On Wednesday, Oct. 14th., the four members of the Intel Education Service Corps met for the very first time over breakfast in a Dhaka hotel, after travelling halfway around the world from Arizona (Bob), Mumbai (Surya), California (Noor), and Oregon (Taslema).Afterwards, we met with Save the Children USA officials at their Bangladesh headquarters in Dhaka. Security and Human Resource briefings were followed by a review of STC’s programs in Bangladesh, focusing on Early Childhood Development and Basic Education in their chosen impact area of Meherpur. This is the district in Bangladesh with least access to education and very high dropout rates in primary school. Margarita Clark, the Deputy Country Director for Save the Children USA’s Bangladesh program, emphasized the need to develop evidence-based, replicable solutions to enable all children to be successful learners. This is where the 60 Classmate PCs donated by Intel’s World Ahead program to Save The Children USA in Bangladesh will allow a pilot education initiative to take shape, deploying English language and mathematics learning software being developed by Save The Children. On Thursday, Oct. 15th., we travelled to Meherpur, near the border with India. It was a seven hour ride from the urban bustle of the capital city, Dhaka, through the countryside – a lush green landscape of rivers and ponds after the monsoon rains. The four of us arrived at the Ujalpur Prathomik (Primary) Government School at 10 am on Friday, Oct. 16th., to be greeted by all six teachers, the School Management Committee and even a few of its 557 students. The headmaster, Mr. Nurul Islam, is keen on science and technology in the classroom, and eagerly engages with us throughout the session. We set up a classroom with 25 Classmate PCs, and the excitement among the teachers and the students is palpable. We had no idea that so many teachers and students would come to school on their one weekend day (Friday is the weekend holiday in Bangladesh.) Computers are a big draw here in this remote part of Bangladesh. Our Save The Children hosts had informed us that this Saturday is a school holiday, but when we spoke to the teachers about training on Saturday, they appeared to be very willing and happy to come in as requested. In the afternoon, we drove through Meherpur’s town center to get to the next school. At the BM Model Primary Government School, we again worked with our Save The Children partners to set up another 25 Classmate PCs, and introduce the principal and two teachers to computing. We are all set to start training the teachers tomorrow, who will then co-teach their students with us over the next few days.
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