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LibreFaso - introduction

Hi all.

We're (collectively) a small team trying to put into effect the LibreFaso project, which quite evolved with time.
The original idea was to pay tuitions to students from poor backgrounds in Burkina Faso in exchange for contributions to Free Software and culture.
Any people interested can follow it on gemini://librefaso.pollux.casa/ or the http mirror https://librefaso.pollux.casa/
The regular website, umanis.bf/libre, which had an English section (still a stub though) has been attacked due to poor security in the management of its hosting, and will be online again one day in the future I guess. Due to my own bad practice, I have no backup of the English section alas, so it'll have to be redone entirely (one day in the future, probably).
Note that I tried to make the original website (the one which was attacked) somewhat accessible, but it was still a work in progress (I'm alone to work on the website).
I suppose that the Gemini capsule is entirely accessible, but I'm not very knowledgeable about it (nor is anybody in the current team).

I am (personally) the internet-facing part of the project, for now at least. I know little about computer accessibility, but have been following online discussions about it and discussed with some of the people responsible for the creation of hypra.fr.

The Burkinabe part of the project has its office in Gounghin (a neighborhood in the country's capital, Ouagadougou), near the siege of the ABPAM (Association Burkinabé des Personnes Aveugles et Malvoyantes) and they know some people there, so I went for one preliminary visit to the ABPAM to talk to them about Free Software, and the visit went well, so an official meeting with the rest of the staff is scheduled next week.

The ABPAM care for blind children (and also for deaf ones since they put one blind in tandem with one deaf in order to allow the tandem to be autonomous) : they arrange for the childrens' registration in regular schools, arrange hosting in families around the association's center, and feed the kids in a cantina inside the center.
They also have a computer room inside the center (I'm supposed to visit it soon, haven't seen it yet).

The original idea of the LibreFaso project was to pay tuition to students in exchange for free software (and free culture) contributions.
But we are thinking of reorienting at least part of it towards high schoolers (with obviously lower expectations for the contributions).

The ABPAM pays partial tuition to the schools that accept blind and deaf children, according to their possibilities, but childrens' families have to pay around 50 or 100 euro a year, which not every family can afford.

So there's definitely a possibility of having children who have been so far unable to pay tuition integrated in the LibreFaso program, and the ABPAM is interested in that, though we still have to discuss the exact terms.

Contributions expected from these kids have to not be a burden to them, and be oriented towards helping the kids acquire autonomy.

Making them playtesting games is probably a good way to do that, at least for the kids interested in it, and even if the whole "contributions program" shouldn't be limited to that.

Have them field-test new versions of accessibility softwares is also something we'd like to try.

We had the surprise yesterday to see around 20 blind or visually impaired kids coming to our viewing of Thierry Bayoud's documentary about Free Software, "LoL" - we had invited the teachers, but they sent the kids instead.

I explained to the kids (well, high schoolers, some were kids but some were probably young adults) that the movie was mostly interviews, so maybe they could still get something out of it, and after discussion among themselves they decided to stay and watch - err, listen to - the movie.

Before the movie I explained why I believe Free Software is particularly important for Burkina Faso and especially for people with impairment, giving the example of the localization of speech synthesis softwares : with Orca (or any other free software for speech synthesis¹), they have the right to produce a version in their local languages, be it Mooré or Fulfulde or Bamanan or whatever.

They were very interested at the end of the movie (well, the younger ones slept, but many of the older ones asked many questions and volunteered for interviews) to start contributing (though they're probably still fuzzy on what it means - I explained that there are coding contributions but also non-coding ones, like for example to build a speech synthesis in Mooré we would need to have people pronounce the words).

At least four of them showed deep interest in working on games (it was intended to be next year, with tuition-getting kids, but if some of the already scholarized kids want to start work now, I guess we'll have to find a way to start earlier), and I know from the ABPAM staff that they (not these four specifically, the blind kids in general) are quite good with computers and highly motivated.

Teaching some introduction to programming classes is in the roadmap (though not funded yet) so we could probably start slowly but steadily soon.
I tried my best to explain both that this would be possible to do and that it would mean real work for many months or years, but apparently this didn't deter them - time will tell if this was bravado or genuine confidence.

Note that I'm not a programmer myself but the intended² teacher (if the ABPAM administration agrees with the idea, of course) seems quite competent (that's what other people tell me and the general impression he gave me, but I don't have the level to judge his code) and is highly motivated too.

¹ They use NVDA now, which I just checked is free software.
Also, I gave the localization of speech synthesis as an example because the morning I had a meeting with a local linguist who agreed to help us develop a Mooré (and probably Bamanaan an Fulfulde) version of Common Voice, so actually helping the kids develop a local language version of speech synthesis is definitely a possibility.
We'd be very grateful if someone could provide technical help with that though, since no one in the team has real knowledge of speech synthesis softwares.

² And currently unfunded, but he volunteered to organize Linux clubs, so we'll have to see how to manage the situation - I don't want to surcharge him with unpaid work either, he has his own software company to run.

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