albanian-students-undp.jpgAlmost half a million Albanian students now have access to modern computer laboratories, high-speed Internet and training in information technology skills thanks to a new United Nations-backed initiative aimed at improving their employment prospects.

As a result of the “e-School” program, some 379 high schools and 800 elementary schools across Albania have been equipped with up-to-date computer technology, benefiting some 450,000 students and 25,000 teachers. (UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis greets Albanian students, UNDP photo)

“These kids will have to compete in a far different and far more complicated labor environment than their parents will have done,” said Moises Venancio, a UN Development Senior Programme Manager and Team Leader for the Western Balkans. “We’re helping to train the future generation of Europeans.”

Leonik Tomeo Secondary School, with more than 950 students and teachers, is using the tools to produce a school newspaper, and, as one student put it, to join the rest of the world’s teenagers on the Internet.

Before the “e-schools” project was launched in 2005, the situation in many schools was “very primitive, in some cases perhaps one computer for all the kids in the school,” said Mr. Venancio.

“Some of these schools are really in rural areas that are very deprived of anything, in particular any access to any type of new information,” he added. “So this has really enabled kids who live in very poor marginalized rural areas to benefit from the advances of having online access to information and what’s going on in the world.”

The initiative was financed with a $25 million loan from the World Bank and support from a number of private and public donors, including Western Union Corporation, the Albanian Banking Association and UFO, a private university. (UN News)

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