Thursday, April 30, 2009

Teaching adults computers

Well, I didn't think I'd be teaching computer classes in the Peace Corps, but here I am having just finished teaching my first community computer class today. It has been quite a struggle to get this computer/training center up and running, but finally we're seeing some success! It has had a long history of failing, for different reasons including the local counterparts not wanting to work and not carrying on the work being done once Peace Corps volunteers have left, I'm the third volunteer to work at this site.

Last week we had our first registration day for a class of introduction to computers and typing. We have 10 working computers, so 10 spots available for students. The one local radio station has been broken for over a month now, so we just posted up flyers all over town at the stores, post office and bank, advertising the class and registration time. It sounded like there was a lot of buzz and interest in the class, so it was disapointing when only 2 people came to register last week. But then everyday we'd find more and more people who wanted to sign up for the class. So I think it works better to be out in the community and at events where people can approach you about the class, and not have a formal registration. Just yesterday we completely filled up the class, and even had a couple people on a waiting list! This evening was the first class, I was a little nervous since I've never really taught a class before, but I have led meetings at my college's advertising club and have led work meetings before coming here. It's different also when I teach in English here and I'm not exactly sure how much they're understanding me. So it helps that I currently have two Tongan counterparts working with me. It ended up being only five students instead of ten that showed up, but I still think it's a huge success for here in Ha'apai. And we might have more students next week, it's a 5-class session over the next four weeks. They ranged in age from about 20 to 50 years old. Today I covered some basic computer concepts, and we started the typing program. It was really fun seeing how excited some of the Tongans were to be using a computer for the first time, and they were actively participating when I asked questions, which is hard to get participation like that sometimes here in Tonga.

After this first class is done we're going to probably offer the same class again as well as adding on more classes. And probably next week we're getting the Internet connected to start an Internet cafe. Most people in Tonga have relatives overseas, but they don't have Internet in their homes here and there are only a few places to check Internet, so it will be a really useful service to offer for keeping in touch with family and for school research, etc. I've also been doing computer tutorials two days a week now at the computer center, and still helping out at the Youth Congress, so it's been getting pretty busy for me here! Tomorrow is my day off - every Friday. Brett has been working mornings only now at the school, and getting the library set up and helping to get the class 6 kids ready for their big exam in Sept, it determines what secondary school they will attend.

Also, I have a new officer-in-charge (boss) at MAFF. This position was supposed to be filled in Feb. and they prepared for his coming for about a month, getting things ready, and he didn't end up coming. Then last week I saw people cleaning out the house next door and asked what was going on (the whole conversation this time was in Tongan), and found out the new officer-in-charge had just arrived that day and was moving in and starting work! So you never really know when things are going to happen here in Tonga. They just happen. I met with the new boss on Monday and he seems very nice and optimistic about getting things changed for the better at MAFF. He wants me to begin working mostly with the Women in Development and Youth division.

But enough about work. Other happenings here - the weather's been cooling off a little, we can really tell at night and in the mornings it's easier to sleep in a little later. This Sunday is "children's Sunday", something they celebrate in Tonga. There will be a feast of course. And the following Sunday the big church conference for the Church of Tonga begins, a lot of people from overseas and the outer islands are coming into Pangai for this conference, it will last for a week. Many families here will have relatives staying with them, and all the guesthouses in town will be full. The stores will probably run out of supplies and the bakery, so we're going to stalk up next week. There are already no eggs available. But there will be a lot of feasts and festivals/dances during the conference so I'm sure we'll get plenty of food there.


Steve Hunsicker said...


I think it is great that you have been able to get the computer classes going. I know there have been lots of struggles and frustrations, but glad that you got it done! I hope to be back in Ha'apai next month so will hopefully see you soon!


Anonymous said...

Seriously... You are awesome!! It sounds like y'all are doing such good work. I'm happy that it is all coming together. Ha'apai is lucky to have you:)
Karen (Group 73)

Kate and Brett said...

Thanks Steve and Karen!! We'll see how it continues, we just filled up the class to 10 so I'll see if they all show up tonight, amidst all the church conference chaos that's beginning here now.

Steve let us know when you'll be here in ha'apai, we leave for NZ at the end of the month. Karen maybe we'll meet up with you guys when we're in nuku'alofa next month!