My apologies for posting this so late. This update should’ve gone up months ago, and I’ll post another update concerning the developments since April very soon.

We talked to the principal at the Boys’ HS school in Bijawar on April 8th. We were scheduled to start the pilot computer project at the school from April 10th, but unfortunately, this project will not take off in April, which is something of a disappointment. The principal has now agreed to start the pilot project in July when the new school year starts in earnest (although the school year officially started on April 1).

We have to deal with some issues on the ground: the general elections, communicating with the school administration, and electricity. Bijawar is on a strict electricity schedule. They have three hours off followed by three hours on. During the normal school hours, electricity is available from 9:00am-12:00 noon and then again from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Since the HS school session goes from 12:00 noon to 4:00pm, the computer project has to run outside the regular HS hours. We need to plan for this issue, which we were certainly aware of before, in consultation with the principal.

The 2009 General Lok Sabha elections will be held through April and will suck up all resources in small places like Bijawar. The school facilities are turned over to the election commission for training election officials, setting up election booths, storing ballot boxes and other election related materials, and other such activities. The government school teachers are also mandated to participate as election officials.

We also need to develop a better strategy to have the principal at the boys’ HS school become more invested in this project. One of the fundamental issues we keep running into is the tendency to push the issue of the pilot project further and further – if it’s in the future, he doesn’t need to deal with it right now. While understandable (the principal is busy, and the school is involved in many things), this attitude is also extremely personally frustrating.

It might be useful if we are more completely able to explain the need for careful, long-term planning. We’d like to keep him informed at the different levels of planning – show him in more painstaking detail the work being done to develop a suitable curriculum, train teachers, and procure the hardware and software required for the project, among other things. We’d also like to impress upon the principal the idea that starting some project – any project, no matter how small – will give us and him the tools and knowledge to move forward in a more productive manner.

Development of computer curriculum

We’re still working on outlining objectives for the pilot project and preparing the appropriate lesson plans. To help with this process, we’re thinking of trying to reach a block education officer to find out if they already have a curriculum to introduce computers to HS students. Whether or not this will be successful or useful is yet to be seen.

Volunteer teacher network

We’re looking to start an email conversation with software engineers (and other computer-savvy people!) who are interested in working as volunteer teachers for this project. If they’re willing to donate one to two weeks of their time for this project, they would have to travel to Bijawar to work with teachers and students in an extracurricular pilot project. Their responsibilities would be as laid out in my last entry and which I’ll quote again here:

“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.”

Next visit

We’re planning a one month trip to Bijawar again at the end of this year. We hope to meet with education officials at the block and district levels to get a better understanding of what the state government’s plans are for computer education in rural schools. We also want to identify teacher and IT resources for this project in the Chhatarpur area.