Thursday, May 31, 2007

The light

I could not stop myself writing this post and clip this picture on my blog. This is unarguably the best picture i saw in my entire life.

This was clicked by Randolph Wang. One of the pioneers of the Digital Study Hall (DSH project. He was an assistant professor at Princeton and is now living in India implementing DSH to uplift the dismally ignored state of the Primary Education in India.
More information about DSH can be found here.

More about this picture in Randolph's own words, picked from the DSH public archives:

I just returned from, arguably, the best school trip we've ever had!
And this picture is probably the most poetic of anything we've seen :)

We came to a BETI village school to see an evening school. We had heard about this for a while, but this was the first time we saw it.

It was 6:30pm. Dusk was just settling in. The entire village was starting to gradually fall into darkness. Except for one dim but warm yellow-reddish light bulb from under one thatched roof (powered by the same battery that powered our TV).

This was our "school." Little kids, with books, under the moonlight, from all over the village started to walk into the "school." It seemed entirely business as usual to them.
They sat down. The teacher flipped on the TV. For the next 1.5 hours, they had an English lesson and a science lesson, and we were absolutely astonished by the level of quality instruction we saw.

The teacher and the TV in this case probably formed the best "team" I'd seen. She was pausing and resuming the TV throughout, but she was so in command, so confident, assertive, playful, natural, that you could be easily forgiven for forgetting the background she had. But what was perhaps even more remarkable were the kids. They clamored to answer every question, to volunteer for every act, and most amazingly of all, they got the answers right most of the time! The participation was deafening for the entire period and they literally wore down us adults first :)

I took time to step back from the school house and receded into the darkness that was the rest of the village. It was quite a magical moment :) There was this single orange dot in the distance, under a thatched roof, under a silver moon. And there was a cacophony of the TV "teacher", the "real" teacher, kids screaming answers, and lots, lots, lots of laughter, echoing in the night sky.

Randolph already reserved a place for himself in heaven for thousand years to come with just one picture of this kind :) Most importantly he reserved for himself a place in the hearts of thousands of these kids who are going to reach a place they deserve, like you and me.

Most remarkable thing is that, i worked with and saw a few NGOs that are doing wonderful work with respect to the upliftment of Primary Education, but by far, DSH is the only one that is scalable, obviously because of the amount of research that went into it and with best minds like Randolph's at work, i hope the much hyped pompous statements like "India Poised/India Shining" are going to come true.

So what is our own HRD minister and governement doing all along? Worrying about shoving a hand-ful of OBC students into the IITs and IIMs, ignoring the "BETI"s of the world to be taken care of by Randolph. What an irony!!!!


Blogger bestofbals said...

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11:33 AM  
Blogger bestofbals said...

Beautiful idea!! When an individual can make such a difference, obviously true to the final lines of the writeup the goverment with such a manpower and moneypower base can do much more... Nevertheless there are visionaries who bring forward schemes like "Sarva Siksha Abhiyan" which has transformed many school's infrastructure. But for a Country with a billion+ population we need more projects such as DSHs. Its also amazing to see state like Kerala with 100% liereacy rate. The goal of the goverment is obviously not to make everybody a knowledge store but to provide basic literacy. Hats off to people who consider education as a human right rather than a need.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Sowmya said...

Hey Pavan,

Thank you for leaving sucha nice and thoughtful comment on my blog. It felt so good just reading it :) I think I will continue writing but blogging may probably have to wait. Yes, at some other point, I might start all over again!

Thanks for inspiring words. I really need them at this point :) And I sincerely wish you good luck & great times ahead. Do stay in touch.

Simba -

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