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Computerization comes to Turkmen first-graders with a vengeance

Written by on Thursday, 1 September 2011
Media and Internet, Turkmenistan
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Last Friday, schools opened across Turkmenistan to some remarkable good news: according to official sources, around 100,000 first graders were provided with free Chinese-made Lenovo laptops. Reportedly worth 26 million USD in total, the laptops are said to be a “gift” from the President, which in turn is reportedly based on a grant from China. The laptops are intended for to be used at school only.

This is truly an ambitious project on the part of the Turkmen government — possibly too ambitious, since most teachers in my country have little in the way of computer skills (I wonder how computer literacy will be integrated into teaching traditional literacy). Nevertheless, this is potentially a huge moment for my nation’s history.

There have been rumors about this project going back to January. At the time, two users on Teswirler.com bitterly remarked,

T.R.: “Nothing should be free. Only education should be free. I also want to study in Turkmenistan, but free of charge. I am asking the authorities: Shall my children also have to pay bribes to study in higher institutions of education? I can pay the laptop myself, but what I need is free education.”

M.O.: “If there is that much money, it should be spent on computer labs, physics and chemistry labs and table tennis rooms to play during the breaks.”

However, Mergen, a computer developer from Ashgabat, stated his belief to me that the new laptops shall be key to helping the overpopulation overcome its native technophobias by shaping the rising generation. Actually, I’m inclined to agree with him, and in fact I think it may have other (probably unintended) consequences: the opening up of my homeland to the rest of the world.

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