Computers For Goan Schools

by Tony Barros

There is so much of negative information filtering out of Goa. intensified crime, filth and squalor, decreased revenue from tourism compounding the unemployment situation, the proliferation of Homes for the Aged and Goans still being treated as "second-class" citizens in their home state. But against this backdrop, there is a corresponding positive in a silent revolution- "The Computerising of Schools in Goa".This was fuelled in part in 1995 by expatriates- (mainly goan students in the U.S. on the GOANET) - whofelt that there was a dire need for the children back home to have access to computers if they are to "keep abreast" with global technology which is advancing by "leaps and bounds". (GOANET is a 1000-strong network on the Internet).

One school of thought was that the current equipment- sometimes obsolete and insufficient-lack of training skills and a scarcity of software were major bottlenecks in the running of an initial trial started at some schools. This "triggered" off an indepth study, "Computers For All Schools: A Vision For The Future" prepared by Dr. Nishtha Desai, Dr. Bernadette Gomes and Mr. Denzil Martins under the direction of Emmanuel D'Silva from the World Bank Headquarters in Washington.

The findings of the Study which involved more than 1,500 students, teachers, parents and computer professionals, paved the way for the great vision of helping to obtain computers by the year 2007 for all the 275 high schools and 78 secondary schools in Goa.Thanks to "networking" techniques, the "almighty"

internet and the efforts of a Briton- Dave Futers, the project got off to a good start with several Goan village associations in the UK- through their umbrella organization -SCOGO- expressing interest to support the project. Emmanuel D'Silva took a "sabbatical" from the World Bank and initiated action to equip the Bal Bharati Vidyamandir -a tenth-grade school located in Ribandar village - three kms from Panjim. (Some 570 students- mainly lower income families attend this secular school). While Joseph "Boogie" Viegas who provides free email facility - classroom to classroom to three schools on a "pilot" basis- remains the main local contact with the computer study team. And Ricky Noronha and his company have provided free consulting and technical back-up to Bal Bharati and other schools.

But soon goan associations abroad played thier part.And Dave Futers who has visited Goa many times has been supporting the St. Francis Xaviers Girls High School in Mapusa by spearheading the efforts of their Computer teacher- Jude Miranda whose initiatives have taken the school to great heights

Starting humbly with five 286 machines that were "floppy" driven, these machines were upgraded to 386 machines.At the end of 1998, the school had 10 Pentiums and three 486 machines in their Computer Lab.

Futers efforts paid off late last year when the School won the Computer Society of India (CSI) -GOACOM prize of 20,000 rupees

(some US$500) for the best Information Technology implemen -taion of schools in Goa. (In 1997, the school was given the state's first Internet connection to a school) Early this year, Futers and his English friend, Malcolm were instrumental in assisting the school get ten Pentiums all networked (client to client). An anonymous german "hippie" who visited Goa in the seventies, "lugged" back components of a computer to support the efforts in a school where his inn-keeper son studies; while Kuwait-based Ulysses Menezes played a major role in promoting publicity for this project on the Internet.

Across the Atlantic Ocean to the U.S., Maria Gomes in Washington served as treasurer in the fund-raising activities. Two raffles were organized in support of the Bal Bharati and the computers Study, with Sharmila Menezes and Bonnie D'Souza in California, and Sharon D'Souza in Ohio providing valuable support in the raffles Marlon Menezes, besides helping with the fund-raising, also created web publicity for the St. Xaviers School, the Bal Bharati School and the St. Brittos School in Mapusa. Last year, Marlon who is also the GOACOM Administrator in addition to taking care of the San Francisco Goan Inistitute web site, organized the raffle together with among others- Daryl Martyris of Chicago and Francis D'Silva of Norway. About $1000 was raised from the raffle to assist the Miracles High School in Sanguem, the ACDIL High School in Porvorim and the St. Theresa's High School in Vasco. Some $750 was raised by the Goan Institute,

