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Speech at St. Patrick’s National School, installing Camara’s 100,000th computer

St. Patrick's Primary School, Chapelizod, 14 November 2017



Today we have witnessed a remarkable example of how a valuable idea can lead to a very real positive social change.

Is mór an sásamh a thugann se dom a bheith libh inniu sa scoil álainn seo agus chun an deis seo a thapa an éacht suntasacht atá bainte amach ag Camara Education a chéiliúradh libh. Táimid tar éis braithniú le chéile ar lasadh ríomhaire amháin anseo i mBunscoil Naomh Phádraig, i Séipéil Iosóid. Tá a fhios agam go mbainfear an-úsáid as sa scoil seo chun cabhrú libh, a pháistí, in bhur ranganna éagsúla. Ach smaoinigh go bhfuil Nocha Naoi Míle, Naoi gCéad is a Nocha Naoi ríomhairí eile curtha ar fáil ag Camara do scoileanna  in Eireann, san Aifric agus tíortha sa mhuir Chairib cheanna féín. Nach bhfuil sé sin go híontach? 

It is a great pleasure to be here today, and to receive the opportunity to share such an important milestone in the story of Camara Education. We have just witnessed the ‘turning on’ of Camara’s one hundred thousandth computer, and I am sure that the pupils in St Patrick’s National School in Chapelizod are very excited to be taking part in this significant event.

The work of Camara has, so far, changed the lives of over 2 million people in Africa, the Carribbean and Ireland by making available to them the technology that has become such a necessary part of modern life and such an important tool in contemporary education.

As President of Ireland I visit many different places and speak to many different groups of people. Something I constantly urge people to do is to share their ideas for making our country and our world a better place.

It is remarkable to think that so much positive change, stretching from Ireland to  Sub-Saharan Africa, to Jamaica, to Haiti grew and developed because of the creative thinking of one man, who not only had a great idea, but the commitment to turn that idea into something good and positive that would improve the lives of so many children around the world.

Twelve years ago, Cormac Lynch was in Ethiopia and was shocked at the poor conditions in the schools he saw there. He was told by teachers in those schools that one of the things they most badly needed, and would open up a whole new world of learning for their pupils, was computers.

When he came back home to Ireland he made the connection between the many unwanted and outdated computers that are discarded here, and the very real need for those items in some of the poorest places in the world. Cormac Lynch realized that by recycling and updating those computers, we could give something very precious to those school children in Ethiopia – opportunities, hope and a better future.

From that simple, but very important idea, Camara grew and developed and today they bring computers to schools in towns and communities in many parts of the world. Today, as we stand here in this school hall to celebrate this significant chapter in Camara’s story, the children here can be proud to be part of such a story, which connects them across oceans and miles to the many children who have benefitted from the work of Camara.

While none of the children here will remember a time before computers had become a normal part of everyday life, some of the adults may. It was a time when the world felt like a much smaller place; a time when we didn’t have a world wide web that could connect us to other people in homes and schools and workplaces in every part of the globe. In those days not being able to read or write was considered one of the main obstacles to being able to participate fully in society. That is still the case, but in a global and technological age, the definition of ‘literacy’ cannot be confined to reading and writing, but must also encompass the ability to understand and engage in many means of communication including digital media.

Where children are denied the right to do so they are immediately placed in a position of disadvantage and begin life already deprived of the opportunity to achieve their full potential. It is critical therefore that we strive to ensure that young people across the globe are introduced to the world of technology as early as possible. That is, of course, what Camara does and it is in celebration of their great work that we are gathered here today. We know that by the year 2050 forty percent of the world’s children will be living in Africa, a figure which reminds us of how very grateful we can be to Camara for their focus on that part of the world and for opening up a critical gateway to a broader world for so many of its younger citizens.

Before I conclude I wish to say, and I say this in all schools that I visit, that while modern technology has benefitted and continues to benefit our world in many ways, it also has the potential to do great harm if it is used in a manner that is cruel or disrespectful or deliberately unkind. It can be very shocking to see what some people are prepared to say to others when they do not have to do it to their face, how they can be prepared to use their phone or their tablet in a way that causes deep hurt and upset to others. So it is important to always remember that new technology should be celebrated for all the good and wonderful opportunities it can bring to our lives, but must never be used in a way that can bring darkness or hurt into the lives of our fellow human beings.

In conclusion, may I thank all of you here for welcoming me so warmly to St Patrick’s. Today we have witnessed a remarkable example of how a valuable idea can lead to a very real positive social change. My hope for the children here today is that they, too, will be participative and imaginative citizens, with the dedication and drive to turn good ideas into living reality.

Is mór an tairbhe a bhaineann páistí ó shaothair Camara i dtaobh a gcuid oideachais agus is mór an tacaíoch a thugann sé dóibh a bhféidireachtaí a bhaint amach. Tréaslaím libh as ucht an méid atá bainte amach agaibh go dtí seo agus guím gach rath oraibh in bhur gcuid obair don todhchaí.

Camara’s work directly improves the quality of childrens’ lives and gives them hope in their future.  I wish you well as you continue with your important work. 

Thank You.