We arrived at Wai District School not fully understanding how the day would evolve. This was a special day in our lives – we were invited to open the school’s new Computer Lab. The lab was no more than 6m by 3m but nonetheless it was big step for this rural school. This school has a very good principal – Ms Zarina Khan is working very hard to give this school a new direction. Very few head-teachers would have the courage to take on this challenge.
This school was built in 1952. It has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean in the distant. This is a boarding school – like Nandoumai and it caters for about 110 children from the villages of Lomawai, Navutu and Kubuna. Until recently, the school had very limited financial and physical resources that could move the school forward. A lot constructive work had occurred since Ms Khan had taken over as the Head Teacher.When Ms Khan was appointed to the school, she had three pieces of chalk and less than $20 in the bank. She is well supported by a team of 4 dedicated staff.
It was a big day for this school. By about mid morning – parents, grandparents and friends started to arrive. They took their places in the school balcony where the formal ceremony was to occur. It was a very humbling experience for us – the traditional Fijian ceremony of sevusevu meant so much to us. We set on two chairs on special mats and tapa. In such ceremonies kava is initially offered to the chief guests and it has a very special significance. The salusalu or garlands for the guest is made with a lot of skill and love. As part of the tradition we were given a lot of hand made gifts like – mats, tapa, oil and brooms made out of coconut leaves. We donated five Mac laptops to this school – thanks to the support of the QUT’s Faculty of Science and Engineering.
Parents especially grandparents were most eager to hear more about the new technology. They were most appreciative of what we were doing for their school and their children. This school had a good feel- with so much parental support, the children here can go a long way with the right guidance and supports from their teachers.
It was most interesting to note that during the day as parents came in to have a look, someone figured out how to use Photobooth. As a consequence there were more than 30 close-up photos on one of the computers. The built in camera in Mac offers som much potential to the users.
Lunch was very special – possibly the best we have eaten in a long time. Seafood was as fresh as it could be. It was almost as though it was been caught in the ocean only hours earlier.
The children at the school performed mekes – a traditional dance which is performed to mark special events. It was great to see how these children were preserving their culture by reciting dances and songs which had passed through the generations.
Perhaps the other highlight of the day was that we worked with the Year 7 and 8 students. With the exception of one student – none of the others had used a computer before. We started them with some basic familiarisation of the keyboard.
We also asked a couple of students to capture some images of the school. These images were downloaded to a file. Photos from this file were used by the students to create a movie (using imovie) of their school. We went through the process of selecting photos, embedding text and sound. By the time we finished in the afternoon – they were well on their way to creating an movie. From no experience with computers to this stage was a remarkable achievement – I think on the part of the students.
We enjoyed the constant supply of coconuts throughout the day. So all in all – it was a great experience. It appeared that we has made a very small dint to address the issue of the digital divide. As they say – in life we do not always remember dates – we remember moments. For us this was one of them.