An interesting initiative called iSaksham is bringing the best of learning opportunities to some of the remotest corners of India, by using technology in an innovative manner to generate students’ interest in education.
Mamta, a Class 11 student in the Jamui village of Bihar, is differently abled. She had to quit her studies due to various reasons, including the fact that her marriage was fixed at a young age. The iSaksham team did not only ensure that her marriage was delayed but also motivated Mamta to start teaching other village kids. She now earns a monthly income of around Rs. 3,000.
There are many young girls and boys like Mamta who have received amazing opportunities through i Saksham, an organization that is enabling them to complete their education and get respectable jobs.
Started three years ago by Aditya Tyagi, a Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow, iSaksham is focusing on some of the remotest locations in India, especially those affected by Naxals.
Aditya’s team is using technology to generate students’ interest in education. Many of these rural youth then become teachers themselves and help the younger generation.
“When we first started we observed that either the schools were dysfunctional or the students did not attend classes on a regular basis. Many Class 8 students were unable to solve maths problems that 2nd graders should be able to,” says Aditya.
Aditya started engaging the kids through mobile games and suddenly saw great student participation. So he decided to adopt a model where low cost tablets would help students learn crucial lessons through fun games and videos.
Aditya also saw the potential of using videos by teachers from around the globe.
“I once saw a video course on robotics. I thought, if students can learn a complex subject like robotics through videos, they can surely learn basic science, maths and computers,” he says.
The iSaksham team has reached out to around 4,000 students so far and a tremendous change is visible in the children. From their attitude towards studies to their level of confidence, much has changed for the good. Many of them can now converse in English. Even young girls, initially shy about speaking up in class, now come forward and ask to see videos on menstrual hygiene on the tablet.
The organization is not just reaching out to young children but also enabling rural youth to become community tutors called ‘Saksham Mitras.’ It gives them essential training to enable them to teach various subjects to young children.
“The Saksham Mitras charge very nominal fees for their services — like Rs.10 for an MS Word or other small computer course. In this way, they not only engage the kids but also earn extra income,” says Aditya.
The team has trained 40 Saksham Mitras so far.
Agatha Hansda is one such girl whose life changed after intervention by the organisation. Her training is now helping her use digital content to educate women and adolescent girls about menstrual health.
Though iSaksham has come a long way in its journey of three years, the path to success hasn’t been smooth. Since India has such a vast number of languages and dialects, it is difficult to find content in languages that kids can easily understand and relate to. Although iSaksham is a sustainable model (the villagers pay for the tablets — not more than a day’s earnings — in installments) it is still a challenge to recover the money from them.
Aditya is now trying to scale up the operation and is seeking financial help through a crowd funding campaign. The team of three is also willing to help anyone who would like to replicate the iSaksham model.
The organization is currently buying tablets in bulk to reduce costs. It will also be recruiting additional people to work on a regular basis on this project and create more relevant content for the children. Check out their website for more details.