$150 from the Goan Association in Norway and the balance through the Internet In seperate events, The New York Goan Association raised some $500 from the sale of T-shirts, and Chicago raised about $300. Daryl Martyris' efforts in obtaining 20 donated computers from his former employers- MacDonalds was a "shot in the arm". This may lead the CSI to a mechanism of supplying manycomputers at very low costs. The schools do not need U.S. made monitors- given the frequency differences between India and the U.S Donated equipment should have a mid-range 486 or higher (66mhz) But the project has also not been smooth sailing. The volunteers and organizers have had to grapple with a lot ofhurdles". Organizations wishing to export computer equipment and peripherals from the U.S. must have tax exempt status which many goan associations don't have. By the same token, the organizers in Goa are still "ironing" out legal issues for receiving computers duty free. While goans abroad have been fairly generous, resident Indians have been less so, and Emmanuel D'Silva stlates India's corporate sector for their lack of support Another lesson to learn from Goa's experience he observes, is that giving computers is'nt enough. He added that a large number of schools focussed on theory rather than hands-on training.

This is understandable given the scarcity of trained personnel. But D'Silva feels that there is a need to change the teaching methods in the classroom. Once young minds gain the freedom to explore various facets of computer education, there will be a revolution in the classrooms," he quipped. Goa will continue to grapple with Third World "trappings" like power surges, lack of equipment and software, and a hortage of trained personnel. But nothing will stop the "crave" in our younger generation for greater technological knowledge- even at a price.

And while goan associations and goans abroad have set a glaring example of how they could pool their resources to assist a mammoth project in Goa, they can by the same token pool their efforts to help other social projects yearning for our hands. In the meantime, let's pay a glowing tribute to all those who laid the groundwork for this giant project to have a smooth "take-off". We sincerely hope that they will meet their 2007 goal of "cyber-wiring" all schools in Goa.

* Source of information - various News "clippings" on the Goanet

GOD vs Science

by Bambino I. Martins

As young boys and girls start a new academic year and as pliable minds are being molded or even, unfortunately, messed up, parents and teachers would do well to bear in mind the following:

Most of us are aware that Nature abhors a vacuum, but not too many realize that we and scientists have an even greater abhorrence for gaps in our knowledge of a subject we are interested in or that the world seems to be interested in. Whereas Nature fills a vacuum with air, we, including scientist fill gaps in knowledge with "hot air"!!, that is with conjecture and speculation. Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain said: " There is something fascinating about Science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." For example: cosmologist, Sir Fred Hoyle writes: "... Nor does contemporary science fail to postulate its quota of miraculous happenings. Quite on a par with biblical miracles , we have the unexplained condensation of galaxies in astronomy, the unexplained origin of life in biology, and the ultimate miracle to end all implausible miracles -- "Darwinianí evolution. Some evolutionists say that natural selection generates an exceedingly high degree of improbability, which, in plain English, means it is extremely unlikely you evolved from an ape! S.J. Gould, a noted biologist states: "Unconscious manipulation of data may be a scientific norm", explaining that "scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth."

Why will people who will discard the Bible, because it is revealed by God and not "discovered" by historians, very often, will accept as "gospel truth", the wildest speculations by scientist and historians? In Geography, speculation about the "origin of Continents" is passed as facts, in History, we have wild speculations,concerning what Jesus Christ did during what are called the "missing" years in His life. Did He go to India, an became aware of incarnation? or visit Tibet, to learn Buddhism? Or visit the new World to learn "New Age Spiritualism" from Native Americans?

