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Hole in the Wall – India’s gift to the world

December 3, 2010

Two nine-year old boys press their faces to a flickering screen. “What is this, television?” asks one. “Press those buttons,” says the other, pointing to the plastic covered keyboard below.
Men came from the city the day before, built a brick hut in the middle of the village and positioned the screen facing out from a window. The children were only told that this new machinery was for them to play with.
From around the village, another 20 children run over and crowd. They shout out various suggestions. But after five minutes he realizes that if he touches certain buttons an arrow moves round the screen and if he clicks on the big button in the middle, new pictures appears. A while later, he clicks on a logo and finds himself logged on to the computer. Within hours, he and the other children are playing games and looking at Walt Disney websites, despite this being the first time they have encountered a computer.

Brainchild of Dr Sugata Mitra, ‘ Minimally Invasive Education’ or ‘Hole in The Wall’ kiosks have provided thousands of children from impoverished backgrounds with access to a P.C. The first computer (operated only by cursor buttons) was installed in 1999 in the wasteland on the edge of Kalkaji slum, New Delhi. Within a day the children were surfing and using applications like Paint and Microsoft Word. In fact, they used some tools that Mitra had no idea existed.

A paper published by Dr Mitra attracted the attention of the World Bank who gave him £ 1.1 million to repeat his experiment in 23 locations around India. In diverse places such as Leh and an island in the Ganga, time and again the children were operating the computer within hours. In Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh, Mitra placed information on Biotechnology on the PC and asked the kids to look at it. He pre-tested them and they scored 0. 2 months later, they scored a 30%. Another 3 months later they scored a 75%.

Mitra even saw the HIW’s break down rigid caste system as middle-class children crowded around the blacksmith’s son for lessons and skilled girls got prominence from their male peers. Computer skills undoubtedly will also be vital for poorer Indians to operate in a world where everything from buying food to getting news in increasingly done on a PC.

HIW’s in countries such as Cambodia (the first one abroad – given by Prime Minister Vajpayee), Uganda, Mozambique and Nigeria, gifted by government of India, have also been a success. More than 3 lakh children have benefited from the project. What started as a small experiment has now become INDIA’S GIFT TO THE WORLD.

Taken from Reader’s Digest
Edited: – Nitya Nangalia
XI Science
Head Girl

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