UNICEF, One Laptop per Child And Google's "Our Stories" Launched

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) and Google today announced the launch of "Our Stories" ( www.ourstories.org ), a joint initiative to preserve and share the histories and identities of cultures around the world by making personal stories available online in many languages.

Using laptops, mobile phones and other recording devices, children will record, in their native languages, the stories of elders, family members and friends. These stories will be shared globally through the Our Stories website, where they can be found on a Google Map.

By making these stories accessible around the world, the Our Stories project hopes to contribute to a better understanding of our shared humanity across countries and cultures, across religious traditions, across languages, and across generations.

"Information technologies can help young people around the world learn more about each other," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "Our Stories will promote dialogue across borders and cultures and give young people a voice on a wide range of issues.

Low-cost XO laptops by One Laptop per Child will serve as a foundation to help build this digital archive of personal stories by providing children in developing countries with easy-to-use technology to record their stories and interviews.

"One Laptop per Child is very excited about partnering with Google and UNICEF to capture the thoughts and feelings of children and their communities around the world," said Walter Bender, President of Software and Content/COO, One Laptop per Child. "The XO laptop is a tool for sharing and collaboration and this project is a great way to build a global community."

The Our Stories website will initially include stories collected by Brazil's Museum of the Person and stories recorded for UNICEF by young people in Ghana, Pakistan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Our Stories has taken inspiration from the StoryCorps project in the United States founded by MacArthur Fellow Dave Isay. "StoryCorps is proud to lend its experience in recording the conversations of nearly 30,000 Americans to this global undertaking," said Isay. "These efforts teach us that the lives of everyone - whether they are in New York or Nairobi - matter, and that they will not be forgotten.

More stories from more countries will be added to the site every month in an effort to preserve an oral history of humanity in the 21st Century.

"Google as both a company and as a culture loves a good story," said Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Global Communications and Public Affairs for Google. "We're proud to support the Our Stories global initiative and we hope that this collaboration will not just encourage better storytelling but better listening to stories."

Leading figures have already lent their voices to the project: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Queen of Jordan and UNICEF Eminent Advocate for Children, and Ishmael Beah, UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War and best-selling author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, have all recorded messages welcoming users to the site and encouraging them to share their stories.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

One Laptop per Child is a non-profit organization created by Nicholas Negroponte and others from the MIT Media Lab to design, manufacture and distribute laptop computers that are sufficiently inexpensive to provide every child in the world access to knowledge and modern forms of education. These XO laptops are rugged, open source, and so energy efficient that they can be powered by a child manually. Mesh networking gives many machines Internet access from one connection. The pricing goal is $100.

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top Web property in all major global markets. Google's targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall Web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.

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Nigerian And Cameroon High Delegation Meet With UN Over Bakassi

Constance Ikokwu

The Attorney-General, Chief Michael Aondoaka, the Inspector General of Police, Sir Mike Okiro, and Prince Bola Ajibola are among a high-profile Nigerian delegation that will today meet with United Nations (UN) officials in New York, United States, over the Bakassi Peninsula issue.

This is a follow-up of the Nigeria-Cameroon Joint Commission deliberations on how to implement the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Bakassi.

Sources confirmed that the delegation flew into New York yesterday morning ahead of the meeting today.

The deliberations will be held at Green Tree, the same venue where former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, signed an agreement to cede disputed Bakassi to Cameroon.

High on the agenda would be the recent position of the National Assembly on the ceding of Bakassi.

This move by Nigerian's National Assembly had raised eyebrows both within the UN and in the international community.

The legislative arm recently called for a revision of the issue on grounds that the ceding of the area was not ratified by it.

It also argued that it did not receive a formal notice on the issue, a claim that Obasanjo countered.

The former president's media assistant, Mr Adeoba Ojekunle, had issued a statement denying the claim thus: "The former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in two separate letters to the Senate and House of Representatives dated June 2006, officially conveyed to both chambers the said agreement including the modalities of implementation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment."

Ojekunle said the letter was officially copied to the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Governor of Cross River State.

The said letter also called for an "expeditious ratification of the Agreement".

The Chairman of the Nigerian Boundary Commission and other officials of the Ministry of Justice are expected to be present at the meeting in New York.

Officials from Cameroon will be represented as well.

