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The Best School

Ethiopian Kid Hackers

Last year this article started making the rounds on facebook and social media. Various other sources have picked it up because…well go on, read it. It’s amazing, isn’t it? The core idea is like Lord of the Flies with knowledge instead of blood as the punchline. They took one thousand tablet PCs, still in boxes, dropped them off at two villages, and left. No instructions. No lesson plans.

Then…they let kids do what kids do best: get into shit they’re not supposed to be messing with.

Six months later, those kids had not only figured out how to use the computer to teach themselves, their parents, and everyone around them to read and write but had taught themselves hacking in order to turn back on some of the tablet features (like the camera and internet access) that had been turned off originally. Would those kids have done all that if they’d been forced to? Marched into a school, sat down and given a strict lesson plan with at least three hours of homework?

Maybe…I’m open to the idea that children in a place like Ethiopia are probably more receptive to the opportunities of learning than children in America. I suspect it might be less taken for granted. On the other hand, no child ever has liked to be forced to do anything, from chores to eating their normally favorite food, and that includes learning. Because no one told these kids that they had to study, or how many hours they had to study, or even that what they were doing was called studying, instead they just had fun. I’m going to speculate they probably ended up studying far more than they would have it had been forced upon them, in much the same way that as I child I was reading a book a day but couldn’t be bothered to read my social science homework.

These kids are learning to love learning — and that is the skill we desperately need more of in the world.

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