It was a class with a difference. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg played the teacher while 20 children from the Chandoli village in Alwar district were the lucky students inside a dilapidated school building.
Zuckerberg asked questions on computer uses and demonstrated sending e-mails, surfing websites and operating social networking sites to kids of the country’s first ‘cyber village’, christened by the former UPA government for helping minorities connect with IT revolution.
This visit was kept a secret. Students, villagers and a few officials were informed last evening that ‘Facebook ke janamdata’ (creator of Facebook) would visit the village on Friday. Preparations began in the morning when the district minority welfare officer gathered students in a computer lab and trained them to wish the team “good afternoon” on their arrival that lasted for half an hour.
Villagers were informed to line up upon the the arrival of visitors and to wave their hands. During the briefing, Mark’s name was revealed to students and villagers. Many students were repeatedly making mistake in pronouncing the last name ‘Zuckerberg’ till a teacher broke it up which clicked well with the students who then memorized it for the welcome note.
The long wait ended soon as the cavalcade of eight to 10 SUVs arrived braving the potholled road covering 17 kms from the helipad at Alwar. The Facebook team had minimal security and Zuckerberg introduced himself on his arrival.
Khalid Khan, a student of Class X who created his Facebook account in January this year, is still to believe that he shook hands with the creator of Facebook. “He was very humble. He asked simple questions and repeated many times so that we can comprehend without the help of a translator,” said Khan, who is posting his picture with Mark on his homepage.
Another student, Shamem Bano, ran for her new ‘hijab’ (headgear), that she got this Eid, after she was told that the FB team will record her interview. “They asked me to switch on the computer and asked me the name of the peripherals. I thanked them for making my video,” said Bano who has decided to open her Facebook account.
Zuckerberg made a very simple appearance in a grey T-shirt and trouser, making it difficult for the villagers and students to identify him as the chief guest. The only disappointment for the villagers came when FB team took just one cashew nut each out of the platter full of namkeen, fruits and tea prepared with goat milk.
Haji Israel Khan, sarpanch of village, made an appeal for furnishing the school building with help from a translator which was noted down by the FB team.
Locals presented a short cultural programme and played ‘bhapang’ instrument for him. His visit was intended to oversee progress made to develop Chandoli as country’s first ‘cyber village’.
Chandoli has a population of Meo Muslims who are getting training to use internet to connect with government schemes and use cyber technology for social and economic uplift.