Thursday, February 17, 2011
SALFEET, West Bank – A loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, will enable tens of thousands of school children in the West Bank to purchase laptop computers and receive training on their use. Relying on community centers to distribute the computers and serve as hubs for after-school activity, the project is expected to significantly improve the access of Palestinian school children to educational materials and raise their level of Internet connectivity.
Over the course of ten years, the project is expected to distribute between 100,000 and 280,000 computers.
Palestinian Authority officials, the Governor of Salfeet, and U.S. Consul General Daniel Rubinstein launched the Netketabi – Arabic for ‘my Netbook’ – project today by distributing Intel Clamshell Classmate Netbooks to 50 Palestinian students at a ceremony in the West Bank town of Salfeet.
The project will use proceeds of a $10 million OPIC loan to sell Netbooks to parents through a microloan program facilitated by a local microfinance institution, Alrafah Microfinance Bank. The local project sponsor, Partners for Sustainable Development (PSD), a Palestinian nongovernmental organization, will purchase the Netbooks from Intel’s local distributor, Offtech. The U.S. sponsor for the project is the Global Catalyst Foundation.
PSD will rely on five community-based learning and action centers in the West Bank to provide two months of after-school training for each Netbook recipient, thereby serving as hubs for a new service learning model using Netbooks as the principal educational tool. It is anticipated that each of the community centers will eventually be connected to five local schools.
“Improving connectivity among school children through productive after-school activity is an ideal way to raise aspirations – and inspire educational achievement – among Palestinian students,” said OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield. “Through a close partnership between American and local NGOs, this project will involve West Bank communities directly in an exciting educational program that will touch the lives of thousands of children.”
Wasel Ghanem, executive director for Partners for Sustainable Development (PSD), said, “The Netketabi project is a portal for teachers, parents, and students to share information. We’ve targeted kids who lack resources; the idea is to enable them to learn from the world of connectivity. This project will make a real difference to Palestinian society.”
Zohreh Elahian, managing director of the Global Catalyst Foundation, said, “Our vision is to help provide children the tools to access valuable education material and plug into the outside world.”