e-Vidyaloka : Taking e-School to Rural India
While quality education is oversupplied to children in urban India, it still remains an elusive dream for children in rural India. On one hand, there are plenty of passionate teachers with abundant knowledge and effective teaching skills across the country, on the other hand there are not enough to offer their services physically in deep rural pockets. So, where does the gap lie? Perhaps, it lies in the link between the need and the resource.
This gap was realized by two technology savvy professionals who met as colleagues in Microsoft, Venkat Sriraman and Satish Vishwanathan. They were surprised to know, that while technology has brought countries together, and has reduced miles to centimetres, where people from two opposite sides of earth chat face to face, rural students and urban teachers are still far far apart. One Sunday they took their laptops, dongles and mobile phones to a village in Karnataka, while their friends who were school teachers, waited in Bangalore. Once there, they took some time to find a good place for mobile connectivity. The next moment children who had gathered around to see the guys at work, found a welcoming face on the laptop speaking to them. The children could not believe, as the lady interacted with them in their native language, as if she was she was there physically. But when the lady said that she is their new teacher, the children jumped with joy.
Venkat and Satish had sown the seeds of eVidyaloka a non-profit organisation, that they formed later, to connect local village schools with urban teachers through online teaching. “Satish had a passion for teaching and I was keen in innovative applications of technology. So, we got together and did a research to find out that the rural areas majorly lacked the availability of good quality teachers. It is then we came up with this innovative concept of providing an online platform for learned and passionate teachers worldwide, to teach students present in remote rural areas”, says Mr.Venkat Sriraman. Eminent teachers from all over the world are part of the organization. They work on a voluntary basis, enlightening the children with their knowledge in different subjects. Children in large number gather in their classrooms to witness the interesting sessions on Mathematics, Science and English. “What makes it more fascinating for them is that they can see their teachers on a ‘TV’. Children are taught in their local language that makes them understand the concepts better. This is what eVidyaloka primarily aims for”, mentions Venkat. Besides that, the teachers also develop a strong bond with the students while teaching them through Skype. “Once some technical problems forced us to abort a Skype session in a class. Since we had a time slot fixed with the Teacher, we asked him to connect to another class in another village. But the teacher wanted to continue with the same children, and was a bit sad with the decision of changing the centre. He preferred to wait, till we rectified the technical glitch and he resumed his class in the same centre”, recalls Sriraman. This kind of firm relationship also brings a sense of commitment in the teachers and their voluntary association with the organisation, and the cause becomes a long term one.
The children are taught according to the local state board curriculum prescribed in their schools and the evaluation is both scholastic and Co-scholastic. The scholastic assessment is based on the term-wise performance of a child in various subjects like Mathematics, Science and English whereas the Co-scholastic assessment involves the evaluation of various behavioral aspects of the child which is done by the online teacher. “While the sessions go on through Skype, the children are taught in a practical and fun learning manner. This broadens their imagination and enables them to connect with the scientific concepts in a much better way”, says Sriraman. Such eVidyaloka centres are currently established in 40 villages across the country. The fire is spreading fast, and many techno savvy urban youth are taking the model in other rural areas across the country. Being optimistic, imaginative and innovative, solves long standing problems easily and quickly. Satish and Venkat are true Optimist Citizens who cannot take a ‘No’ as an answer. Through eVidyaloka they have shown how small efforts can bring big results, and the change we all desperately want to see.
Compiled By : Nikhil Sharma
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