Help Bridge India’s Digital Divide that’s Causing Millions of Kids to Dropout from Schools

Amazon India in partnership with over 150 non-profit organisations, will contribute 20,000 digital devices, impacting as many as 1,00,000 students from across the country.


This article has been sponsored by Amazon India.


I feel like I am extremely fortunate,” says a young boy named Sathwik, based in Warangal, Telangana. He believes that our lives are not defined by our losses but by the few acts of love and kindness that we encounter.
His observation comes from life experiences that taught him never to give up, no matter what. He was 9 years old when his parents passed away. He admits that his life would have been very different, if not for his grandparents who adopted and raised him with love and care. Despite financial difficulties, they managed to send him to school.
An intelligent student studying in Class 10, Sathwik’s life was taking a positive turn, until the fateful moment when his grandfather passed away, pushing the family into an emotional turmoil and financial crisis.

But even in these moments of absolute sorrow and helplessness, Sathwik did not lose hope and continued to perform his best in school. Finally, a silver lining arrived when the Bala Vikas Foundation NGO decided to sponsor Sathwik’s education.

“I remember every time I topped my exams, my grandmother would make me my favourite meal— dosa, to congratulate and celebrate my achievement. All I wanted was to make something of myself so that I could make her the happiest in the world,” he says. This fueled him to work harder and secure a college scholarship. But the moment things had begun to look up, life threw another curve-ball in his direction — the pandemic.

Delivering a future

Representational

With the lockdown in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sathwik was at the risk of missing out an entire year of college, as he didn’t have the means to buy smart devices to attend online classes.

He was once again facing a challenge much bigger than him, this time along with 320 million learners in India, who were at the risk of dropping out of education due to the lack of access to e-learning devices.

According to an Education Ministry report, almost 70 per cent of school-going children in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Andhra Pradesh, are facing a crisis due to lack of access to digital devices.
The shift to e-learning platforms, especially after the shutdown of educational institutions, has pushed thousands of students like Sathwik into a pit of uncertainty — one that would have been too difficult to overcome, if not for the timely help he received.

For Sathwik this help arrived through Amazon India’s Delivering Smiles initiative. He received a tablet to bridge the digital gap that was keeping him from his dreams.

Sathwik is one among the many students whose lives have been positively impacted by Amazon India’s ‘Delivering Smiles’ initiative. Rolled out in October this year the program aims to reduce the widening digital divide in the country, whereby Amazon will directly give, and facilitate the contribution of digital devices among students and young people from marginalized communities, also contributing to the digitization goals of India.

Amazon will directly provide 20,000 digital devices to underprivileged young people, impacting over 100,000 students across India.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to focus the stark digital divide, not only in the field of education but also in access to essential services. Amongst the most adversely affected are young people from marginalised communities. Together with our customers, employees and partners, we aim to bridge the gap by enabling young people with digital devices for continued access to online education and essential services for their families.,” says Manish Tiwary, vice president, Amazon India.

Echoing the joy of giving back

The Delivering Smiles initiative will enable millions of Amazon customers across India to experience the joy of giving and participate in the company’s objective to reduce the prevailing digital gap. Customers can contribute a cash donation or give their old mobile phones that will be refurbished and distributed to provide digital learning devices for young people.

While the proceeds from the cash contribution will be used to purchase new devices, data cards and digital accessories for the students, the old phones will be collected and refurbished by Cashify; Amazon’s partner in this initiative. Once repaired and refurbished, these phones will then be given to Goonj to distribute to those in need and create grassroots impact.

“We all have different ways in which we connect with giving. In the last two decades, Goonj has been creating simple, easy ways in which anyone can pay back to the society, make a difference to someone while also extending the life of things, which would otherwise end up harming our ecology. We hope this partnership of Goonj and Amazon continues to reverse the flow of unused material for development work. We also hope this triggers other companies and the masses to do the same – to save a lot of usable stuff from going to waste,” Anshu Gupta, founder director, Goonj.
The singular focus of this initiative is to enable access to digital devices for disadvantaged students so that they are empowered with a brighter future.

A simple act of kindness holds the power to change lives. Sathwik’s biggest takeaway from these experiences have been just that.

Determined to make his grandmother proud, the second year BTech student at Vaagdevi College, Warangal, decided to propagate the kindness he was given, by helping others. In the midst of a raging pandemic, Sathwik volunteered to help the people of his village get their timely vaccinations against the coronavirus. As the vaccines began to be distributed, he went door-to-door spreading awareness about it and helping people book vaccination slots.

The young man managed to accomplish so much while also receiving a medal for academic excellence. Looking forward to completing his college education and starting work in the IT industry, Sathwik’s journey today has inspired many in his village to be more and do better.
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