IESC India: Arrival in Delhi and Visit to the First School in Hathras


IESC India: Arrival in Delhi and Visit to the First School in Hathras
by Balaji Srinivasan

Our team had known each other for only a few short weeks but we had
become a good working team already. We are diverse in our jobs at Intel
and locations around the globe: K N Harsha from Intel IT in Bangalore,
India is our technical leader on the project; Arvind Amin from Intel”s
Software and Solutions Group in Dallas, Texas is serving as a teacher;
Gary Motyer from Intel”s Technology and Manufacturing Group in Shannon,
Ireland is serving as a teacher; Darrin Donithorne from Intel IT in
Portland, Oregon is our team Project Manager; and I, Balaji Srinivasan,
from Intel Sales & Marketing Group in Cary, North Carolina am
serving as technical backup.

All the planning by the team prior to departure is paying off. We
arrived at the Delhi YMCA Tourist Hotel on Saturday March 26th and got
the first of many lessons to be had during this amazing journey on how
things are done in India. For example, in India, always halve the first
offer for service or product as haggling over price is expected for all
transactions; none of us paid the same amount for a cab ride from Delhi
Airport to our hotel. Gary Motyer, a seasoned traveler and “first
ascent’ mountain climber was able to get his taxi ride for far less than
any of us. He seemed to have a knack for haggling with the local
merchants throughout the trip.IESC India: Arrival in Delhi and Visit to the First School in Hathras image 1

After a fitful sleep in what is considered an average hotel (imagine
Motel 6 quality), we spent only a bit of time on Sunday 27th finalizing
our preparations for Tuesday”s visit to Hathras, Uttar Pradesh.
Confident we were well prepared to train the teachers, we used the
afternoon to go see Delhi for the first time. Seeing amazing places like
the Red Fort and Jamal Masjid (See photo: Jamal Masjid Mosque and
Darrin in the foreground) and eating at world renown Kareem in a rundown
poor part of Old Delhi were incredible experiences that stimulated all
our senses to the fullest. This was our second lesson: to take it all in
and try hard not to judge what we were witnessing for the very first
time as India would show us a tremendous variety of old and new and test
all of our assumptions formed prior to our visit.

The kickoff meeting at the Delhi office of CARE,
our partner organization on the project, on Monday, March 26th gave us a
good overview of what to expect at the Hathras and Mainpuri KGBV
schools. We then boarded our very first train to Agra as it would be
our home base for the first week of our 14-day adventure. (See photo:
Harsha and Balji sampling platform food on the train to Agra.)

Once we arrived in Agra, we made it an early bedtime as key to our
trip success was to ensure we got ample rest as each day would bring a
long drive to the KGBV schools, hot temperatures and smog and dust that
most of us were not used to back home.
IESC India: Arrival in Delhi and Visit to the First School in Hathras image 2
Tuesday morning March 29th, we purposefully arrived with low
expectations but found the school was actually well maintained, equipped
and organized; in fact we would later learn Hathras was one of the best
ranked KGBV schools! The girls went through their morning assembly
which included calisthenics, singing, praying and reading the daily
news. The guiding principal, Prathibha-Ji, has a doctorate in Hindi
studies and was singularly focused on making our visit successful while
treating us like “God as we were guests in their school.’ The girls are
provided with room and board for an entire year as the principal and
supporting four teachers focus on educating these girls to
age-appropriate literacy goals for the 6th, 7th and 8th grade. These are
girls who had dropped out of their local schools for various reasons in
rural Uttar Pradesh. The teachers were very energetic, eager to learn
and had accomplished much more than we had expected since the Intel
Learning Series classmate PCs were installed in mid-year 2010.

Our lesson plan involved introduction to computers, basic PowerPoint
and spreadsheet skills, and advanced topics like classroom collaboration
software. Each of us took turns leading and supporting the various
lesson plans. At this school the English proficiency was quite low. The
language barrier was eased by excellent translation support by Harsha,
Arvind and Shaleen-Ji.
IESC India: Arrival in Delhi and Visit to the First School in Hathras image 3
The girls at Hathras were ever so curious and eager to interact with
such strange visitors as us. We were told the girls would be shy but it
was not true as we quickly made many friends. Darrin broke down the communication barriers by joking with the girls. When I showed them
pictures of my family, they were entranced by the pictures of America,
snow skiing and pictures of the earth from an airplane. They tried hard
to pick up our English and some of the girls would on their own
continually translate to the other girls what we were saying to them.

The girls” proficiency level with the classmate PCs was pretty good
considering how little time they had used the PCs and some even knew
shortcuts like ctrl-alt-delete and could navigate better than some of
the teachers! This proved to us that given a powerful new tool like an
Intel Learning Series PC, kids of any age and education level could
quickly learn and make great use of them. The girls (and some teachers)
could surf, search and download pictures and information from the
IESC India: Arrival in Delhi and Visit to the First School in Hathras image 4
Each day was split in half by a wonderful lunch prepared by the mess
hall crew. They lived and cooked from the same building within the
school grounds, and they would prepare all the required meals each day
for more than 100 people. The elaborate midday meals were a welcome
break for the teachers as we were teaching a lot of information in three
short days, and it gave us a great chance to build our relationship
with the teachers.

Our final day at the Hathras KGBV school and departure ceremony
taught us our next lesson about India. Goodbyes are never short and
sweet! The kids performed
many songs for us, they gave us beautiful homemade cards and we even
got in a game of handball with the teachers and girls. (See photo: Gary
receiving his greeting card at the closing ceremonies). It was more than
we could have imagined from our Hathras visit. We saw incredible
potential in these teachers and students and we hoped their KGBV
education supported by CARE and Intel, using classmate PCs, would propel
them to achieve great things when they grow up in rural Uttar Pradesh.
As we drove back to Agra, we were exhausted, amazed and thrilled at
being afforded this golden opportunity from Intel (as part of our core
value of Great Place To Work) to make a difference in so many lives with
our volunteer effort.
IESC India: Arrival in Delhi and Visit to the First School in Hathras image 5

P.S. Click here to
catch up on the adventures, experiences and learnings from the 14
previous Intel Education Service Corps teams and the other two teams who
are working right now in Kenya and Vietnam.