There was an atmosphere of pervading gloom due to budgetary restrictions.
I sat down opened up the PC and clicked on the wifi.
I muttered: "Bloody typical."
The wifi was down (again).
I logged into a 4G wifi hotspot on my iPhone 6.
I smiled smugly to myself.
That 3G USB key that I had bought two years ago was already redundant, forgotten in a drawer.
The wifi connection was going to be particularly important to me today.
I had arranged to interview an ex-student, Sebastien Van Egroo for the CLAVIER project.
Sebastien is working with groups of young Haitians to give them training to become sports coaches/coordinators.
A news report about this work: http://lenouvelliste.com/lenouvelliste/article/148630/Quand-formation-rime-avec-esperance appeared in Le Nouvelliste (which I learnt today is a nationally circulated daily newspaper in Haiti).
Of course, I thought to myself: there are people in the world who do not get their news from The Guardian.
The wifi reappeared in France.
I contacted Sebastien via Facebook Messenger.
The chat was as follows:
Translation into English:
Me: On line and preparing to speak with you. Is it OK for you?
Sebastien: No it's not good for us :-( we don't have any electricity.
I am communicating on my smartphone and I only have 38% of the battery left.
Me: OK. Great that's a story.
Sebastien: Our computers have no battery left so it's going to be complicated.
We can speak via Skype if you like but I fear that we won't be able to finish the interview.
Me: Do you have a lot of power cuts?
Sebastien: Yes the power cuts are regular in our district and we never know when it's going to happen or how long it will last.
Me: OK we can Skype briefly if you like, we could do a chat interview and reprogram the hangout.
Sebastien: But we will have to film the kids' show tomorrow morning and I'm afraid we won't have any battery left.
Me: I'll write a blog post about this experience of power cuts.
Sebastien: We want to put the video on Youtube and get people to see what the kids do.
Me: I can use that if you agree.
Sebastien: I have to save battery to be able to film them.
We're going to film them tomorrow and I can send you the link if you like.
Sebastien: I'm sorry Mr Ensor but we just have to get by day to day.
We have to adapt to daily uncertainties. Sure (for sharing/using chat/video) no problem.
Me: OK. Take care.
I'm going to write a blog and share it with you.
We'll find another day to do the interview.
Sebastien: I've got masses of anecdotes to tell you about setting up this project here.
Me: Great! We'll do it when you have electricity.
Sebastien: I'll keep in touch. I'm logging off to save my battery.
Me: OK. Thank you very much.
I remembered past conversations:
with Maha from Egypt
with Blaise from Cameroon
with Santosh from Nepal.
I remembered the ex-student from Haiti.
He suddenly didn't come to class.
His home town was destroyed.
He came back a while later, minus his joy to speak.
I remember the frustration and surprise of a group of French students that I introduced to Ayiti: The Cost of Life. https://ayiti.globalkids.org/game/
They didn't like the feeling of never being able to win a game.
I remembered the blog post that Susan shared about her students: "This is about you."
I remembered the student who used to sleep in English class.
(I discovered he slept because he was working nights.)
I was connected to the wifi via my iPhone 6 hotspot but I felt completely disconnected.
I felt overawed, helplessly privileged.
I go back to the Le Nouvelliste.
I feebly translate the headline into franglais.
This approximation appears appropriate to me:
"When education rhymes with hope."
I look forward to seeing the Haitian kids' show on Youtube.
Do we realise the importance of keeping that last 38% of our smartphone battery for those who matter?
I wrote to Santosh in Nepal.
I found it difficult.
I feel of no use whatsoever.
I feel like a helpless, perversely vicarious spectator.
How can we, 'connected educators', hope to usefully overcome such disconnections?
Education Sport Haiti Hangout On Air