies of Hope, Nope

Thursday night I attended a talk at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum by the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee. CTV was there before the forum, and interviewed Terry Glavin and the Ambassador of Afghanistan to Canada, H.E. Jawed Ludin.

I asked the first questions after the introducing speeches, and may post more notes later. Basically I wondered if my idea of marketing the poppies on a legitimate market level would help empower farmers in the country to avoid the influence of the Taliban, and if education would be helped by Canada spending our money on OLPCs for all children of the country. The laptop idea was welcomed, but the Poppy Board of Afghanistan idea was shot down by someone in the audience who explained that the manual labour required to make the opiates, would mean Afghanistan couldn’t compete against countries with mechanized abilities to produce the same drug (Georgia, USA).

Again, industrialized agriculture in developed countries has rendered a poor country helpless in the global market. Unless infrastructure like roads and rails are built to move wheat from farms, and capital and loans can be provided to each farmer there, there’s little hope for their agricultural sector. Fair trade goods may help some, but westerners tend to pay for cheap goods, not fair trade goods.

Afterward I spoke with Brian, who put out the invite for the night. We discussed what would happen in Afghanistan if we did leave as scheduled, and he was in the process of saying that the war in Iraq couldn’t be used as a way to predict what would happen, when we were interrupted by a teacher and a friend of hers. We then talked about how the media can’t keep more than one story in their collective presentation, at a time. Brian would like to see coverage of the good things done in Afghanistan by the military and aide workers, to give context to the news that prisoners were tortured after being handed over to Afghanistan authorities by the Canadian military.

ADDED: (A portion of notes from the end of the forum after the Q&A)

Glavin – as long as there are people willing to strap crude bombs on a mentally handicapped 12 year old there will be problems in Afghanistan.
Ludin- we shouldn’t compare to WWII in regard to years spent, it’s about effort spent.
The global neighbours wanting to colonize Afghanistan are Iran and Pakistan, not Canada. – Oates

Member of audience claiming to be “legitimate” representative of local Afghan community suggests that Pakistan is the problem furthering the instability. Are western countries following a plan, or reacting to results of other policies?

Concrete actions by Canadians include:
Buy fair trade Afghan resources.
Have pot luck fundraisers to raise $750; it pays a teacher for a year.

Prior to Sept. 11 2001 the country was a “concentration camp” – Glavin; Who begs the audience to view the mission as the most successful in the UN’s history.

ADDED 2: Some more, but not all of my notes, hopefully more complete later:
Keeping Our Promises

His Excellency Jawed Ludin confirms he’s speaking of his own free will. He enjoys the Regina weather, despite hearing prior warnings of it being unpleasant.
He says because we are in the middle of the changes in Afghanistan, we may not now see clearly how Canada has helped Afghanistan gain a democracy. Years later we may see this clearly. He does think the 145 dead Canadians and 10,000 Afghans and 1000 Americans have pushed education further in Afghanistan than there is left to go on the road of implementing a stable system. Wants the mission to remain international. “There’s no question about Canada’s role, …it’s a very major partner.” He wants Canada to remain in training of military and police, but also in 2 other areas, elections, civil society, political parties, human rights, and also on reconstruction and development

Also on the panel is blogger Terry Glavin, who was also interviewed by CTV’s Felicia Yap outside of the RSM theatre. He’s a co-founder of the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee.

7:33PM “The Taliban were birthed from the opposite [of education]” – Lauryn Oates
Teacher absenteeism is high. Few students see textbooks. Kids are only in school for up to 3 hours at a time.
“A robust investment in education is a security strategy.” Kids who can read are less likely to be indoctrinated by the Taliban. A security presence is “integral” to education and aide projects.