Four years ago, when three techie Bengaluru-based friends decided to lend a helping hand to underprivileged children in Bankura to facilitate their studies, they could hardly imagine the initiative would cover nearly 250 kids.
These children, from impoverished families of some of the backward regions of Bankura district, were even given a helping hand to avail online tuition.
The effort has now grown into a group of 12 dedicated volunteers working in multinational corporations who have made educating the underprivileged children the mission in their lives.
“The team of volunteers comprises friends who share the passion of education for children. It started with setting up a library and science laboratory at Dum Dum Motilal Vidyayatan in Kolkata. But the focus soon shifted to Bankura where help was all the more needed,” said Rajib Das Sharma, a techie who worked in the US and Singapore before taking up a job in Bengaluru.
The group, EducateOneKid, is now providing nearly 250 students with annual requirement of notebooks and stationaries, schoolbags and drawing materials. The students are also provided with solar lamps because many of the remote villages the students come from have no electricity.
In 2016, due to acute shortage of English teachers in these areas, the team initiated online English classes every Sunday. The students were in the villages and teachers were in Bangalore and Kolkata. The teachers used cloud computing, audio books, videos and remote classrooms using Google Hangout to give English lessons and teach grammar to the kids.
The students would sit in a classroom, in front of a laptop, projector and screen absorbing what the persons on the other side of the devices had to offer.
“This had a very positive impact on the morale and the learning of the children which is evident from the fact that the children did significantly well in their exams this year. They are more confident when it comes to reading and writing in English. The plan for 2017 is to teach science and mathematics as well,” Das Sharma said.
For the likes of class XI student Koel Tudu as well as Monotosh Hansda and Marshall Tudu, who study in class IV at a government primary school and stay at Maranburu Chachu Marshall Ashram, studying has become more interesting than ever with the advent of digital medium of instructions.
The exposure to more information has helped the children dream of becoming computer engineers, scientists, teachers and doctors – professions that no one in their neighbourhood ever dreamt of. Significantly, many of the beneficiaries of this initiative are first generation school-goers.
Over the past two years, in a bid to help all-round development of the children, the team is also conducting an annual sports event. The team goes to these villages every year and ensures that the level of interaction is high and the needs and problems of the children are well understood.
“Our goal is to bridge the gap between the urban, privileged children and the impoverished children in these remote villages when it comes to accessibility of educational resources,” said Rajib Sharma, a member of the team.
Other members of the group include software engineer Monojit Barua, book editor Smita Abraham, school teacher Prantika Ghosh and senior IT employee Subha Das Sharma.
They do not consider their initiative as charity – as they believe ‘charity is condescending’ – but call it their way of expressing solidarity with the impoverished children.
“The only difference between a child born in the city with accessibility to all resources and an impoverished child in a remote village is luck. This team wants to erase that divide created by destiny,” said Subha Das Sharma.