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Digging a Hole in the Wall

Watching Prof. Mitra presenting his research at TED Talks made me think: How in the world did the professor decide to name his research "Hole in the Wall"? And so here I try to confuse myself with different kinds of explanation, and probably confuse my readers all together.

Professor Sugata Mitra made some great research that could revolutionize the way we educate the younger ones. His approach claims that with little to no human or elder intervention, but given the right tools and great curiosity and/or peer interest incentives, children can be able to self-educate in ways unimaginable before.
Prof. Mitra did a test by literally digging a hole in a wall of a computer room. The hole gave access to slums kids inside a room that had a constantly on computer and some hidden cameras -or the professor watched from a window? These kids are clueless about computing or anything close to it. But surprisingly, after a couple of curious moves and lots of peer-driven interest, the kids were able to navigate the web and find what's interesting to them.

This sounds like an easy test, and relatively cheap to put in place in the streets of Kigali. But my question lies in the name he gave to the research. What if the wall represented an established misconception of certain standards and that the hole was a movement to break through this wall and progress? This wall would then be standing in the way rather than helping. The movement -or hole, would be a minority given the fact that a hole is relatively smaller than the wall itself. But once the hole receives wide recognition, everyone would want to go through it, finally creating a bottle-neck around the hole that would put a lot of pressure on the wall to the point of breaking it, therefore breaking the misconception. This way, I believe, makes the research sound politically correct. I'm not a politician and I hate politics, but I recently learnt from the Bible that sometimes I will have to be actively concerned about politics, not just praying about it [Isaiah 58:6].

Rwanda is so lucky on so many levels, mostly because we are what Ghanaian economist G. Ayittey calls the cheetah generation. And also because we rise at a time when so much was done in the name of progress and we get to pick only the good stuff, minimizing chances of going wrong by taking a certain path. As a clear example, public switching telephony never penetrated much in Rwanda and costs much in infrastructure, so we took a shortcut directly into fiber networking because it offers cheaper, reliable telephony infrastructure and a plethora of other features I won't repeat here. We are in a position to do the same with the way we educate our children. There are many revolutionary ways out here like  the OLPC project and already Rwanda is ranking high in the implementation of such low-cost, high-impact projects. The Clinton Foundation was involved in a health pilot project that some US professors and researchers already call a breakthrough in disease control and access to medicine.

I learnt about prof. Mitra's research through a friend, Sushant, with whom I teach basic computing skills at an orphanage in the outskirts of Kigali, not far from the airport.


  1. I love the sense of humor and the ways this pushed me to think. I assumed I knew the answer to why Mitra's project had that name; but the polyvalence is important.


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