I have been following the journey of six OLPC contributors as they observed and assisted at two Jamaican schools: Mark Battley (Kenya), Bill Stelzer (Haiti & Nicaragua), Adam Holt (Haiti), Craig Perue (OLPC Jamaïca), Quentin Periès-Joly and Laura de Reynal (OLPC France/Madagascar’s Nosy Komba)
Craig Perue of the Mona School of Business, University of the West Indies, deployed a team in both Providence Methodist Basic School and August Town Primary.
It truly is a joy to watch the children and their teachers working together. The many photographs are top quality and reveal a great deal to those of us who have never traveled there.
The OLPC France Blog posting by Laura de Reynal (http://olpc-france.org/blog/2012/02/100-kmh-down-hope-road/) discusses the differences between the two schools in terms of ages of the children, teacher energy and humor, sharing of XOs, teacher confidence with laptops and their hopes and fears in using them.
I would like to make some observations, comparing what I see from these Jamaican experiences with some of what I know of the Haitian experience. After all, the two countries are so very close geographically that it seems appropriate.
My first observation is that the Jamaican children are equally captivating! Who can resist???
Looking at shots of daily life, things appear economically better off in Jamaica, even though there are similar valid concerns about earthquakes.
There is a sense of tidiness, there are sidewalks, there are people of all ages enjoying games on the streets. There appears to be general contentment and a sense of well being.
People on the streets are seen with books in hand. I missed seeing newspapers and magazines in Haiti.
The schools are nicely painted and even have louvered windows and doors. There are plenty of tables and chairs for the students.
The school compound is clean and tidy. See the garbage can there?
It appears to me that materials for the Jamaican schools are easier to acquire or locate because language is not a huge issue. In Haiti the decision of what languages should be used for instruction is a major debate. Kreyol? French? Spanish? English? Certainly small new schools cannot deal with all of these. Many of the teachers only know one or two of these themselves. Organizations donating materials to schools for classrooms and libraries have an easier time locating English language posters, books, globes, and other materials. At Ecole Shalom in Croix-des-Bouquets Haiti, I personally must translate Pen Pal letters and game instructions.
Notice the sense of humor and the colorful wall decorations too!
The teachers at these two schools seem to make excellent use of their resource people and volunteers.
Here you see teacher-trainer Racine with the students.
And here is Laura giving hints to the faculty.
Teachers participate in the OLPC effort and make use of the laptops in their daily activities. The XO activities in English are useful at even the beginning levels because the children are taught to write in English at a very young age. In Haiti they are learning their colors at this stage.
And of course the children love the laptop activities and are very comfortable with these.
I believe that in Haiti, the teachers are nervous about familiarizing themselves with the laptops and insecure about what these offer the children. They take less pride in their classrooms and decorations, and tend to watch the clock, hoping to leave school early. (And of course life IS very stressful there.) They need skills and training to become confident and better at teaching.
The Volunteers at Ecole Shalom rotate frequently. They tend to be English speaking, and so cannot interact much with staff or students on academic things. Volunteers tend to work on building, animal husbandry, micro-finance, gardening and stitchery projects. What teaching they do is done in the afternoons only, strictly in English. Of course, because the children are so appealing, the volunteers take them for walks, play some games with them and do lots of coloring.
In Jamaica, it appears that volunteers contribute to the XO learning process, and this makes all the difference.
And these photos? Well, I just can’t resist shots of children!!