The Village Computer

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Schools World Service tells the story of children in a remote Indian village as they receive their first computer for key stage 2.

The Village Computer dur 7,16

Village Life

Children line up to play the game Danda Gilli Children line up to play the game Danda Gilli. Suraj is holding the stick

Gurjola is a tiny village in West Bengal, India.

Around 150 children live in Gurjola. They all speak a language called Bengali. In the fields surrounding the village the children play a game called 'Danda Gilli'.

One person throws a small piece of wood, and the other person has to hit it with a stick. The next person has to hit it even further. 7 year old Suraj loves this game, but he has to wait until the bigger boys have had their turn.

Suraj and his friends are excited because something special has recently happened in their village.

The whole village got its first computer. Nobody here has ever owned a computer, and many of the children have never even seen one - including Suraj.

The Computer and the Professor

Professor Mitra installs computer Professor Mitra shows the children how to plug in the computer

The computer is put into the wall by a computer expert called Professor Mitra.

The Professor wants to find out how much these children can learn from the new computer if they're left to use it on their own. That means no adults allowed.

The computer is crammed with games and video clips. But they're all in English. Professor Mitra wants to see if the children can learn to read English using the computer.

Suraj wants to have a go on the new computer, but because he's small, it's difficult for him to get to the front.

The people have chosen a special place for the computer right in the centre of the village, so that all of the children can use it. Even the village goat turns out to see what's going on!

The computer comes to life

A group of children crowded around a computer The children crowd around the computer to see what it can do

Professor Mitra shows the children how to plug the computer in and once it comes to life, everbody rushes to the front of the wall to see what it can do.

The Professor says that the children should try to work out for themselves what kinds of things you can do on a computer. He wants to see what will happen here.

Professor Mitra leaves the children on their own for a few hours to let them get used to the computer.

Later on, Suraj walks home with his friends. Most of the houses here are made from mud and straw. The village only got electricity 6 months ago.

India is a huge country with over one billion people! Some parts of India are very modern, but people in the countryside are being left behind. Most people in Gurjola work on farms, but they're still very poor. With a better education, some of these children could get better jobs in the future.

And with their new computer, the kids in Gurjola are eager to learn.

We left a camera behind to film the first people using it. Lots of children turned up. Some grown-ups came too - just because they were curious.

And that was Gurjola's first day with the computer.

Suraj's house

Start Quote

Suraj gets ready for school

In my village I like the trees, the cows, the chickens and the house”

End Quote Suraj, 7 years

Next day before school, Suraj has lots of jobs to do. He cleans his teeth, feeds the animals and practises reading.

Suraj says he loves reading Bengali books most. He says they have good stories.

Then Suraj takes a bath in the pond behind his house. Nobody has running water, so this is how most people wash.

Suraj's mum won't let him leave the house for school before she's put some special marks on his face. Suraj's family are Hindu and they believe the marks will keep evil spirits away.

Suraj's school

Children waiting outside school Suraj (with satchel) and his friends wait for school to begin

Suraj meets his friends on the way to school. Children in Gurjola only go to school for three hours a day. And once they're over 8 years old, their parents have to pay school fees.

Suraj loves everything about school. He says, "I love reading and writing most of all."

All of Suraj's lessons are taught in Bengali. But will he be able to learn any English from his village's new computer?

Suraj is optimistic. He told us, "I don't know if you can learn English from the computer. But I will try."

Doctor Suraj

When Suraj grows up he wants to be a doctor.

Children gathered around a computer Suraj (second from right) peers into the new computer awaiting his turn

But Suraj's dad thinks that could be difficult. He told us, "from when Suraj was just a small kid in kindergarten, he always used to play the part of a doctor. So as a father, I will give him my full support.

"Though I am from a very poor family and becoming a doctor is expensive, but I will try to encourage him."

After school Suraj stops by the new computer. His dad has said he can come here as much as he likes, but just like the game in the fields, Suraj has to wait until the bigger boys have had their turn first.

Over the last ten years, Professor Mitra's computer experiments have changed the way people think about children and computers.

The Professor will be back in a few months time to see just how much Suraj and his friends have learnt from the computer in their village.

Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production

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