All Indic Wikimedia communities (and indeed all small communities across the world) need to invite, welcome, introduce, support and encourage new editors. Students – including school children – are wonderful additions to our communities. They have energy and talent and the right attitude. They are the ones to take forward Wikimedia projects.
The Malayalam Wikipedia community has a long tradition of working with school children and with the education system through its partnership with the Kerala Government’s IT@School Project. On 3rd July 2012, this relationship was further strengthened with the inauguration of the Malayalam Wikipedia Education Programme. The objective is to promote Wikipedia editing with school children and teachers at the Government Higher Secondary School at Anchal West, Kollam. This has only just started, but there are some pointers even at this early stage which are useful to small communities exploring similar initiatives and partnerships – within and beyond education.
Partnerships need to genuinely symbiotic
The relationship between the Malayalam community and IT@School is 4 years old. The community helped to include Wikipedia as a subject in schools and also with the installation of the School Wiki initiative. IT@School helped to conduct Malayalam Wiki workshops across Kerala and covered the production costs of the Malayalam Wikipedia CD Project (the first of any non-Latin Wikipedia!).
The idea behind this particular initiative came about when the Malayalam community was figuring out how best to work with IT@School’s School Wiki concept. School Wiki was conceived as a database of Kerala schools, and a repository of knowledge about local topics. When the Education Programme was designed, we integrated the idea of sharing content but proposed that it would be first created on Wikipedia and this could then be reused in School Wiki and else where.
Content must be local and unique; or else passion and pride are not ignited
For many similar projects in non-English Wikipedias, there is always the temptation of it becoming a translation project from English Wikipedia. In this Programme, it was decided to write original articles on Malayalam Wikipedia about local topics. Ideally, these should not currently exist in other Wikipedias. Personally, I think this is of the greatest importance to make new editors feel proud and for everyone else in the community to feel inspired. This contribution of students will help the vision of the “sum of all knowledge” and it would be incredibly motivating if this content from Malayalam Wikipedia helps build other Wikipedias including the English one.
Teachers are critical, and they must come from the community to begin with
There are teachers in many of our smaller communities. It is important to have them lead education initiatives as only they fully understand the education system. We must encourage, empower and enable them to take such initiatives in their own schools. It will help design the programme better and the presence of teachers will give the project the best chances of success.
A friendly community is essential, and must be encouraged to jump in and help out
We have to be friendly and gentle with editors. Communities must be welcoming, and this support must be facilitated. We are planning to pair up students with existing editors who will be their mentors.
In conclusion, this project has only just started and there is a long way to go. The next two weeks will see work start on student enrollment and teacher selection, as well as the initial editing workshops.
Do join me in wishing all these wonderful children a fantastic experience. Let us all do our little bits to welcome them to our family.
If you want any help in exploring similar projects in your community, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Consultant, Indic initiatives, India Program