The last post detailed the state of our work in Bijawar as of January 12, and this one will focus on the developments since then.

The faculty at the boys’ HS school was unable to start a computer pilot project in February because of the schoolwide preparation for the state board exams that the students in grades 10 and 12 take in March. However, after weeks of talking with the principal, he agreed to teach students from April 1-15 from 9am-12pm, before classes but while the school still has electricity. I’m really excited to see some development on this front!

Although exam results for grades 10 and 12 come straight from the M.P. Board of Secondary Education), the boys’ HS school teachers are available during this time because they’ll be at the school grading exams and preparing marks sheets for their grade 9 and 11 students. The principal has agreed to let some of them – exactly who that will be is yet to be determined – teach computer classes at this time. The new school year technically starts in April (their school year is different from that in the US), but students tend not to show up after exams because about half of the student population comes from smaller villages around Bijawar.

We would have liked to try the program for the whole month of April, but elections in India for the 15th Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Parliament) have been announced to start April 16. Any available government school facilities will therefore be occupied after April 15.

Our recommendation to the principal is to pick for this pilot program two groups of nine motivated students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn computer skills. There are ten computers, but the last is still broken, and the school needs to get it fixed. As a minor note, the principal has agreed to change the faulty fuse that keeps burning out when more than two computers are turned on at a time. This is fantastic, because it’s such a small problem that would prevent any computer classes from being held.

For the last couple of days, we’ve been working on a 13-day curriculum for the teachers to follow. It’s loosely based on the Operation Fikelela Curriculum put together by IkamvaYouth and the Shuttleworth Foundation to teach computer skills to kids in South Africa. Once that’s finalized, I’ll post the PDFs here.

I’m currently trying to figure out the best way for the teachers to document each day’s work and any problems, evaluate the students’ progress, and communicate the necessary information to us. I’d also like the students to briefly evaluate, possibly anonymously, the program at the end of the two weeks, to see where we can improve it.

We’re looking to maybe hold a summer computer camp once school lets out in May, but the viability and details of that plan are heavily depended on how this two-week program in April goes.

We’re also working on a way to get an 8- or 12-port switch and Cat5 cables so that the school can connect all of the computers to the internet simultaneously. Along those lines, I’ve heard some talk about how the school might be exceeding (or is expected to exceed soon) their current broadband plan and therefore incurring additional costs, which is something to watch out for.

The last I’d heard, the girls’ HS school was expected to receive computers in April. I plan on checking in with them soon to see whether that’s still the case, and if so, what their plans are for using them.