Working with Cognizant in India to help with our respective projects

During my visit to Bangalore in July 2013 I managed to visit Yediyur Government school, near Yediyur lake, Jayanagar,¬†with two of Cognizant’s team who help with various schools in the Bangalore area. They’re part of a much larger programme across Cognizant who help support schools across India as part of their corporate social responsibility.

During our visit I was able to see first-hand how the schools used the computers they had and to talk to the teachers. This school had at least ten working computers running a mix of old versions of Microsoft Windows and the free Edubuntu software. Until recently the teachers had received training in how to use Edubuntu as part of their teaching. However, the visits had petered-out for various reasons and the teachers were less confident of using Edubuntu due to lack of practice or familiarity.

Like the other state school I’d visited there were plenty of broken computers and screens. They used to have a 3G connection to the Internet, but large unexplained bills had discouraged the school from using it and the 3G device was missing when we looked for it. As ever, the electricity supply was overstretched and prone to fail. However across Southern India there are news reports of chronic under-capacity of power generation so the school appeared no worse off than many other Electricity customers.

The pupils really enjoyed using the computers, particularly some of the programs provided with Edubuntu and typically sat two or three to a chair and worked collaboratively with the program they were using. The teachers were very supportive of the children and volunteered their time after school to help the children use the computers informally.

After our visit to the school I spent some time with the team from Cognizant and we were able to share experiences and ideas for ways to help the current set of schools and through helping those schools to help those schools help other schools with their computing. We agreed we needed to find scalable ways to help schools support themselves, each other, and ideally for those schools to help schools who weren’t directly supported by either Cognizant or the Fisherman Trust.

We decided there were several ways we could help immediately:

  • The local network and support team from Cognizant could investigate the problems and causes of faulty equipment. They would fix some of the problems and then help the schools to find ways to fix the other computers where practical.
  • Reinvigorate the training for the teachers in using Edubuntu. Cognizant volunteers would also help the schools learn how to install Edubuntu so the schools could be more self-reliant and resourceful.
  • Raj, of the Fisherman Trust would send a couple of copies of the Zoombinis software to the team at Cognizant so they can evaluate it with one or two of the schools they support. We could then consider ways to procure more copies if the software seems to be useful for those schools.

Conversely, the Cognizant team has lots of experience, particularly in installing and configuring Edubuntu that the small team in the Fishermen Trust can apply in the schools they help. We really appreciate their friendly and open advice and expertise.