I’m accompanying the ecbp team as they start the 2nd OLPC Ethiopia deployment today. This time, they are working at a school in Addis Ababa. The school itself is similar to another local school that I wrote about in my first week, although smaller (approximately 1000 students, rather than 2800).
Both through mistakenly thinking this school was a public school, and also through the radiance of this photo, I was expecting the school to be more modern and have better facilities than the others I have seen. However, upon arrival I learn that this is another government school, and the facilities are strikingly bare.
As we walk into the school, the first thing that hits me is the noise of many chattering children. I ask the local team if this is their break (although I am doubting that myself, the schoolyard being mostly empty). “No, this is how they learn in class.” The teacher yells a question, and the kids all yell the answer. Or the teacher yells some kind of statement, and the kids repeat it. Over and over again. With many classes in a small area, it’s just a mess of (Amharic) sound.
Later on, I am within earshot of an English lesson. “HOW ARE YOU”, yells the teacher. The kids respond in unison, “I AM FINE THANKYOU.” This repeats indefinitely, almost army-like “SIR YES SIR” style.
The children are very friendly and flock around me, shaking my hand and asking my name. I discover that I have a supernatural ability to control their movement, simply by pointing my camera in different directions. Here is our attempt to get a photo of me with some children — you can actually see me, if you look carefully:
We spend the morning conducting questionnaires, which will generate data for evaluating the effects of the laptops (more data will be collected some time later, and data will also be collected from schools without laptops). Laptop handout starts in the afternoon. Things are nicely organised, with the kids coming up one by one, presenting signed letters from their parents, and signing for their laptops. They obey instructions to not power on the laptop until everyone in the class has signed for their XO. The teachers give out 200-300 laptops in total, with only a little assistance from ourselves.
Chaos ensues as classrooms full of children eagerly power on their laptops for the first time. The Ethiopian team explain that the children must type in their name, although some children do not seem to understand. I use my very minimal Amharic to help them out, but it’s difficult and things get harder as the other children get into Sugar and make noise as they start exploring. “Teacher, teacher” they say, pulling at my clothes. I turn to them and am greeted with “Camera, camera!” as they beg me to show them how to open Record (an instant hit).
Overall, it was a very tiring day, but a lot of fun, and rewarding to see so many happy children. Students from other classes hounded me for laptops as we left; we will return on Monday to finish the job.