I believe, either accepting the Bible or Science makes demands on our Faith -- a dirty word, specially among liberals, on the threshold of the Third Millennium! But this Faith, in God or in Science, goes a long way to satisfy a human longing for knowledge of the Infinite, that man has had from the time he was expelled from Paradise or evolved from apes. For example, neither a mother( considering what goes on in the maternity wards, these days) , and far less certainly, a father can "know", based solely on their own knowledge of the evidence" and their own understanding of DNA testing and probability theories whether she is the mother or he is the father of the child they bring home from the hospital. Whatever conclusions are drawn are based primarily on Faith in medicine, on the doctors, nurses, etc. Whereas faith(belief) in the Bible makes heavy demands on us, in terms of us being, individually and personally responsible for our actions and or inaction, faith(belief) in Science makes no such demand, leaving us free to behave, as we, individually and personally see fit! For instance choosing either to go to a priest, acting in the name of God to obtain forgiveness for oneís sins or going to a Psychiatrist to talk is a choice made based on Faith. But whereas going to a Psychiatrist may cost a fortune, going to Confession may require a commitment many may be unwilling to make, particularly the resolve not to do the wrong act again. I donít think too many of us, including myself, who has a Ph.D. in Biophysics from the Univ. of Calif. at Berkeley (the Mecca of Liberalism, on the Left Coast), are qualified to make a decision based on science and logic if homosexuality is a consequence of a defective gene or a malfunctioning of a part of the brain, as some scientists claim(remember that scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts and not directed toward external truth). We donít know enough theology to decide, as the Catholic Church teaches, that acts of homosexuality(not homosexuals themselves, as often reported by the media) are intrinsically evil. What we choose to believe (knowledge is beyond the comprehension of most of us), is based on Faith! Whether we choose to believe that God created us or that we descended from apes(it has been suggested, that based on how we behave, we may still be descending!), is not based on understanding the facts, no matter how much we might deluded ourselves, but is based on Faith. In one case, we might feel justified and proud to behave as apes, but believing that God created us, requires us to make commitments to our Creator, that not too many are willing to make.

The descisions by the same Supreme Court judge that the air we breath is a "person" under the Counstitution, but that a human fetus is not, were mot based on scientific knowledge nor on Faith in God, but are glaring exanples of judicial fiat or in language of today, personal choice!

Just as an aside: No matter where in the world an idiot starts school, he will most likely come out as an idiot. But only in America he will come out feeling proud of himself for being an idiot!, and possibly end up on the Supreme Court.

It doesnít surprise me at all that in the debate between God and Science, God looses, particularly, if that God is seem as One who was crucified by man about two thousand years ago. As Pope John Paul II states in his book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope", people find it hard to accept a God who is so human.

Famous Quotes

Compiled by Blossom Ann Coutinho

It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven't lost the things money can't buy. George Horace Lorimer

An atheist's most embarrassing moment is when he feels profoundly thankful for something, and can't think of anybody to thank for it.

Confucius.

The man who has not a thing to boast of but hisillustrious ancestors is like a potato...the only good belonging to him is underground. There is always another chance..This thing that we call 'failure' is not falling down, but staying down. Mary Pickford

An angry word is like a boomerang; its force returns upon the one who sent it, and yet unlike it, it has a fang...whose poison doubles after one has sent it. Margaret E. Bruner

It isn't the things that go in one ear and out the other that hurt, as much as, the things that go in one ear and get all mixed up before they slip out of the mouth.

For every man who has lost Godbecause of a great sorrow, there are thousands who have lost Him because of great success.

Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed. Brooker T. Washington Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in stranger's gardens.

A House is built of logs and stones, of tiles and posts and piers;

A Home is built of loving deeds, that stand a thousand years. Victor Hugo

There is no great or small. We fancy others greater than ourselves because they light the divine spark given them, and we do not. It is because we minimize ourselves that we do not accomplish. We do not realize the power of the position in which we are placed. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Quiet minds can not be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. Robert Louis Stevenson

NOTE:

MATERIAL, such as articles, Happenings, recipes, etc., for inclusion in the "Goan Connection should be submitted to the Editor by the middle of Dec., Mar., Jun. And Sept., for inclusion in the Jan., April, July and Oct. Issues respectively.


