Once there was, and once there wasn’t…

Elif Shafak (Elif Şafak) is the strongest voice among the contemporary Turkish writers and/or female writers globally. Her unique style of writing, storytelling and narrating is one of a kind. I have been reading her since I got one of her most acclaimed book “The Forty Rules of Love” as a gift from a very close friend, someone I trusted with books.Elif_shafak

I have always been a big fan of Rumi and yet I hadn’t read anything on his life. I always had heard of Shams and yet I had no idea what it meant to be Shams, and what was the whole story behind the mere narration. In her book “The Forty Rules of Love” Elif Shafak approaches the story from a brand new perspective and narrates it to the readers with both sweetness and bitterness and adds a flavour of love, she quotes forty different rules of love throughout the book. It is one of the few books which I did not need a bookmark for. In fact, this book quenched my thirst of curiosity on Rumi, and what made him the person he became.

The second book I read from Elif Shafak was “The Bastard of Istanbul”. In this exceptional book of her Elif shafak for the first time paints two very deep issues in a very deserving canvas, the Armenian genocide and the Turkish identity – pre and post Ataturk. Shafak confronts and openly criticizes her country’s violent past in relation to the Armenian genocide of 1915 which eventually results in her being sentenced to three years in prison for writing on the “forbidden” issue. Reading the book, many questions comes about in one’s mind. Another interesting fact about this book is that the humour is priceless and amusing. There are some very funny and heart-rending moments in the narration, one cannot decide whether to laugh or to sob. Continue reading

Blood Donation Campaign

Youth in Action Association (YIAA) has organized a Blood Donation campaign on 29th of January 2011. The event aims to strengthen the sense of volunteering for donating blood to those in need of blood. Members from YIAA and other volunteers will donate blood and donors will register themselves for donations in the future.

Similarly, we had events like this one last year, and the year before last in Kabul, Gardez, Jalalabad and Laghman. 300+ volunteers have registered themselves in the blood donation database, developed and maintained by YIAA, and are ready to donate at any time as needed.

I had a live interview about this event on Lemar TV today. It was my first ever live TV show, in deed, it was a very good experience. I talked about the Blood Donation Campaign and other events we (YIAA)  had organized in the last two years.

Youth in Action Association is working hard to strengthen the sense of responsibility in youth and  their role in bringing prosperity to Afghanistan.

Developing Educational Activities with Ren’py

I came to know that  “Ren’Py is a free and cross-platform visual novel engine that helps you use words, pictures, and sounds to tell stories with the computer. Its easy and efficient script language makes it possible for non-programmers to make visual novels, while its Python support allows for complex simulation games.”

After using it for a few days I think it is an excellent tool for making interactive educational activities, it is easy to learn and it is fun. The good thing is that the user has option of choosing and the activity proceeds according to the options given/chosen by the user. Voice/Video can be recorded and used in the activity.

Right now, a Household Hygiene Management Activity is being made and once the initial version is finished I am thinking of making more health related activities such as, Oral Health Care, Nutrition guide and Maternity guide. I will provide a download link for Household Hygiene Management Activity as soon as the initial version is published.

OLPC Afghanistan’s Pedal Powered Progress

OLPC Afghanistan; now running for about the last year has a few technical updates we’d like to share.

Sustainable Working Human Power as you use the XO!

Just this morning we tested the first prototype – the PAIWASTOON team that perform the technical implementation designed a new pedal powered machine that can power the XO as you pedal and use it at the same time. Even small kids (3/4th grade) can power it.


XO laptop pedal power generator

By taking the Freeplay hand crank and connecting it to the feet which can more easily provide power it should make it much easier to deploy the laptop to countryside / rural areas. As the laptop charges as you use it no additional battery is needed. Photos / full specs will be published on the OLPC Afghanistan website. We are hoping to make this sustainably for XO / other power purposes in Afghanistan employing more Afghan staff. This should work fine with XO 1.5 as well!

