Quality Education for the Rural Student

Imagine a child living in a remote rural town, located a 5 hour drive from a city of any size.  Imagine that this child attends a rural school so crowded that they are on a double session, with each child attending only four hours daily. Can a child in this situation hope to receive a quality education?

With the help of Uruguay’s Plan Ceibal, OLPC’s XO laptops and Sugar Software, and a strong volunteer support system from several sectors of the community, the appears to be a resounding “yes!”

As a retired teacher, I was very impressed by what I saw at Escuela #33 in the rural Uruguayan town of La Paloma, Durazno.  They are fortunate to have a  director (principal), Rosamel Ramirez Mendez, who is a dedicated, forward-looking, creative educator who really enjoys her job!  This was very evident in the work we saw the students doing when we observed a fifth-grade class completing the day’s assignment on their laptops.

Earlier, they had used the Poll Activity (available in the Sugar software on the students’ XO laptops) to take a survey of where the students had gone for their latest school holidays.  When we arrived, they were completing circle graphs using Turtle Art  (also available on their XOs) to illustrate the data they had collected..  Each child did it a little differently, but it was evident they understood the math concepts they were using in their work.

The value of the XO laptops for these children is made even more obvious when you learn that the school day for them is only 4 hours long.  They are on a double session with approximately half of the 200 students attending in the morning, and the others in the afternoon.  Many of the students are able to continue their learning at home with the help of their XO laptops..

Looking out over the landscape you can see many antennas set up to receive the wifi signal  bounced from the school to anyone having line-of-sight access.  Many students do have access to the internet via this system and most, but not all, have power in their homes so they can do some work on the laptops, when it doesn’t interfere with their “chores.”

So, thanks to modern technology and the help of some very competent teachers and volunteers, these rural schoolchildren are able to receive a quality eduction far beyond what one would expect.

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