As per my last post, we were scheduled to start a pilot computer literacy program for students at the boys’ HS school in Bijawar from April 1 to 15.

The principal of the school has now indicated, however, that he wants to move the whole program back by a week or so, starting April 6. They’re running behind in getting the final examination results out, and they cannot start the program until that work is done. Additionally, the Bijawar Boys’ HS School is a block-level school, which means that the examination papers for all middle and high schools in the block (smaller than a school district, but it’s the same general concept) are graded there. The good news is that the principal is willing to let the program run through the end of April, adding a week to the time we thought we had.

The principal has already spoken to the teachers who we know to have some computer skills – Salar, Divya and Sanjay (all residents of Bijawar) – and they are on board for April. Since Ashish commutes from Bada Malehra (about an hour away) and his contract for the new school year has not yet been renewed, it will be difficult for him to join the program at this time.

It was rightly pointed out to me that this first pilot experience needs to be a relatively smooth one, or we might lose interest and momentum in moving forward. Since it’s not feasible for my family or I to fly to India for two weeks right now, we were actively working with a couple of software engineers from Noida to come down to Bijawar for two weeks to help out in April. Ideally, their role both in and out of the classroom would have been to assist the teachers and troubleshoot problems, though they would of course help the students as needed as well. I was hoping that this sort of hands-on teacher training would have allowed those teachers to carry on this program more independently in the future.

Unfortunately, the people we were talking with will not be able to spend the full two weeks in Bijawar, but they are still very committed to the program. They’ve talked about wanting to take Fridays off work to go down to Bijawar to teach on the weekends. These software engineers have also been talking about the project at work, and it looks like several other people are interested in volunteering their time.  It would be great to harness this interest, but we’ll have to see how to make that possible logistically.

Due to the elections scheduled for later half of April, it is going to be extremely difficult to find lodging for volunteers coming from elsewhere. Bijawar has only one guest house and no hotels. The guest house is fully booked due to the elections.  These volunteers may have to stay in Chhatarpur or Khajuraho and commute to Bijawar. We will also be looking for possible teacher resources in Chhatarpur.

As another follow-up to my last post, the cost of getting a speaker phone, an 8-12 port switch and associated Cat5 cables to hook up all of the computers to the Internet is approximately Rs. 3,500 – 4,000.