A Computer Class and Library on Wheels
Growing in La Plaine in the 70s the one most essential thing we were missing was a school library. We also did not have electricity and the entire village only had three private telephones and one public telephone in the main square. But every other week a small white library van made it from Roseau to La Plaine school. We were only allowed to check out two books at a time. We waited patiently and anxiously when the van would return in next two weeks to redeem our books and borrow new ones. Sometimes I would read much more than the allotted two books in two weeks as I would read the other books my fellow school mates had checked out.
I learned to love reading and it allowed me to 'travel' the world before I actually ever set foot out of Dominica. Looking back, I think that was one of the most beneficial programs the Ministry of Education enacted regarding rural education. I am not sure why it ended as I had moved on to DGS in the city, but certainly most of what I know today came from that small white library van with a few book shelves.
But today is a very different time and things have changed immensely since my La Plaine school days. Today is the digital age and without a computer at home or access to a computer, many of rural kids will get left behind. The white library van in the 70s helped us to read and educate ourselves and to dream of lives and careers far beyond the banana fields and country tracks. Today maybe the Ministry of Education should consider traveling libraries with computers bringing computer based technology to the kids.
It's all about maximizing all of human resources and preparing our country to compete in the 21st century. If kids don't have working knowledge of technology, they're going to be limited and it is absolutely essential that they get involve technologically but for most poor children, access to a computer remains daunting. As a result as a nation we should all be determined and have the political will (not empty political promises) to help poor children get the same educational opportunities as their more privileged and affluent counterparts. Our objective should be is to close the digital divide for all students in Dominica.
Maybe our friends in Beijing can make a denotation to the government of a couple of custom-designed buses outfitted with at least 20 computer stations each that are connected to high-speed Internet. The buses will travel to schools throughout the countryside. In that way the government will be bringing technology and offer lessons in computer and Internet based classes to these outpost schools. Of course some rules on the bus will have to be enforced –among them, Facebook is not allowed.
The computers will be loaded with educational software, providing interactive exercises that reinforce the ministry of education curricula. Children receive their own account login and password, allowing them to continue their work from anywhere they can access the Internet. This will help bring students up to their class levels in reading, vocabulary, math, science and life skills. It is hard to argue that access to a computer is not critical for all children to gain knowledge and live a successful life in the 21st century. The short and long term dividends will far out weight the cost and expenditures of the project plus the best computer minds on island can teach and contribute to the overall program's successes.
My own daughters' interaction with their schools and teachers with technology is amazing. They conduct research, visit school related web sites, complete their homework assignments and send them to their teachers via email and by other forms of E-transfer. This causes me to marvel at the power and reach of this medium and its impact on learning and education. I can't help to nostalgically remember that crucial role that the small white library van had on my generation of students at La Plaine School. That experience is partly responsible for my station in life today. The same should be repeated today adding the tools of technology. Maybe in La Plaine or Castle Bruce lies a future Mr. Bill Gates or Apple founder, (the late) Mr. Steve Jobs.