The Intel team (Joya Chatterjee, Noor Chowdury, Shubo Nag, Hisham Chowdury, Jenn Miller and Parrish Pynn) just wrapped up our second week in Bangladesh, where we spent the week in Meherpur. Meherpur is a very rural district in south-western Bangladesh that borders India. The Intel team worked in Meherpur in conjunction with Save the Children to provide training to both teachers and students on the Intel-powered classmate PC (CMPC). Intel was there to train both teachers and students in the 4 schools by introducing them to the CMPC as well as to provide the teachers more advanced training on Intel’s collaboration software that will equip the teachers to move their daily lesson to computer-based quizzes. The Intel training augments a national initiative called “Digital Bangladesh”. By conducting these pilots in these 4 schools to see if e-content will facilitate better learning and providing access to classmate PC’s, it will help improve the number of children attending school, reduce the dropout rate, and improve the percentage of students passing their national exams.In order to understand the magnitude of this challenge you have to realize how rural Meherpur is! Everywhere you look there is agriculture. Tobacco fields, eggplant fields and rice paddy fields surround Meherpur. Nationally, only 47% of enrolled students complete grade 5. There are also additional challenges in keeping kids in school in rural areas because children can start contributing to the household income by picking rice and other crops at very young ages. Let me start by saying that both the Intel team and CMPC were huge hits with the children. I’m going to detail some of the biggest highlights of the time in Meherpur in the few paragraphs below. We did one full day of training at the first school where the children were anxiously awaiting our arrival out in front of their school. The 6 team members proceeded to break the ice by introducing ourselves to the teachers and students in Bangla. As mentioned in a prior blog, this was a great ice breaker that we used prior to every training because Jenn and I don’t speak Bangla and the faculty and students all laughed in amusement as we butchered their native language. While setting up one of the training rooms, we ran in to a 4th grade boy who was sweeping the floor and trying to be of assistance setting up the room. When we found out he had just showed up and helped voluntarily, a couple members of the team asked the teachers if it would be all right if we added him to the list of students being trained. This little guy was so excited when we asked him to be part of the training that it literally brought tears to my eyes. I would smile every single time I looked at this young boy in class as he wore a grin from ear-to-ear the entire day that we were there. This story is indicative of the excitement generated in every single school that we visited during our time in Bangladesh. The second school was just as exciting. The Intel team of 6 broke off in two separate teams to teach both the students and the teachers. The goal was to introduce the children to the classmate PC using games to teach the keyboard and mouse as well as to teach them how to use the built-in CPMC camera feature. The teachers got introductory training to the CMPC as well as learned how to use the Intel classroom collaboration software. The children were ecstatic and one of the children asked Joya “if she could call her grandmother” because her grandmother had just passed away and she missed her. Joya said of course and this little girl addressed Joya as “grandmother” “nanaji” for the rest of the day. The third and 4th schools that we trained were given two days of training each. In both schools we trained the teachers for one day and the students for the second day. There was so much excitement surrounding the Intel teams’ arrival that 3 school committee officials showed up to introduce themselves to the team. The average age of the committee officials was probably 70 and not a single one of them had ever used or seen a computer before. The committee chairman gave us a tour of both the grade school and the high school. We proceeded to invite the committee to take the training with the teachers; we then introduced 6 teachers and 3 committee members to CMPC using keyboard, mouse and camera games. The second day was all about the children and we trained about 310 kids (grade 1-5) on the basics of the CMPC. The teachers also taught some of the training sessions and 2 of the committee members showed up the following day to help with the training. During our closing conversations with the teachers, one of the teachers told us that “these were the best and most exciting 2 days of school that he had witnessed in his 40 years of teaching and that he is very confident that the dropout rate will go down drastically if the schools continue to use the CMPC.” At the 4th and final school something truly amazing happened! The first day of training was supposed to be focused on the teachers, but there were extra CMPC’s so the team convinced the teachers to allow 13 4th and 5th grade children to attend the training. At the end of the first day the team selected the most outstanding 8 students and decided to let the children do ALL of the training on the second day. These 8 students trained over 220 children the following day including teaching keyboard, mouse and paint games. The children also taught their peers how to turn the computers on and off, praised the younger children for learning the alphabet, helped the kid’s line up and even did the technical troubleshooting! These kids were absolutely amazing teachers and watching their confidence and self-esteem grow is something that made the entire team really proud to be part of this program. It also reinforced the team’s belief that if you can just put CMPC’s in front of these kids, they will figure out how to use them and even continue training the teachers. Our two weeks in Bangladesh were a massive success. The team, in 2 short weeks, managed to train almost 700 children and young women and many teachers as well. We created an ongoing plan to help teach the children of Bangladesh to be computer literate and to aspire to more in life beyond dropping out of schools and working in the fields. I also think the fact that our first day of training in Bangladesh coincided with International Women’s day and that our last day of training fell on National Children’s day is a perfect coincidence for the impact that we were able to make on the people that we had the privilege of training in Bangladesh! If you haven’t taken the time to read the team’s first blog about our week spent in Pabna and Dhaka, please do so. I have also included a few pictures to give you an idea of how remarkable our time in Meherpur was. Picture #1 is a picture with some of the children and their teachers that we trained at the third school in Meherpur. As mentioned earlier, we couldn’t get these kids to stops smiling the two days that we were there. Pictur #2 is Noor and Parrish providing some PC assistance to a couple of the children that we trained in Meherpur. Picture #3 is a picture we took in a local field with a scarecrow that we equipped with an Intel Involved shirt. In a related note the farmer behind us ended up removing the shirt and wearing it to school (it was heartwarming).
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