Saurav Dev Bhatta
We just completed an orientation program for parents and stakeholders at Bishwamitra Ganesh Lower Secondary School Â yesterday (April 21).Â A similar program was held at Bashuki Lower Secondary School last Thursday (April 17). Â The objective of these programs was to give the parents and other stakeholders in these test schools an overview of the project and discuss the importance of their role in making it a success.Â We strongly believe that the success of the project hinges crucially on the enthusiastic participation of parents and the larger community. Needless to say, the protection of the laptop is not possible without developing a sense of ownership of the project Â on the part of the parents whose children are getting laptops . At the same time, it is equally important to bring the rest of the community also on board.
The programs were organized and conducted by the teachers themselves.Â As respected members of the local community, teachers are far more capable of garnering community support for this new idea than outside â€œexpertsâ€. Â Furthermore, this approach helps to drive home the idea that the project belongs to the local community.
Structure andÂ content of the orientation program
The program was designed to last for two hours from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Â Because of delays in participant arrivals and continuation of discussions, the program went on till 2:00 pm in both schools.
The following topics were covered during the program:
- Round of introductions
- Brief introduction to the project
- Discussion of the basic physical, emotional and social characteristics of 2nd grade and 6th grade students and how this relates to the use and protection of the laptop
- Overview of the laptop (which was named E-Paati by the teachers themselves) and its functions
- Brief example of how the E-Paati is used in the classroom
- Educational benefits to students thorough the use of E-Paati in class and beyond
- Discussion session: Â role parents and guardians in the education of their children and in getting students to effectively use E-Paati
- Discussion session: Â usefulness of the E-paati to the rest of the family
- Discussion session: how to protect the laptop at home, in the school, and when commuting to and from school
Â Participants in the programs
|2||School management committee members||6||5|
|3||Parent teacher association (PTA) members||13||11|
|6||District resource person||1||0|
|7||Class 2 parents||22||35|
|8||Class 6 parents||40||38|
|Â||Total (approximate)â€”there is an overlap among some of the categories||85||80|
Rabi and I attended the orientation session as observers. Â Dev Mohanty and Sulochan Acharya were also present though most of their time was spent working on the school network.
Photographs from the orientation program at Bishwamitra
Photographs from the orientation program at Bashuki
What we observed
Here, I will only list some general observations.Â Â
- Overall, the teachers in both schools did a good job in conducting the orientation program even though they had either very limited or no experience in conducting interaction programs with parents and other stakeholders. Â
- We now have no doubt that these types of orientation sessions must be conducted by the teachersÂ themselves rather than by outsiders.Â The teachers clearly had a good rapport with the parents and stakeholders. In the case of Bishwamitra,Â the teachers belong to the local community itselfâ€”and this a big strength of the school.
- All the children in Bashuki come from the Tamang community. We observed that the parents and stakeholders were more forthcoming in the discussions when they had the opportunity to talk in their native Tamang language rather Â than in Nepali. Â In the case of Bashuki, only one of the teachersâ€”Neemaâ€”is from the local community. Â Â His active participation in the program was clearly very useful in getting the participants to actively engage in discussions. Â Â
- Bishwamitra did not have large enough rooms for conducting the orientation program in a single room.Â Furthermore, since the different classrooms were not sealed off from one another (due to lack of solid partitions), sound from one orientation room often drowned the conversation in the other room. Â This is typical of poor rural schools in Nepal.Â And it shows how difficult it is to conduct classes in such schools.
- The participants of Bishwamitra in particular were quite excited by the doors opened by this project. Â
- As might be expected, stakeholders whose children were not in grades 2 and 6 (only these students are getting laptops in this test phase) were curious about when, if at all, their children would also receive laptops.Â There was some resentment as well. Â The teachers clarified that the program would encompass other grades as well in the future if the test phase proved to be a success.
- The parents were quite concerned about the safety of the laptops particularly during the studentsâ€™ commute to and from school since children have to walk through isolated forested areas (sometimes up to an hour) to get to school.Â
- At Bashuki, the parents discussed the possibility of â€œguardian-poolingâ€ where the guardians would form groups based on home location and take turns taking their children to school in groups.
- In addition to guardian-pooling, the teachers at Bishwamitra also discussed implementing a strict rule that would require students to go home only in groups.
- Â In Bishwamitra,Â the parents were also curious about whether or not it was wise for the rest of the family â€“in particular siblings not in class 2 and 6â€”to use the laptops.Â The teachers responded by clarifying that we want to encourage maximum use of the laptop and that the family should see it as a family asset. Â