The São João school is a bustling middle school in São Tomé, the capital of São Tomé and Príncipe, which is a small Portuguese-speaking island just off the coast of Gabon, on the west coast of the African continent (see map above, courtesy of http://www.naval.com.br). Its population is roughly 160,000 people.
A once unoccupied territory that received its entire population through functioning as a Portuguese pit stop for slaves en route to the Americas, São Tomé faces a rough history. The country became an independent nation from Portugal in 1975, making it still extremely young. For this reason, the island retains much of its Portuguese roots- from architecture, to language, to gastronomy. Yet it is a desperately poor country, suffering regularly from lack of electricity, untreated water, and a high mortality rate.
STeP UP (São Tomé and Príncipe Union for Promotion) is a non-government organization based in the city of São Tomé that works to further the island's development and build community. Among many things, it sponsors computer classes on its first floor, teaches English to the island's disabled community, and masterminds other grassroots initiatives. Headed by Ned Seligman, an American living on the island for the past 15 years, STeP UP was approached by OLPC to help identify an institution worthy of receiving the XO laptops. STeP UP selected the São João school and still regularly coordinates their use.
The São João school houses a number of the area's fifth and sixth grade students. In the 2009-2010 academic year, there are 1229 students total in the school- 617 sixth graders and 612 fifth graders.
Because of the severe lack of space at São João, the school day is divided in half. Fifth graders arrive at 7am and leave at about 12pm. Sixth graders arrive at 12:30pm and leave at about 5:30pm. Both the school facility and its teachers are heavily overworked everyday.
For more information about São Tomé and Príncipe, visit the Wikipedia site, the official São Tomé government website (in Portuguese only), and an English-speaking site about São Tomé travel.