By Quentin Wodon
Rotary members come in many different styles. Most have a day job and engage in service work in their free time. Some go a step further: They make service work their day job!
Rabi Karmacharya belongs to the second group. In 2007, he founded Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Nepal. His organization is respected internationally as a pioneer in the integration of technology in the classroom. OLE Nepal has worked with Nepal’s Department of Education to make laptops available in schools. But much more importantly, it has also developed great digital learning materials for students, and trained teachers to use technology and digital libraries to enhance learning.
Providing laptops to schools is relatively easy. Making sure that the laptops and other resources, such as digital libraries, are used to improve classroom instruction and learning is not.
Rabi is up to the challenge. Before launching OLE Nepal, he worked in California as a design engineer and later co-founded one of the first successful software outsourcing companies in Nepal. And, yes, he is an active Rotarian, a member of the Rotary Club of Kathmandu Mid-Town.
Earlier this month, Rabi presented a seminar in Washington, D.C., for staff of the World Bank’s global education practice. On the basis of in-depth program evaluations, he explained how OLE Nepal has refined its programs over time. Examples include increasing support to teachers after an initial, one-week training session in the use of digital resources, and aligning digital educational resources even more closely with the curriculum, to ensure that they’re actually used.
Helping earthquake-damaged schools
OLE Nepal’s programs are more needed than ever in the wake of the earthquake that hit the country a few months ago. For that reason, Rabi’s club, Kathmandu Mid-Town, and my club, the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in Washington, hope to team up with other clubs and districts to apply for a global grant from The Rotary Foundation. The objective will be to help repair some of the schools that have been damaged by the earthquake, but even more importantly, to provide primary school students with access to OLE Nepal’s great programs and to support teachers during this difficult post-earthquake transition.
The project aims to reach at least a dozen schools in some of the most-affected areas. School repairs will be made, and low-cost but resilient laptops (about 25 per school) will be provided. The laptops will be used by students (and teachers) from different grades at different times during the day, under a shared-use model. OLE Nepal’s digital libraries and other learning resources will also be available to teachers and students, and extensive training will be given to teachers to achieve the maximum impact.
Rabi and I would be delighted to let you know more about this important project to benefit children in Nepal. If you or your club would like to partner with us for this global grant, contact me.
About the author: Quentin Wodon is a lead economist at the World Bank. He holds PhDs in Economics and in Theology and Religious Studies, and has taught at universities in Europe and the U.S. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill (Washington, D.C.) and is involved in several innovative global grants. He is also author of the blog Rotarian Economist.