Hichkad Primary School's First Computer

The lack of access to computers in public school systems in developing countries is one of the biggest obstacles to getting an education and escaping the cycle of poverty. Nowhere is this more true than in Hichkad, India. For Shriddha Nayak ('09, Course 10) and Samiksha Nayak ('10, Course 10), going to Hichkad was more than visiting a rural coastal village, it was where their family originated. Through Public Service Fellowships, Shriddha and Samiksha traveled to Hichkad Primary School and used their funds to buy the school its very first computer, color printer, projector and educational software. "… going back to our roots, and being able to help the community was something that was very rewarding for us. We were able to connect to a lot of people there, and learn more about our language, customs and culture."

Shriddha and Samiksha set to work the moment they set foot in Hichkad. They installed the computer within the first day of arriving, and then spent the rest of their time instructing the teachers and students how to use the computer, the printer, and the software that would enhance the students' studies. For the first time, students could see "what Earth looked like from outer space, a 360° panoramic view of the Taj Mahal and other famous places around the world, how jellyfish glowed underwater and much more." Shriddha and Samiksha committed many hours to integrate the computer into the curricula, and found that both the students and teachers were enthusiastic. "It was therefore quite difficult to go home in the evening when school ended because everyone wanted to stay longer and learn!"

"The computer and associated materials were the first to be ever installed in a government-run elementary school in the entire county and the color printer was the first in the entire Ankola township," said the sisters. For a school without a library, the benefits were large. Through the internet and educational software, the students and teachers now had access to information that was previously not available to them, plus a web-based connection to the world. In an annual gathering by the village the Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPI), a high ranking government official made a speech to the students asking them "to be inspired by our academic pursuits and our desire to come back and help the community, even though we didn't grow up there…." "We realized that our education at MIT was very special, and if we continued to use the skills we gained helping others, we could truly help change the world, one small step at a time," said the sisters.

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