Bringing the daily school life of one million young pupils in Laos into the digital age – this is the goal of the "IT for Laos" project run by the Swiss charity association basmati. Every year, thousands of computer monitors get replaced in this country, most of which end up in recycling or gather dust in the basement. With this ambitious project, the association basmati is now giving old hardware a second life – with the official support by the Laotian government.
Computers have become an indispensable part of our everyday life - even at school. Laos in Southeast Asia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is still a few years or rather decades behind. The non-profit organisation association basmati is trying to make up this backlog, together with Laotian partner organisations and the official blessing of the Laotian Ministry of Education.
For "IT for Laos", the association basmati collects old but still functioning hardware, especially computer monitors, which in Switzerland are thrown into the electronic waste by the thousands every year. These are then exported to Laos, where they are installed – supplemented by a mini-computer – in primary schools throughout the country. At the same time, the Laotian partners are providing specially developed digital content that not only enriches but also improves everyday teaching in Lao schools.
The breakthrough for the "IT for Laos" project, whose beginnings go back to 2014, came in 2019. Thanks to numerous IT donations from all over Switzerland, and in particular a significant contribution from the consulting firm KPMG and the KPMG Foundation, over 1400 monitors, keyboards and mice were collected within a few months.
Due to the expected effort required to distribute such a quantity, the Laotian partner organisation EDF Lao approached the Laotian government in summer 2019 with a request for logistical support. This support was granted in October 2019 by signing a corresponding MOU. Impressed by the efforts of the organisations involved, the Ministry of Education immediately set a new project goal: to equip all 9,000 primary schools in the country, which means a total of 1 million pupils.
Since the beginning of 2020, IT stocks from Switzerland have been installed together with mini-computers in schools in various provinces. By the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, more than 400 schools are already equipped.
The Laotian school system is chronically underfunded and in a desolate state, both in terms of infrastructure and school materials and the availability of modern teaching methods. Here, too, "IT for Laos" provides a remedy. With specially produced learning videos of the organisation Momosign, which are available to the schools for free, English skills are taught in combination with elements of sign language. This combination benefits not only the pupils but also the teachers, whose English skills are often insufficient, too.
The association basmati is unwaveringly continuing its collection efforts in Switzerland. The goal is to deliver large IT stocks to Laos on an annual basis so that by 2025 at the latest, all 9000 schools will be in the digital age and around one million pupils a year will be able to look forward to a digital future, thanks in part to Swiss assistance.
The association basmati is therefore calling for further IT donations from Swiss companies on the one hand, and hopes for additional contributions to be able to handle the next batches of the "IT for Laos" project. The annual budget of the small organisation based in the canton of Zurich has doubled within one year due to the development of the "IT for Laos" project.
After two and a half long years, we were finally able to feel Southeast Asian soil under our feet again in spring 2022, albeit with geographical restrictions.
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