“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela
The Indian Education System has often been criticized for its inability to reach the population living in the rural parts of the country. The villages and remote towns often lack the infrastructure, such as access to proper classrooms and latest study materials, roads, and electricity, that is required to deliver good quality education As per a report in 2019, over 32 million children had never attended school.. As a result, the potential of this rural population remains largely underutilized – and their dreams, untapped.
However, while the existing education system struggles to reach remote areas, a new and “smarter” revolution has already begun to plant its roots. Thanks to the spread of digitisation, the internet and broadband services, rural India now has greater access to educational material from across the globe. Not only can the students access public libraries on the internet, but also enroll for digital/virtual courses that bring the classrooms to them.
Digitisation: A Boon To India’s Rural Classrooms
While rural India constitutes for more 50% of the country’s workforce and is the largest contributor to its economy, the facilities made available to them remain negligible. Schools in remote villages often require long travel which is a highly unfavourable condition for children to pursue their passions in. As a result, most parents decide that it is not worth the hassle and discontinue their child’s education. Even the schools that manage to overcome this roadblock, often have to make-do with facilities and teaching methodologies which are sub-par or outdated.
The spread of the internet and mobile technology has proven to be a boon to the situation. India holds the second-largest mobile phone user subscription base in the world, with over 900 million mobile phone users. This means that mobile phones are available in places where more traditional educational infrastructures are yet to find their feet. This opens a window of opportunity for institutions to deliver education to the students who need it the most, hence providing some much-needed support to India’s crumbling educational infrastructure.
Harnessing The Power Of Technology
Bengaluru-based NGO eVidyaloka has been instrumental in this shift and has been orchestrating sessions in remote villages of India, by creating “digital classrooms”. The social enterprise encapsulates a vision to enable quality education for the children of rural India by leveraging the power of technology. It is supported by a team of passionate volunteers from across the globe, ranging from homemakers to retired professionals who commit to delivering high-quality education to these children living in some of the most remote villages of the country. The focus is largely on children aged between 10 and 14 years (6th‑8th grade). Through a powerful partner ecosystem, the organization has been able to offer these children LIVE interactive classes in their local medium.
The organisation was launched in 2011, where it started a wave of change with the introduction of “Computer Teachers” in village classrooms. Today, their classrooms hold over 6,000 students across Indian Villages, who are being guided by a team of 533 dedicated Volunteer teachers. We need many more such organizations to come up with innovative remote education models to bridge the existing literacy and education divide.
While this was a movement in motion for young children, there are several young girls who discontinue their educational journey at or after 14 years of age. Most of the rural development programs provide basic education- but what happens to over 100 million women of rural India who are missing out on the opportunity to build technical and employable skills through higher education?
A notable name in the world of technological activism in rural areas is Sajhe Sapne. Their initiative comprises measures to ensure that women of rural India get a fighting chance to build a thriving career. By establishing Sapna Centers, underprivileged women who wish to chase their dreams of an aspirational career can now live their dream. The campus provides residential training, day-based college sessions, and online training, based on the preference of the students. Their higher education degrees come in the form of professionally developed skill building courses that equip such women to build careers, not just jobs. Not only does Sajhe Sapne give wings to dreams for women of rural India, but they also arm them with all the digital, english-speaking, and specialised skills to be successful individuals.
A Lasting Impact
Making education accessible to the students in villages can have a lasting impact on the future of India as a country and economy. Digital classrooms compensate for inconveniences such as traveling long distances, further minimising the risk of discontinuation. These classrooms also help alleviate the discrepancies in the quality of education that can be accessed by rural and urban populations. This means that in the long run, students from rural backgrounds would be just as equipped to join the global workforce.
Additionally, better education will also expand the population’s exposure to new techniques and methodologies which can enhance life in various ways. For example, a large portion of the village population relies on agriculture as a source of their income. However, their reliance on traditional methods of irrigation limits their capacity to prosper from it. The exposure gained from high-quality education can help these farmers learn about the latest innovations from around the world and leverage it to improve their standard of living. To put it simply, the future of the rural areas depends on how well digitized modes of education can help reform the youth’s mindset through changing times.
A digital classroom brings with it a promise of growth and prosperity for the average rural household. This can’t be considered a “leg-up” but an evening of the playing field- A straightforward solution that can help empower these populations to explore new horizons and dream big with no limits!
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