IESC India: Phase Two

As part of Intel’s ongoing commitment to improving education through the effective use of technology, Intel’s Education Market Platforms Group (EMPG) launched the Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) in September 2009. This program is a short-term service and career development opportunity, for a select group of Intel employees to travel to a developing country to directly support the deployment of Intel-powered classmatePCs. In this blog, Balaji Srinivasan reports on his team’s second school visit in India.

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IESC India: Phase Two of Our Journey and Visit to the Second KGBV School in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh

by Balaji Srinivasan

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Namaskar Kanchan-Ji! Good Morning Mr/Ms Kanchan, we could now all say. We were starting to pick up a few words of Hindi and starting our journey towards “Hinglish” (Hindi plus some English that Harsha and Arvind did quite well). For starters, I think a compare and contrast with Hathras seems quite in order for Mainpuri. The school had neither chairs nor desks for the Intel-powered classmate PCs you saw in my prior blog. We were to teach from the floor and required to take off our shoes as is customary indoors in India. These teachers shown in the adjacent picture would prove to be very punctual, incredibly attentive and eager to build upon what we taught them one day and showcase their extensions when we returned the next day (more on this later in this blog). Our team is comprised of Gary Motyer from Ireland Fab Operations (IFO); Darrin Donithorne from Intel IT in Portland, Oregon; K N Harsha from Intel IT in Bangalore, India; Arvind Amin from Intel’s Software and Solutions Group in Dallas, Texas; and me, Balaji Srinivasan, from Intel Sales & Marketing Group in Cary, North Carolina. We were not only getting comfortable stretching into the local language of Hindi but at this visit each of us would take turns teaching, interacting with the students and even tutoring the teachers one on one to get the maximum transfer of knowledge from us to the teachers.

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The first day at Mainpuri we walked through the basic material we had brought with us without many issues. Arvind also asked the teachers to show what they could do with presentations, and we found one teacher was very good with searching the Internet and creating presentation slides with graphics and even animation. This evidence of advanced work with the classmate PCs in the short time since their installation last year and the fact that this was our second school visit during our volunteer effort, energized us to multitask right from the start. While Arvind and Darrin taught the teachers, Harsha and I started to get the classmate PCs to a basic level of functionality. Some of the PCs at this school had been corrupted by the teachers/students so we used Intel® Learning Series backup and restore software to restore several PCs to a functional level.
The hospitality in Mainpuri was amazing, and they provided us with wonderful Masala Tea multiple times during the day and a custom lunch of Rotis (bread), sabji (vegetable curry – often potato-based as it is a staple crop in Uttar Pradesh), Dahl (lentils) and dessert. We can’t quite be sure why but something we ate between lunch (possibly raw vegetables) or dinner (cut fruit in some dessert) Friday April 1st would come to haunt two members of our team for the second day in Mainpuri.

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Saturday morning April 2nd, we had to go with a reduced team to Mainpuri. Arvind was a seasoned traveler to India and chose (rather wisely) to rest and recoup at the hotel in Agra, while Darrin made a brave effort despite an upset stomach to join us on the long two-hour journey across Uttar Pradesh. And brave he was as in India there is no such thing as a smooth ride! Often it seems like everyone, including our hired expert driver, is on a mad dash to be first to the destination. The adjacent picture is quite indicative of what we encountered in each day’s ride to and from the school. Anything was fair game for the road and the driver would honk, swerve and go off-road to keep up a good pace towards our destination. This did not help Darrin one bit and despite asking our driver to slow down and take it easy, we had to let Darrin rest when we arrived at the school. This was another tough lesson for us during our volunteer effort. It is easy from our sofas to donate to charities and feel good about giving but we five now had a profound respect for all those repeat volunteers of personal time and effort on behalf of charitable causes worldwide. Our heartfelt kudos to them for braving foreign environments repeatedly to further relief and education efforts.

So Harsha, Gary and I, supported by a very supportive Shaleen-Ji from CARE, forged ahead with the day’s plans. We reviewed the material we had covered the day before as this proved a great way to reinforce and ensure the teachers fully understood the material. Gary taught the basics of presentations to the rest of the teachers and we showed the basics of Intel Learning Series classroom collaboration software. We then ended the day a bit early as our trip to India was to be punctuated by a very historic event. India was playing Sri Lanka in the finals of the World Cup 2011 and we five were getting a chance to be part of it and right in the middle of India! Once India had won the match and their first Cricket World Cup in decades, the sky around our hotel in Agra was lit with fireworks in every direction. The party was on in India and for the next few days there was little else to be seen on TV than the replays of India winning and the celebrations throughout the nation.

Our final day in Mainpuri had our entire cast together again, and it would the longest day of our trip yet. We would check out of our hotel in Agra and then do our full day of teaching in Mainpuri. We all knew that the closing celebrations with the final day of our visit at the Mainpuri School would also be long as in India there are no “short and sweet” goodbyes. We then had a 3 hour journey to Hardoi that evening so we got started as soon as we arrived at the school. We again were surprised by Kanchan-Ji as she had extended beyond our teachings in classroom collaboration software and developed her own quiz to show us and administer to the kids. It was incredibly rewarding to see the value these classmate PCs would bring to this school over the long term. Another teacher, Naveen-Ji, also showed great prowess with the classmate PCs as well throughout our visit to Mainpuri.

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After our lessons were complete, the closing ceremonies amazed us and beat our expectations. Can you imagine? We were given custom made garlands of roses and the fragrance was divine. Gary had mentioned to the local school superintendent during the prior day’s lunch that he loved Soam Papdi, a famous Indian sweet. We had a box for each of us as a gift from him, handmade cards from the school girls and hand carved pictures to take home as well. As you can see in our smiles in the adjacent picture, we left Mainpuri feeling a great sense of fulfillment and joy at having had this treasured experience to come work with these wonderful teachers and students.

P.S. Click here to catch up on the adventures, experiences and learnings from the 14 previous Intel Education Service Corps teams and the other two teams who are working right now in Kenya and Vietnam.

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