It has been continuously raining in various parts of Bengal for 48 hours. The room lights are on and the news reporter has a tough time reporting about floods from all across the state. I was unsure about whether I will be able to start for Sunderban; the name itself scares my mom who is worried of his son becoming a lunch platter for the national animal.
The continuous downpour added to my worries. I had gone off to sleep hoping for a bright sunny day, only to be woken up by an anxious mind at around 4:30am. It was unfortunately raining cats and dogs now!!! I had decided to postpone all plans for the next day.
However, the heart knows what it wants. I woke up again an hour later, and to my surprise the intensity has decreased a lot. Without wasting a minute I went out on the road running to board the train.
I reached the village after a couple of hours. I was glad to make it, else I would have missed this beauty:
Although I am born and brought up in this state, living amongst the hustle and bustle of the cities had never let me to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of the villages. This experience alone was a nice payoff for my efforts.
Inside the school we started off with our pilot testing. Initially, the principal of the school, Mr.Raju, spoke to us for a few seconds, and assigned us a teacher who would be with us the whole day, to help us with our pilot. Here are some stills from the same :
The MM Hills trip had been very memorable for me. It was our 1st pilot and we were off with a complete unknown team, going to an area which we had only heard about in the news, and had always thought to be forbidden for travel. Nevertheless, I informed mom about the trip only when I was safely back to the city of Bangalore, who was more interested in knowing about my efforts in getting sandalwood for her for daily pujas and didn’t find anything worthwhile to ask about the trip.
I returned to Kolkata after few days, followed by Gargi joining me a week later. Together we started for Sunderban boarding Namkhana-Lakhikantapur train early in the morning. Using couple of autos and motor vans we reached the school, to be greeted by none other than the great entrepreneur himself Mr. Gazi Jalauddin, I will write about his life sometime later.
We started by visiting the 1st school set up by Gazi Kaku. Gargi interacted with the teachers of the school, explaining them about the games that we had designed for the kids of the school, how we wish to work with them and how we are planning to collect data. After spending about an hour there we started for the 2nd school accompanied by Gazi kaku himself.
The second school is the 1st school started by Gazi Kaku, he has donated half of his house for running the school. The two schools are run by the combined efforts of about 20 teachers. We met the teachers over there, showed them the tablet based games, informed them of our cause and that we would like the kids of the school to use them.
Gazi Kaku invited us for lunch and after that we returned to Kolkata, to get prepared for the pilot phase to begin from the next day.
We recently had the opportunity to visit the Male Mahadeshwara hills, thanks to Help Educate a Child, in the southern part of Karnataka. It is a pilgrim town which is situated among a lot of hills, and is famous for a temple which is situated among these hills. This area is also famous as the former haunting grounds of the notorious Veerappan.
There are villages present among these hills, who, due to the nature of the terrain, are cut off from the main town area. The residents often need to hike for 7-10 km for even basic needs. It goes without saying that the schools present in these villages are severely lacking in facilities, and Help Educate A Child has been helping to support these schools, and the kids studying there.
They had invited us to accompany them to the schools they were supporting. It was a truly memorable trip, where we got a lot of insights about building games for kids in rural areas.
Some of the things we learnt during this trip –
- Kids struggled with dragging. We had included finger gestures as tutorials in the game, but they struggled to follow the instructions, and even when they were familiar with what to do, they struggled in the actual dragging, usually doing it only partially.
- While they struggled to drag, kids loved to tap. We had made multiple games for the kids, and the games which involved tapping was the most popular.
- We knew that making the games in the local language was important for the understanding of the kids, we underestimated just how crucial it is to the experience. The kids interacted mainly with the games which had kannada, even though the other games were easier to play and more attractive.
4. We had visited villages at MM Hills, as well as a couple of villages on the way there. There was a stark difference between the kids in both villages. The kids in the not-so-remote villages used the tab with ease, taking selfies within a few minutes of us giving the tab to them, while the kids at MM Hills weren’t as comfortable with the tab.
5. The teachers at the schools we visited liked that the kids were paying undivided attention to the tab, as they aren’t used to kids focusing this much on a learning tool. They had wanted similar games for alphabets, and rhymes.
This was an enlightening trip for us, and we took away lots of insights and ideas to use while designing our games in the future.
Here are some pictures from the trip –