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Friday, July 23, 2010

The End / The Beginning

Due to unforeseen events, I'm spending two days in Lisbon. I'm incredibly unlucky and incredibly lucky- pretty much got sucker-punched and, out of nowhere, my amazing cousin, Marina, who already saved me once by helping me to find my lost bag the first time through Lisbon, is now letting me stay with her this weekend while I wait for my flight home to the States on Sunday evening.

My last day of school went great. Class is still continuing for another week so that kids can create stories. Then they're going to have a big party where the kids will vote on the best stories (and the 5 winners will get computers), parents and special guests like the Embassy of Taiwan, STeP UP and the Ministry of Education will come, and kids will get certificates of participation. Yay!

Lesson 10 went pretty smoothly-- about as smoothly as Lesson 9. It seemed like the teachers didn't really grasp the idea of making a game. They got all the steps down- they learned that- but then they would just get stuck being, well, creative. But it's a process and they're certainly getting there.

We had a long talk about the upcoming school year and what to do. We made some solid plans, like:


  • 1x/year- Beth visits to check in
  • 1x/month- Teachers spend at least some part of the class talking about how to care for computer. Kids can write texts about it, do presentations, skits, or even have class-wide cleaning sessions.
  • 3x/year- Meetings with parents- one at the beginning of the year, one in the middle of the year and one at the end (students and government officials will also be invited for an end-of-the-year sort of party)


In terms of content, the teachers have been enjoying picking an activity each class and letting kids experiment with it over the entire class period. I thought it might be fun to give each month a sort of theme- teach three activities and then, in the final week, use the knowledge gained from those three activities to do some sort of project. I brought them back to the malaria project they did last year, having kids write articles about malaria and then go around the schoolyard taking pictures of each other pretending they have malaria and such, then adding them to their articles. Doing things that are interactive like that, that get kids moving around-- that's great.

Got the director to sign a document committing to the salary that each teacher is receiving through the Ministry of Education. That way there's no question about how much they make over the school year. There were questions/doubts (dúvidas) about that so I'm glad we have something solid to look at now.

Also went to check out the cantina where the teachers said there might be room to put the computer cabinet. And uh...is there room or what?! Apparently the school used to have a kitchen but not anymore. So there are not one, but TWO small but gorgeous rooms at the back of the school. They're dusty, but they're locked, and they could easily be cleaned out and used not only as a storage unit but even as a small computer center. It's almost laughable how perfect it is. São Tomé, man. Something about this country, it was like the XO laptop was made specially for them.

The cabinet should be finished next week. I can't wait to hear about it. I hope it's nice.

At the teacher meeting, the teachers also took a second to reflect on the past year. They were amazed, really- just as amazed as I am. They said the kids are so computer literate now, after just one year. Many of them use email regularly. Lots of them are very familiar with the Internet. It's almost shocking how much progress these kids have made. The teachers say that there is a visible difference between students in the computer class and other students at the school. It's such a huge difference that it impassions the teachers more and more to get enough for everyone else to use, too.

I would not mind seeing five computer programs at five schools. I would also not mind if we could hire five coordinators for these five schools so that we can start building a little economy...and a country-wide initiative. I told the teachers how proud of them I was. They brought the kids this opportunity and they really did it!

"No, Elizabeth," Miguel says, quietly. "We did it."

This is not the end. It is, in fact, the beginning of a new chapter. Chapter Two! The teachers are stronger and more comfortable with the computers now. We're excited to see what a second year will bring. We definitely need to get more fundraising going for the little things that we are spending on to better improve class. And we REALLY need to get some funding so we can hire some people and buy more computers.

But we know what we need. And we're going after it.

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Eric McClafferty
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