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12 Year-Old Namibian Jailed For Theft Without Options Of Fine Or Alternative Sentence

Werner Menges

A 12-year-old boy has become one of Namibia's youngest prison inmates - if not the youngest - after he was convicted of housebreaking and theft at Karasburg.

The boy was sentenced to six months' imprisonment without the option of a fine or alternative sentence.

He is now being kept at Hardap Prison, where he was transferred on Thursday last week after he had been kept in custody at Keetmanshoop since his sentencing - all despite a court order that he should serve his sentence at the Elizabeth Nepembe Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre near Rundu, almost 1 400 kilometres from his home and his family.

Sources working with juvenile justice issues have over the past week expressed concern over the boy's situation in a prison that, according to them, is not equipped to deal with a juvenile prisoner as young as this.

Sources who have seen the boy have described him as looking even younger than his age - he is reported to be able to pass as an eight- or nineyear- old child.


The Namibian Prison Service has been approached for comment since Tuesday, but one of its senior officers indicated yesterday that he would only be able to comment on the issue today.

The boy was 11 years old when he was arrested and charged with housebreaking with intent to steal and theft in connection with a burglary at a shop at Karasburg in August.

Two older suspects were also accused of involvement in the burglary.

burglary was committed when the then 11-year-old climbed through a window of the shop and stole goods from the shop.

The boy's trial ended in the Karasburg Magistrate's Court on October 19, when he was sentenced to an unusually severe sentence for a child his age: six months' imprisonment at Elizabeth Nepembe Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre, without any option of paying an alternative fine and with no part of the sentence suspended.

His case has since then been sent to the High Court on review.

High Court staff indicated yesterday that the case was still in the hands of a reviewing Judge.

The Judge will have to decide whether to confirm the conviction and sentence or to change the decision of the Magistrate who presided over the trial of the boy and his co-accused.


A brief pre-sentence report, written by a Karas Region school counsellor, was placed before the Magistrate before the sentencing.

It indicates that the boy is a child with serious behavioural problems and a difficult family background.

In the report, the school counsellor recommended that the boy be sent to Elizabeth Nepembe Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre.

She reported that the boy's father, who is disabled, cannot provide proper care to his son.

While he was attending school, the boy was doing so "on his own conditions," the counsellor reported.

She added that at the age of eleven the boy was still in Grade 2, and still could not read.

He was staying in a school hostel this year, but the hostel "as an alternative care option does not really work, as it is not possible to provide (the boy) with the individual attention a neglected child as him need (sic)", the counsellor reported further.

In a report from the school attended by the boy it was said that his mother had died.

The school in addition reported that the boy was "more on the street" than at school, and claimed that he "takes part in everything - smoking, drugs, alcohol abuse, burglaries".

The boy "does not want to bend under authority - he does as he pleases", according to the school report.

"He is very aggressive at times and just wants to 'bully' small ones over their own things", it was further stated in the school's report.

The school's report also indicated that the boy was dealing with deep emotional problems.

"He has at times tried to commit suicide - at home and also at the hostel," it was stated.

By going on review to the High Court, the boy's case is following where various other cases involving juvenile offenders have gone in the past.

In one of the most publicised of these cases recently, the court in early March this year set aside a six-month prison term that had been imposed on two San girls, aged 17 and 15, after they had pleaded guilty to a charge of housebreaking with intent to steal and theft.

In a review judgement on that case, Judge Sylvester Mainga stated that an underlying principle in accepted guidelines on the sentencing of young offenders "is that child offenders should not be detained except if the detention is a measure of last resort, in which case the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time".

Judge Mainga also stated: "When imposing sentence on a child, the child's best interest is of paramount importance."

He remarked that in the two San girls' case, a prison sentence was inappropriate.

In another review case involving a youthful offender, the High Court in February set aside a four-year prison term that had been imposed on an 18-year-old girl who had also admitted guilt to a charge of housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, and replaced it with an effective term of one year of imprisonment.

In his judgement in that case, Acting Judge Annel Silungwe stated: "(E)xtra care is needed in determining a suitable sentence for a young (or juvenile) offender where the possibility of reform is great and the result of an indiscriminate exercise of the court's discretion is potentially irreparable."

He also stated: "(I)f the young offender can be dealt with in a manner which will present a reasonable chance for his rehabilitation, such action will, in the long run, be in the interests of society.

Thus, in sentencing a young offender, a fine balance is needed for the simple reason that the interests of society cannot be served by disregarding the interests of the young offender."

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