OBITUARY

SHANE DIAS

The Goan Association of New Jersey (NJGOA) lost one of its "budding" members during the Labor Day weekend. Twenty-five year-old Shane Dias died in Chicago on September 6, following an auto accident.

He was buried four days later in Elgin, a Chicago suburb. A Memorial Mass was celebrated on September 12 at St. Rose Of Lima Church in Freehold, New Jersey and was attended by about 70 people including his parents - Eno and Penny Dias, and his brother, Schuben who flew down from Nairobi, Kenya. A collection, including a contribution from the NJGOA was made. Its use will be decided later. Shane, who was born in Nairobi, lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania and worked as an engineer with Lucent Technologies. Shane's father, Eno, hails from Assolna in Goa and his mother, Penny, from Cuncolim. By Tony Barros

Life is a gift to us from God; how we live our lives is our gift to God!

Yesterday is gone forever, Tomorrow is yet to be, Today is Godís Present to us.Rejoice and be glad in it!

EDITORíS COMMENTS

Quo vadis Goa?

By Bambino I. Martins

As the world stands at the threshold of the Third Millenium, I wonder, where a Goan stands. I feel, the comic who said that he did not belong to any organized party because he was a Democratic and who also said that when one comes to a fork in the road, one should take, was anticipating the fate of Goans. Considering how frequently, the Members of the Goaís Legislative Assembly change their allegiance from one party to another, it can be safely said that there is no organized political (I donít mean social) party in Goa. And considering what is going on in Goa, I think, Goans, as they travel on the highway of life, will grab whatever they find on the way and not bother to make the difficult choices regarding where Goa is going and how it is going to get there!

Even as former Portuguese Timor, proudly but painfully, inches forward towards independence from Indonesia, is former Portuguese Goa, ignominiously sliding into oblivion? It is said that the lessons we donít learn from History, we are bound to repeat. Some Goan Hindus "invited" the Portuguese to help them get rid of their Muslim ruler: the Sultan of Bijapur. The Portuguese did their job, but stayed on for about 500 years. Supposedly some Goans invited Nehru who referred to Goa, the Rome of the East, the Home of St. Francis Xavier and the Pearl of the Orient, as a pimple on Indiaís face. He promised Goa independence once the Portuguese left. These Goans not only didnít learn their History lessons, But( not being rocket scientists!), donít seem to have know that one doesnít bring home a tiger because a rabbit has been eating the cabbage in the garden for 500 years. I would think by then the intruder would have acquired squaters rights! It took India about a day or less to get rid of the Portuguese. Does anybody want to guess how many days it will take India to leave Goa? It is said that people get the government they deserve. It is truly sad if Goans deserved the Governments they have had over the years. Truly, as is so often the case, the medicine seems to have been worse than the disease. Breathes there, still, a Goan with soul so dead that to himself, still, says: Goans are not fit for nor capable of self-rule because of this and/or that, but particularly because Goa is not an economically or politically viable entity or because Goa is too small and the few Goans, who exist, are scattered all over the globe or that there are too many Goans given the size of Goa. Or that Goans are too "susegad" and lack intellectual and political acumen for self-rule, apparently because when two of them get together three opinions are expressed. The most preposterous reason I have heard for denying Goa self-rule, is that Goa was never an independent country. That is as stupid as saying that a slave should remain a slave forever because as far as anyone can tell he was never free! Has less than a half-century of Indian rule wiped out the self-esteem Goans felt after a half-millennium of Portuguese rule?

It is said that Goans donít know where they came from. Is that because too many races and cultures have influenced Goans over time?In fact Goans have absorbed, so well, the best that the East and the West have to offer that whoever says, "East is East and West is West and the twain shall never meet, has never met a Goan." Unfortunately, He seems to care even less to know where he is going. If one doesnít know or care where he is going, every road will lead him there. Have Goans become like a bunch of chickens running around with their heads cut off? Whither goest thou, Goan?