ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Now, we're going to talk about kids and screens. Here in the U.S., the struggle is to keep screens away from kids, limiting screen time and all of that. In rural Ghana, there is the opposite problem. Children at the Betenase M/A Junior High School want to use computers or even just know what they look like, but the school doesn't have any. A computer teacher came up with a creative solution to the problem, and photos of his classroom went viral. NPR's Malaka Gharib of our global health blog Goats and Soda corresponded with him and is here to tell us more. Hi.
MALAKA GHARIB, BYLINE: Hello.
SHAPIRO: You corresponded with him because the phone lines aren't very good, so you've been texting this teacher.
SHAPIRO: Explain what he does to teach computers.
GHARIB: So Owura Kwadwo Hottish - he's the name of the teacher - he's 33 years old. He basically draws these extremely painstaking illustrations of Microsoft Word and other computer programs on a chalkboard using colored chalk. And he draws every single icon, every single feature and with extreme...
SHAPIRO: The bold, the italic...
GHARIB: The bold, the italics, the horizontal scroll, the vertical scroll bar - with extreme detail. And so it takes him about 30 minutes to draw the drawings on the chalkboard. And he has to erase the chalkboard after every class because there's another teacher who needs to come and use the chalkboard.
SHAPIRO: Why is he doing this? What's he hoping to teach the kids by drawing in chalk the layout of Microsoft Word?
GHARIB: Well, he hopes that when the students actually do confront a computer, maybe in their professional - these are just junior high school students - that they'll know how to use the computer and at least to be able to turn the computer on and off and navigate the actual physical computer.
SHAPIRO: Tell me about his background because he's clearly familiar with computers and yet he doesn't have one in the classroom.
GHARIB: And doesn't have one at home really - a functioning one. He's got something that - he says his battery dies a lot and he can't bring that to school. But he studied computers in school and just has a passion for it.
SHAPIRO: And his story has totally taken off. When you were texting him about this, what was his reaction?
GHARIB: He said that he was really surprised that the world had cared so much about his story. I think that he thinks that his drawings were the things that fascinated people the most.
SHAPIRO: They're very intricate.
GHARIB: They're very intricate, yeah, and he has gotten just so much international press and social media buzz for having shared the photos that he posted on Facebook.
SHAPIRO: There are a lot of schools in rural Ghana and other rural parts of the developing world that don't have computers. Is this the typical way to teach computers in those kinds of places?
GHARIB: Yes, absolutely, and that's why he was surprised with all the fanfare around his chalkboard drawing. This is a standard of teaching computers in this part of the world. And, yeah, he said that it's just a normal thing for him to do.
SHAPIRO: Since this story took off, there has been talk of nonprofits sending computers to his school. Microsoft weighed in. Any word on what's going to happen?
GHARIB: Since the last time we spoke about a couple of days ago, he said that he - a lot of people have promised but none have actually delivered yet.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Malaka Gharib. Thanks, Malaka.
GHARIB: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: And you can see photos of the chalkboard renditions of Microsoft Word and read Malaka's correspondence with the teacher at npr.org/goatsandsoda.
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