We are planting the seeds for a better future for the children of Bodhgaya through the power of the Internet.
What solutions are you creating to make the Internet more accessible to women in your community?
My name is Eliana Yarian and I am Brazilian. I have been living in New York for the past twenty six years. I work as an Administrative Assistant in New York. In 2012 I went to India with my friend Ieda Dias and ever since we fell in love with the children of the Prema Metta school of Bodhgaya and we have been working hard to make their school and their lives a little better. Here is a little bit of our story.
Ieda is also Brazilian and she is now living in Bodhgaya, India, in the estate of Bihar, which is one of the poorest estates in India. Prema Metta School is a private school funded by Anup Kumar, a 26 year old entrepreneur who decided to start the school because he wanted a better future for the children of his community. Ieda was lucky to meet him on the first day that she arrived in Bodhgaya. She visited the school and she fell in love with the children.
The first time she went there, the school was a place that only had three bare rooms, no doors, no windows, no piped water, no electricity and no bathroom. The children had only one teacher and they often came hungry to the classes. Besides all the lack of resources, the children were very inspired and eager to learn and this inspired us to do something to better their chances of a better future.
While Ieda concentrated in getting funds to build a bathroom, I decided that we had to try to bring technology to their lives. I bought a laptop for the school and it was immediately put to use by the director and the teacher. I soon realized that only one computer would not be enough. I was inspired by Sugata Mitra Hole-in-the-Wall project where he advocates technology and the use of computers as an educational solution for children in underprivileged communities. I knew that we had to find a way to bring more computers and teach them the skills needed so they could learn whatever they needed by themselves.
Ieda used her blog: http://oquevivipelomundo.blogspot.com/ to get funds for the basic infra-structure of the school like building two more rooms, doors and windows, piped water and electricity, installing a bathroom, etc. I started to fundraise for more computers for the school.
Meanwhile we had to fight a more difficult battle. Since the beginning when we visited the school for the first time, we noticed that the teachers called on boys a lot more that they called on girls. We had to call their attention to this. Ieda had a meeting with the director and the teacher to explain that girls are as smart as boys and the teachers should dedicate as much attention to girls as they do to boys.
When I visited there, I had brought several children’s books and children’s toys to the school and Ieda noticed that they kept them locked away, out of the children’s reach. We, once again had to convince them that books and toys contribute to the children’s development. The director told us that the parents usually complained when they saw the children playing and wanted to take the children out of school because they thought they were not learning and therefore their children would be better working than playing. Ieda called a meeting to explain to them that while playing they are also learning important skills.
When the computers arrived, they were just finishing the construction of one more room with the funds that she collected from friends and her blog’s readers. The boys were the first ones to start playing with the computers and the girls were a bit reluctant to touch them. Ieda called on a few of them and started teaching them basic computer skills and taught them how to play a simple game. They loved it and started to venture more and more. She bought a few movies in Hindi and English and they improvised it so the entire class could watch. It felt like they were watching a movie for the first time in their lives. They were glued to the small laptop monitor and asked her to play it over and over again.
Now, only two years after, the school has come a long way. The children now have breakfast every day before going to classes. They have piped water, a bathroom, windows on the wall, doors so the computers are safely locked in the school at the end of the day. We have a computer room with eight donated laptop computers, electricity to power them and a limited internet connection. We hired a computer instructor so the children are having computer classes. But, the most important battle that we have conquered is that girls are now using the computers as much as the boys. The children are playing freely with the toys and books during the break of their classes. And girls are being a lot more outgoing and actively speaking up in classes.
Now that the school has the basic infra-structure in place, our goal is to take it a step further; not only for the children of the school but also to the community. We need more funds, more computers and a more stable internet connection so we can also serve the young community of Bodhgaya. We feel that technology and the use of the internet will help the children rise up from the poverty level that they now live in. We believe that technology can help women be an influential voice in their societies, if we give them these tools.