Sitting in the small concrete community library of Ranomafana, Madagascar with six community leaders ––business owners and elders––we witness the power of grassroots development empowered by technology.
Eight months ago, in this same room PIVOT Works donated ten tablets and an Open Learning Exchange digital library that has since fundamentally changed the way this community has thought about libraries, books, literacy, and what an author is.
These community leaders have gathered here today to judge a couple dozen short stories that were written by some of the nearly 800 OLE Learners that have registered to the OLE digital library.
“I cannot believe it, that was as good as any story I have heard on the national radio.” Said Joslyn, an IT specialist and long-time supporter of the community library, after hearing a story written by one fifteen-year old girl.
The group takes turns reading the stories aloud into a microphone to upload the audio files on the digital library along with the text based. This might seem redundant in America, but here in rural Madagascar where more than half of the parents are illiterate this is the foundation of inclusion. This forward-thinking library committee knows the power of equitable resources. It has also changed the way these adults think about the power of kids and their ideas.
These community leaders excitedly hand around a compelling story. One boasts that the author is the daughter of a friend. The excitement and pride in the community is palpable. In the heightened mood, there is even a commitment from the community to broadcast the best stories from these authors on the radio. This has nationwide implications. As Noro, an OLE Madagascar Board member, told the Minister of education last month: “A country cannot truly develop without authors and poets.” ––by Stephanie Catz