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IESC Haiti: Lively and Learning at The School of Choice

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The Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) is a short-term service and career development opportunity for a select group of Intel employees to support the deployment of Intel classmate PCs in developing countries. In this blog, Anne Mieke Driessen, a business development manager for Intel in the Benelux region, recaps her team’s first week of experiences in Haiti working with L’Ecole de Choix.

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Upon arrival at the airport in Port-au-Prince, we were greeted by a band playing tropical music. This is an impression of the country that would stay with us throughout our two week IESC assignment: warm, colorful and lively.

Maybe a bit too lively, we realized on our first day at L’Ecole de Choix, when 30 youngsters stormed into the school’s computer lab and started hitting every key on their Intel classmate PCs simultaneously. As computers crashed and the students grew restless, we huddled with the lab manager Jean-Claude and came up with a new process. All the students were told to line up outside the computer lab, and they entered one by one to learn how to sign-in to their computer.

L’Ecole de Choix (The School of Choice, or simply “Choix”) was conceived in 2010 to educate the future leaders of Haiti. Choix opened in 2011 with a beautiful campus, 180 students (pre-K through 4) and a computer lab installed by the Intel Education Service Corps.

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We knew from our communication with the school that the students had been using the classmate PCs – mostly basic apps for typing and drawing. But a problem with the school’s server had developed shortly before our arrival, preventing the use of the Waterford software for learning English, math and science.

Thanks to their thorough preparation, our technical gurus John and Jonathan upgraded the server platform and had the Waterford software up and running quickly.

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Soon students were tugging at our sleeves to show us their screens as they advanced through their Waterford lessons. They called us maman (mommy), papa (daddy), mademoiselle, and blan (white person), which they used to address even Yvonne, who is from Ivory Coast!

Most of the students at Choix are from poor rural households and have never been to school before. We were reminded that it takes time to learn how to be a student: to sit quietly, line up, use the toilets, wash your hands, and raise your hand to ask a question.

It’s incredible to see how quickly the children learn and to watch their dedication to the computer lessons: at the end of one session, one of the girls tried to hide under her desk, hoping she could join the next session too!

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In our next week at Choix we have a great deal of training material to cover with the teachers on educational software and content. Please look forward to my next blog about these hard-working educators – the key to the sustainability of the school’s e-learning efforts.
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