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Friday, November 30, 2007

About São Tomé, São João and STeP UP

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 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.

Of the 617 sixth grade students, 100 of them have been selected from various classes to receive OLPC's XO laptops. They gather every Saturday morning from 9am-12pm to learn how to use the computers and to participate in various projects. They take them home everyday and use them regularly outside of the classroom. Besides various volunteers from the USA and São Tomé, the school also depends on the leadership of Director José António, computer professor Miguel da Boa Esperança, and about four other sixth grade teachers that give classes and promote the use of the XO laptops among their students.

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.


Please click the button below to donate to STEP UP OLPC to support the São João school's computer program in São Tomé:

Donate $200 and you will be paying for a computer for at least FIVE very special children at São João (as estimated computer life is five years). Thanks so much!

Want your donation to be tax-deductible? Send a check to STeP UP with OLPC in the memo. Then mail it to:

Eric McClafferty
Kelley and Drye
3050 S St. NW, #400
Washington, DC 20007