On my visit to Bhagmalpur in 2008, I made an extra effort to go to the local school and see for myself how things were done. Until then, most of my family members would not be too enthusiastic about any of us visiting the school. My mother is a product of this school. So are all her siblings. However, back then the school was a lot more resourceful. The current state of the school isn’t great. Maybe that’s why nobody really wants to go check it out.
Bhagmalpur Pre-Middle School was started by my mother’s paternal grandfather Dargahi Lal and his brother Rajkumar Lal. As far as I can tell, the school was started either pre-independence (pre-1947) or right around then. Eventually, the school was handed over to the Uttar Pradesh government to be subsumed into the abyss of the educational system. It now serves the population of six neighboring villages.
One afternoon, off we went to the school, to meet with the Principal and see what things were like, and what potential it held. At the school, we found out why all the kids were outdoors. No, it wasn’t recess. The classrooms were too small to hold the entire class. Each room held 35 children, while each class had 100+ kids. Boys and girls sat separately (reminded me of my high school from many years ago), but they sat under a tree. Each grade level had its own tree.
Under one such tree, we set up a table and I had a little chat with the children. It was 7th grade as far as I can remember. They called forth the “best” student, a girl by the name Garima Srivastava, to come forward and type her name on an XO in Devanagari, the script used for Hindi (I had obtained two OLPC XO-1 laptops from the Digital Bridge Foundation (DBF) as loaners. These had Devanagari keyboards). After typing her name on the XO – for the first time ever on a computer – Garima held it up for all to see and I took her photograph.
Given that the XOs were loaners, I couldn’t leave these in Bhagmalpur (I could, but I would end up upsetting my DBF friends) so Garima posed with an XO, but never owned one. That one photograph has traveled far and wide. It is up on Flickr. It showed up front and center on OLPC’s video. Most recently, Garima shares the pages of SF State Magazine with the likes of Annette Bening, Delroy Lindo, Johnny Mathis, Dana Carvey, and of course, many SF State projects.
After a long and trying effort, I am very close to fulfilling a promise I made to myself in 2008. Garima will finally get her own XO. Watch this blog as we work towards fulfilling that promise soon. In the mean time, we’ve printed out her pictures and shown her the video. She is on the World Wide Web and all over the world, while she awaits her XO in Bhagmalpur.