Yesterday’s post, prompted a good amount of discussion on various mailing lists, so today I’ll follow up with some specific ideas.

First though understand that it’s not my intention to say that schools serve no purpose, that they have no value. Quite the contrary. My visits to twenty schools in Haiti last month, several of them built after the earthquake, left me impressed and full of hope for the children and teachers I met. My purpose in these posts is merely to suggest a less expensive alternative for a country with a greater need than current funds or capacity are able to meet.

Let’s call these groups “micro schools”, which connotes both a sense of being small as well as having to do specifically to do with computers. Funding such a school will cost no more than $7000 up front for 25 laptops and training. This amount includes a school server, wifi access point, mini-mice, projector, screen, and 25 copies of courseware (printed books, videos, and files). It also includes two weeks of training for five mentors and six weeks of on-site followup and support.

Ongoing costs would be no more than $15,000 a year, which includes fair salary for each of the five mentors, along with money for electricity, Internet, and FOOD. Yes, it’s essential to feed everyone before every class. These amounts assume the mentors and children spend no more then 2.5 hours a day using the laptops, usually with a 90 minute class and another hour of work. To double the number of children, double the amounts.

But wait, you say, can’t you reach more children by having fewer than five mentors in each class? Why the insistence on a 4-to-1 mentor-student ratio? I’ll save the full answer for another post. For now, I’ll simply say that we’ve tried pretty much every permutation and 4-to-1 was the minimum to create a true environment of guided discovery in Haiti.

So let’s say we have such a micro school, with five mentors and twenty children. Where do they meet? Anywhere! In Léogâne after earthquake, there were no buildings standing to hold class so children carried chairs to a clearing and held class in a circle in the sunlight (made possible by the XO).

Just as Weight Watchers, twelve step, and countless other groups meet in the States, micro schools could meet in libraries, community centers, churches, etc. Using such structures for multiple purposes is a great use of limited resources. And should a space become unavailable, the micro school would simple move to another. Such an approach would allow a micro school turn into a real school, just as in Léogâne, where our pilot students moved into real schools months later.

Well, you say, that sounds like a lot of money for 25 students meeting for 2.5 hours. To understand our numbers, it’s vital to remember that we’re not trying to duplicate what other schools do already. We’re doing MUCH more.

But that’s another post. 🙂

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