There are very few breaks a "gifted kid" will get south of the Rio Grande. The dearth of lending libraries is only matched by the almost total absence of programs for a square-shaped kid that will not fit in the round hole in the one-size-fits-all-(or-else) educational systems available.
Carla Gomez Monroy reported about a child in Arahuay that "[was] categorized by the teachers as [a child] with bad behavior...". The teacher would set this child "apart from the group, at a desk for himself, closer to the teacher".
But then, "the first day A... came to school with his XO laptop, instead of playing during recess, he kept on exploring the XO. He quickly became one of the most acquainted with it and empowered to help his classmates by telling them how to do this or that."
The clincher comes when "even his teacher would ask him how to do certain things that he had already mastered." A very similar story is shared by Ivan Krstić, likely about the same child. Most of us teachers over there don't really know how to deal with this kind of "problem" kids.
"Special" children in education
These do not pay attention, they often fight, bully or are bullied... Yet, very often the real problem with them is that they are too bright for their own good. They might well be brighter than the teacher, but not wise enough to keep pretend. They get bored with endless explanations of material the other kids don't understand.
They are able to read by the time their classmates are still challenged by the alphabet. Bored, they don't pay attention, they do not answer because their minds were long gone elsewhere. Their grades slip, they might even quit trying and drop out. They might eventually succeed in business if thus blessed, or just end up depressed and basically unemployable.
Most Ministry of Education budgets there barely have anything for Special Needs kids. Some disabilities might get a bit of funding, sometimes through international aid, but I have never seen an official program for gifted kids outside of the developed countries, except maybe those very same d.c. offering scholarships to get them to emigrate.
I will bet you a home-made pizza for your Happy Meal that the kid in those stories (thank you, Ivan, for not posting his name, APSP) has a pretty good IQ. He definitely is "a natural" when it comes to computers. He might even carry a bit of ADD. In the conventional school setting he is a "problem kid".
Different, he simply will not fit in the spot that had been dutifully prepared for him by the Matrix, uh, the bureaucrats in Lima. Not that he doesn't want to, he's probably had enough spankings already, but he just can't.
Teacher's kindness might try some special accommodation, maybe have him do small chores just to help him stay out of trouble. More likely than not, he will be bullied into submission, maybe by those student-monitors appointed to fill the gap now that teachers cannot mete physical punishment.
The OLPC effect
Enter the OLPC. This kid, for the first and maybe only time in his life, is getting a break in school. I dare say that much more than to the rest of his classmates, the XO is a life-changing success - for him and those like him. I see the XO in its present incarnation as having its best market among this population. This kid's behavior change seems to indicate that the problem was not with him or in him - but rather with what he was getting in the pre-XO school.
Please forgive me the heresy to say that for most of the other kids the XO has still to prove itself beyond a nice entertaining gizmo, yet for this one, it is opening new, bright prospects. It does worry me, though; some reported policies of well meaning teachers that will only let kids that complete "work" use their XO.
This kid is not yet "safe" from such carrot-and-stick methods. He most likely will get in trouble again and again under the memorization model that is the bane of many of'uns educational systems. It would be night tragic that this kid, who finally is getting ahead in something, lost the very chance he has to have his giftings flourish. But I digress.
Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian novelist, has one of his characters in "La Tia Julia y el Escribidor" wish to go overseas to study Air & Space Engineering. His father confronts him, "what will you do when you come back to Peru, build kites?" So I wonder what will happen with this kid when he grows older.
Unless the OLPC or other projects provide content, there aren't that many options for him within the current situation. He'll probably end up emigrating, at least to Lima like zillions of those who want to further their education. He certainly will have to work from a young age, and pay his own way, not that many people in Arahuay can pay for a child's college. Yet hopefully he will have his eyes open to wider ideas and possibilities, and who knows, he might become that Peruvian George Lucas or Steve Jobs that they tell us the OLPC will produce by the truckload.
I rather doubt the OLPC will have that much of an impact in the rest of Arahuay, but we can hope for the best that it will also, especially if improved in content. Some of us share the story of a man throwing starfish back into the sea, as an example of how we should do our best even if we cannot help every single one. We should do what we can, wherever we are, with what we have.
Thus in Darkest Peru, a kid is given a chance, thanks to the OLPC and you all.
Yamandú was teacher in several countries for over 15 years and wrote a book on Uruguayan Education.