In the morning, we worked with the high school girls again. Maybe because it was New Year’s and they’d been partying the night before, they seemed a little distracted and unfocused, but we tried to work through it with an exercise in Word. Kalpana came by to help out with her students.

It might be a good idea for us to make a sort of review sheet for the teachers and students we’re working with, listing all of the concepts we’ve discussed so that they can make sure they’re totally clear on all of them.

From talking with some other Bijawar residents, we learned a lot about the different government schemes to give incentives to students to stay in school. Although the government has officially dissolved the caste system, they’ve been trying to remedy the institutional advantage that other castes have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy, for that matter). They’re also working with girls The government gives girls from the lowest (untouchable) class Rs. 150 per year while they’re in grades 1-5; these girls also get an extra Rs. 500 for passing the fifth grade. From grades 6-8, girls from all classes get Rs. 300 per year, and boys get Rs. 200 per year. After 6th grade, girls from the untouchable class receive a bike from the government if they live more than 3 km from the nearest middle school, and if they pass the 8th grade, they receive another Rs. 500.

Additionally, the government puts Rs. 1,000,000 in a trust for all firstborn girls born to families that make less than Rs. 10,000 per year (and are therefore below the poverty line). This money becomes available to the girls once they turn 18, but only if they’re unmarried; this is intended to be a disincentive for families to marry off their daughters at a young age.

The government also provides Rs. 10,000 per month to elementary and middle schools to provide free lunches for all of their students.

There are also parent-teacher associations at all the schools, and one parent is elected PTA president every two years. In title, the headmaster or principal is the secretary of the PTA and cannot do anything without the approval of this president. This setup was, I think, supposed to be about school accountability, but the position of president has probably become politicized and corruptible.

We started on Excel with the teachers today, and they were so excited! It was fun to watch them see how they could keep track of their grading so much more easily. Normally, they spend about a month summing up all of the students’ grades, calculating their percentage grade, and ranking them, but with Excel, all of these functions are basically trivial. Excel is also much easier to understand with limited English skills, I think, than Word. It’s interesting, because although the teachers are really interested in exploring Excel further, I think the students will get more use out of word processing (to write essays and things).

If the teachers are to keep their files updated as their school year progresses, they’re going to need regular access to a computer. This won’t be such a problem for teachers who work at schools that have or are expecting to get computers, but the other teachers will be left without. We should look into whether there are any computer kiosks, available to the public, in Bijawar, and if not, what kind of resources it would take to set one up.