In Al-Falak pre-school, they were not short of amenities. Its frontage is a high full plate iron gate equipped with security camera , high walls lined on the perimeter of the school, huge square for the students to do their routine morning dance, a sheltered playground and garden (which we shared our failed attempt to grow crops in our previous post)
Physically, they are not short of amenities. The paint on the exterior walls of the school were seemingly new, there are bunkbeds connecting to the classroom and in each class there is a washroom, contrary to what we were accustomed to see.
These bells and whistles of a village school does not come without a reason. The school which ranked among the top ten in the village is also a child care centre for parents working in the city which can be as far as one to four hours drive from the village. As such, these young and vibrant parents send their children there to help them take care of these children and they only get to see their parents when they get back to the village. Besides, due to the dispersed settlement, getting to school may not be as easy without vehicle and groovy dirt road. As a solution, kids were let to stay in school.
Each classroom is equipped with a huge LCD touch screen television with Windows and internet. Their staffroom has only one shared computer installed with MS Office 2007.
Our team offered to share our knowledge on IT and we were not surprised at how their MS Office were underutilized. While many of them know the basics of using Word, Excel and PowerPoint, they did not know the tips and tricks like using a formula in Excel to get data average, or add Animation on PowerPoint presentation that could expedite and make kids learning entertaining with animation, or taking advantage of the Table function in word to edit or create forms for parents.
We spent two evenings after dinner at Al-Falak to give them a tutorial of what is essential and useful in MS Office and they were happy and excited to learn them! One of them actually sat at the corner of the conference table with one of our laptops creating a montage out of PowerPoint and some were enthusiastic enough by writing down the formulas for average and steps to getting percentage et cetera.
As for the kids, some of us spent the evening before their bedtime reading them stories and singing lullabies.
Clearly language was a barrier! Our MS Office tutorial was in English and they only know Mandarin. It was like chickens talking to ducks. No matter, with the help of our Mandarin speaking participants and translator, we were able to convey the essentials to them. It was a bittersweet moment when the teachers were expressively appreciative towards us but were not able to convey in terms that we could understand. Their appreciation were strongly felt and we too appreciate that they have allowed us to impart to them what was bestowed to us before.
Have you ever wondered, that with all the materials that they have, it would not have been useful without the proficiency to use them? Take for example, they have a pretty fast computer by village standards and equipped with considerably updated software (MS Office 2007 is just 4 versions behind MS Office 2016). Had we not known how to use it, would it be useful to us?
Here at home, we are working to be a Smart Nation. We are bound to have new technologies and innovations that will be incorporated in our daily lives. For sure, there will be the late adopters and laggards adapting to these transformations and inadvertently evolve the skillsets needed for employment. There is probably no other way to remain relevant than to be curious, just as how these teachers were keen for knowledge - even when they were already revered as knowledgeable by profession.