A grade 9 student volunteer has been successful in establishing one-on-one e-mail linkages between talibé children involved in Maison de la Gare’s programs and students in her high school, Ashbury College in Ottawa, Canada.
The student, Rowan Hughes, guided 12 talibé boys and their teachers in each establishing a personal gmail account, and then helped them to compose and send their first ever emails to their correspondents in Canada - also students of French as a second language - and to their teachers who were waiting to receive these messages and reply in kind. The email exchanges were followed up with a Facebook video chat, in which the pairs of correspondents were able to introduce themselves to one another in person. The younger class of talibé students was also invited to Skype video chat with a class of students of similar ages from Manor Park Public School in Ottawa.
All of the talibés who participated in these exchanges were astonished and very excited to be able to see and speak with students in Canada who were clearly interested in getting to know them. As the conversations progressed, the confidence of the talibés soared. A Canadian student asked his talibé friend if he understood English. The talibé replied, with a brilliant smile and a laugh, “No. Do you understand Wolof?” And, a sense of happiness and wonder spread among the Maison de la Gare boys as it became apparent that they had interests in common with their new Canadian friends, and that both groups of students were similarly challenged and yet undaunted by learning the French language.
The exchanges were a great success. The experience was all the Maison de la Gare boys talked about afterward. Being involved in such a way with Canadian students via computer captured their interest and instilled a sense of pride and awe. As word about the computer exchanges spreads among the talibés, more are becoming keen to visit the centre regularly to attend classes and eventually advance to become “email talibés” as well. Email exchanges among the talibés and Canadian students will continue, opening a window on a much wider world to the talibé and Canadian students alike, and enriching the lives of all involved.
* The title of this report is taken from a comment by a visitor to Maison de la Gare’s Facebook page, commenting on a photo and description of this initiative: “Un petit pas pour la technologie, un bond de géant pour les talibés”, an allusion to Neil Armstrong’s words as he took his first steps on the moon.
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