Wireless Mesh Backbone System using Freifunk

To make deployment simpler we have adopted the OpenWRT Freifunk router firmware. Each classroom contains two routers; one to provide connections to the laptops the other to mesh with the other classrooms and make a backbone. Instead of having to do cabling; just one box is put on the wall. It should also make it easier to extend the network outside the gates of the school.


XO digital library index

New Simple Digital Library Index

As content is the key we need a way to simply deliver as much content as possible in environments without connectivity. Simple Digital Library Index automatically builds indexes from just dumping files into a folder (extracts the subject, title, description, thumbnail etc) from various formats and generates plain old HTML pages and a Javascript search system. No MySQL, PHP etc. needed.

The file contents can be simply copied and dumped into a web accessible directory. A master index is generated as an XML file. We see that being turned into a package management style activity where kids can ‘checkout’ books from the library

Monitoring and Evaluation survey under review for release

As we previously announced we were undertaking significant research to determine the educational / other impact of OLPC in the coming 1-2 weeks we should finish the evaluation; the impact

Right now 2,500 laptops are distributed to grades 4,5 and 6 in Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad. Now that we have a baseline system to work to deliver content libraries in limited connectivity environments (e.g. 64kbps connections or delivery on a stick) we are building the library to include more educational website copies that run offline (created through our previously released webdump based on httrack) and more curriculum / extra-curricular content.

John McCain Endorses OLPC

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An event was organized in Washington, D.C. by OLPC. Among the guests were Senator John McCain, Afghan ambassador to the U.S and Pakistani ambassador to the U.S.

McCain said opening the flow of information and knowledge into these countries through the deployment of XO laptops would be a positive step towards stabilization. He acknowledged knowing that OLPC has had problems, but said that “this little device” is already making a big difference.

In Afghanistan 2500 laptops are deployed successfully and 2500 are on the way to be deployed. ‘Afghanistan needs 3,000,000 laptops to cover all the schools’  says the Minister of Education Mr. Farooq Wardak.  The approximate cost of these laptops (including the cost of deployment) are 780 million USD, and it is said that the United States allocated a budget of 173 billion USD for the year 2009 for the war in Afghanistan.

Looking at the facts; I don’t think it is a difficult decision for the U.S. Government to take, I mean it is the best way to help Afghan education. It is simple, reasonable and very effective.

read more:

John McCain endorses OLPC to fight insurgencies
Haqqani urges US not to walk away from region again
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has commissioned impact evaluation …….

XO health activity

healthactivityxoI started developing a health activity for the XO laptops long time ago, I started to write about hygiene and nutrition, and this was all I did at that time. Today the activity is far more advanced and it contains a vast amount of health information. Basically, the activity is designed for those children who are studying at the schools where the XO laptops are deployed, however, it has a good amount of information for the parents of the kids.

The activity is developed using HTML, it is really simple to access using any browser.

The children using these XO laptops are being assessed to see the impact of this activity on their life, and see whether this activity provides enough information to 1. decrease the incidence of common diseases (providing information about prevention of the diseases) 2. stop malpractices which are common around Afghanistan 3. decrease the amount of resources spent on medical facilities (provide information on how to treat some simple and common diseases at home).

The Children were assessed before they were provided with the XO laptops, they are being assessed right after they have the laptops, and they will be assessed later after they have spent some time with the laptops.

The activity can be downloaded from OLPC Afghanistan website, and the results of the assessments will be published there.

One Laptop Per Child Afghanistan

XO laptops in a classAfter successful deployment of 2500 laptops in 6 schools in Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad OLPC Afghanistan team is working hard to make more education, economic development and Health information content for the XO laptops. Currently the team has successfully developed health activity and economic development activity in three languages (Dari, Pashto and English). The OLPC team and other organizations supporting this project they think it was a big success, however Alanna Shaikh thinks the OLPC dream is over. In her post she says “The laptop, they promised, was the new pencil. It was going to revolutionize education in the developing world. It didn’t. The dream is over”.

Is the dream really over?

The OLPC team here thinks their hard work was not for nothing and they believe this project will be a milestone in Afghanistan’s history.

You can watch an informative video about OLPC Afghanistan here.