D-Lab Development: Three Students Share IAP-Insights

Published in D-Lab Digest on February 21, 2013 by Elisha Clark

Each January, during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP), the D-Lab Development class organizes trips to several countries to bring students and community partners together. In these trips, partners “borrow” MIT students for work on various projects and initiatives, and D-Lab students get a feel for what international development is like on the ground.

In this reflection, Prakriti Paul shares how working in a school in New Longoro, Ghana helped to rekindle a passion for improving education in developing countries.

There were about 10 to 15 children on our last day at the school in New Longoro. It was a hot day, with the sun beating down on all of us - especially at noon. When I finally found my own time and place under a tree with my biology textbook, ready to design experiments for Mr. Richard, the school teacher, I suddenly saw all these kids, in uniforms, running around the Screen room. They were looking for a soccer ball to play with. They had literally followed me back from the primary school, and were looking for fun at the Pastor’s house … during school hours. At that moment, I lost my tolerance for what I had been noticing for days now, and I got up to take the kids back to school. I thought, “If I really care about the educational condition of this village, then I am taking these kids back to school, right now.” I held a little girl named Jess’ hand, and held a boy named Clinton by his shoulder, and as I walked down the long road ahead, the kids followed behind me in an excited, confused flock.

I thought I could at least give a shot to teaching the kids why going to school every day is important. I held Clinton, and told him that he was so special and that he could be anything he wanted to be when he grew up. I asked him if he knew who Bill Clinton was, and to my surprise, he knew that Bill Clinton was an American president. I said, “Do you know how Bill Clinton became the American president? He studied so hard! After primary, JSS, and SS, he went to university, and then to another university for more studies! And he went to school every day!” I asked Clinton what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said that he wanted to be an engineer. I said, “Clinton, that is an amazing dream, and you can do it - but do you know what you need to get there? You need to go to school everyday, just like Bill Clinton. You need to work really hard every day and never give up. I go to an engineering school, and study eight to10 hours every day, because I know that if I don’t work hard, then I can’t achieve my dreams. If you study hard, you can achieve your dreams. If you don’t study, you won’t be able to. Do you get it?”

Read the complete D-Lab Digest article

Read Jonathan Tebes' reflection on his D-Lab trip to Tanzania

Read Lynn Yu's reflection on her D-Lab trip to Brazil