While in Kosrae to visit medical assistance projects under Pacific Partnership 2011, United States Ambassador Peter A. Prahar also took part in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) ceremony at Tafunsak Elementary School early this month.

Made possible in Kosrae by a US $400,000 Compact Supplemental Education Grant, the first set of 810 laptops were for use by students in grades 5-8; the second set of 720 laptops will be for grades 1-4. OLPC is a U.S.-based non-government organisation established to provide affordable education devices to developing countries.

Also in attendance at the ceremony were Kosrae Governor Lyndon Jackson, Lt. Governor Carson Sigrah, Department of Education Director Lyndon Cornelius, Tafunsak Elementary School staff and students, and community members. US Navy Captain Jesse Wilson, commodore of Pacific Partnership 2011, was a guest of honour.

In 2008, One Laptop Per Child Inc., and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community formed a partnership to introduce the OLPC concept in the region and conduct small pilots to trial the laptop in schools in five Pacific Island Forum countries ?Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

In 2009-10, 17 PIF nations introduced the OLPC programme in their schools. These countries include the five original pilot countries plus the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu.

During the ceremony, Prahar remarked that while the new computers will expose students to information and opportunities, the technology is 'like a hammer in the hands of a person. The person has a choice. He or she can either use the hammer to break a building down or use it to build a new structure...Used ineffectively, this new tool can become an impediment to learning and personal growth.'

Noting the importance of embracing the digital age, Prahar challenged participants to use the OLPC programme to 'embody and win the solid commitment and active participation of all the stakeholders in the Kosrae education system'.