Dhaka: Highs and lows


We set off today with not a great expectation from the computer skills 8 day academy. There were 2 reasons for this:

1) Although the parents ‘speak/read/write’ english, they do so for only the 5 sentences that they have been taught. Their knowledge or vocabulary in english is non-existance outside of what they have been taught. This means that we need a translator around to help Masarat and I (who can speak hindi and english) in every session which we have tried to run.

2) Only 1-2 of the 25-30 parents can read or write bangla or english with a poor level of fluency, let alone reasonable level of fluency. Even though they have been having english classes for about 2 years, most of them still cannot write their name in english.

The above two points brought about a major issue – to use a PC, you need to have the ability to read the menus…. How else will you recognise what you can do through each option? The issue is that the parents do not have the ability or knowledge on how to construct or read new words (although this is not the parent’s fault).

The 2 sessions on Computer skills that we ran today were quite tough. We started with something basic – MS paint. We asked the classes to create the bangladesh flag. Obviously since it was the first time that most of them came close to touching a computer, let alone use it, so there was a definite shock factor involved especially in the hand eye coordination required to move the mouse and see what it does on the screen – teething problems, no worries.

The bangladesh flag is simple – it looks like the japanese flag – rectangle and a circle in the middle of it. We drew out the flag on paper (no board available) but it was SO difficult to explain the shapes to the parents. Now here is where the biggest problem that I see-when we want to translate what we are teaching, from english/hindi to bengali, we have 2 options- ask the kids (but they are at school during the computer skills session),or the manager of the project…. Who is just not interested in participating unless he is ‘forced’ to.

So, teaching adults who cannot read/write english or bengali and nobody around to translate english/hindi into the language that they understand was immensely difficult. Add to that the fact that computer skills requires the ability to read/recognize words – it is a course a little too soon even for those who have potential (about 5/25) purely because they cannot read english or bengali at a basic moment.

But there are so many positives too. The public speaking and communication skills 8 day academies are getting a great review. The parents who were dead nervous on day 1 have developed well on day 2; they are speaking (in Bengali) with much more structure and confidence. Their voice, gestures are improving and they are wanting to learn.

It is a shame that the people who want to push the program forward are kids, and the people who should be organising and running the show are literally not bothered about the outcome of the 8 Day Academies and how it can be re-run with other people in the community.

Day 3 will not have a computer skills academy, but the bar of the communication skills sessions has been raised; 2 kids (12-13yo) want to join in the session too, and present skills that they haven’t picked up over the first 2 days.

Let’s see how it goes!


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