Dmitry Kirienko, who teaches computer literacy, tells us that many of his older students arrive with their own digital notebooks or personal laptops. He begins with the basics, explaining the hardwear of monitor, drive and keyboard. Where they take their device down an unwanted route, he steps in to rectify their mistake and, like with small children, he also has to quiet his enthusiastic class at times.
Classes are held twice weekly, with obligatory homework, which the students do assiduously, with great results. Just two weeks in, they can easily open folders, print and save documents. Dmitry explains, “Many view surfing the Internet as a miracle.” Of course, the practical possibilities are endless: paying bills, booking train tickets and doctor’s appointments and, even, shopping.
The programme comprises twenty lessons, although some learn more quickly, having arrived with a degree of computer literacy: others are utter novices. Piotr Borovets, among the latter, comments that he used to be bemused by the automated computer kiosk at the Post Office, preferring to queue for assistance, but can now use Skype. He demonstrates by calling one of his neighbours. Of course, he’s not an advanced user but has already learnt a great deal. Dmitry notes that most of the older students want to master the Internet to help them communicate with their children, especially if they live far away, so social networks and Skype are priorities.
The students are currently learning how to use Twitter. Lyudviga Yakubovich tells us, “Initially, I bought a laptop so that I wouldn’t break one belonging to someone else, but I had no idea how to use it.” She explains that her son installed a programme and instructed her on how to call him but now she wants to learn more: how to watch a film or to find an interesting recipe. So far, she has learnt how to pay her accommodation and telephone bills online and has read her first e-book. She is keen to buy a tablet now. “My grandson laughs but I’m truly interested,” she smiles.
Larisa Goryachkova has her own plans. She worked as a mathematics teacher for many years and, after retirement, has a lot of spare time, which she is keen to use well. “It’s tiresome to be retired — even when it’s deserved. If life starts at 40, then why not master something new after 55,” she jokes, turning the leaves of an e-book on her iPad. “My Institute friends from Canada and Chile have been urging me to join Skype, so that we can chat live.” This has inspired Ms. Goryachkova to attend the courses. Her grandchildren are truly amazed and have no doubt that she can do anything: even jump with a parachute!
“Many people have come to us: over 100 so far,” underlines Lyudmila Avdeeva, the Deputy Head of the Day Care Department at the Social Services Centre in Minsk’s Tsentralny District. “At present, we have ten groups, of eight students each, with new enrolment expected in two months’ time. We never turn anyone away.”
Interestingly, even women over the age of 70 attended the courses and all have mastered computer literacy. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
By Inna Gorbatenko