Nagma, a 15-year-old girl, came to my place with her mother for daily household work. While her mother was busy doing her work, she sat quietly on the floor and tried to write her name upon a crushed page.
I asked her, “Which class are you in?” Her reply astounded me. Nagma said, “I am illiterate but I feel lucky that I take care of kids in a play school and assist them in learning. I wish my parents could also send me to school, not as a caretaker but as a student.”
This girl motivated me to do something for her. I started teaching her and helped her in getting admission in a nearby school. That was the time I realised there are millions of children who want to study but don’t have access to education, or rather, quality education.
Why should one be punished for being born in a poor family or in a small village, where there are no schools?
Meanwhile, the Bihar Board examination results were highlighted in the news and the dismal situation of education made me more restless. The startling fact that only 35% of the student passed the Board examination clearly showed how paralysed the Indian education system has become.
With more research on this, I got to know that there are, on an average, 20-25 government schools in a district of Bihar with very poor results in the Bihar Board examination.
The country today faces huge water scarcity. We do have an adequate supply of water in our rivers, but most of that ends up unused and flows into the ocean. Similarly, the country has a huge demand for skilled human resource. We have an adequate supply, but we’re not making sufficient efforts to provide quality education to our youth and to upskill them.
With the vision of minimising the gap in education opportunities for a student studying in a convent school in Delhi and a student studying in a government school with poor infrastructure and untrained teachers in a village of Bihar, I left my corporate job and started helping students of nearby schools.
Then, I came in contact with Jaspreet Kaur (student, Delhi University) and Saloni Sethi (student, Delhi University) who shared a similar ideology and enthusiasm. We decided to change the face of education in India with ‘Padhte Chalo, Badhte Chalo!’ to ensure that quality education reaches all students for free.
The idea of educating every student, irrespective of their financial conditions, and staying in contact with them 24×7 was easy to think of, but we had a hard time finding a solution where every student who wanted to learn became a part of our initiative.
Long hour discussions and on-ground analysis of the situation helped us understand the power of mobile technology and its penetration in rural and urban India. We thought of making the best use of mobile technology. We were looking for a platform like WhatsApp which was easy to use and could connect us to a large audience. Although the reach of Whatsapp was immensely powerful – as every person who owned a mobile had this application – it could not be effectively used to spread education.
While doing our research on education technology that can help us connect with students across India and continuously monitor their performance, I got to know about Eckovation, a social learning platform. Using Eckovation, we are able to not only communicate with students but also provide them with features like watching video lectures, attempting quizzes and asking their doubts – all in one place which was only a click away. This way we are constantly connected with students and are able to provide guidance and analyse their performance.
With the help of the Eckovation platform, we are helping around 500 students. Some of them study in government schools and cannot afford private tuitions while some also belong to public schools who just require additional guidance to help them along the way. This platform has helped us bring equality in education for all. Students from low-income families studying in government schools are learning and competing with students from high-income families studying in premier schools of Delhi.
We have prepared a model for students appearing in Class 10 board examinations in English and Hindi medium. Students who follow this model and give one hour per day to the studying group will greatly benefit in their board exams. The only prerequisite is that students should have basic reading and writing skills.
We also have an advanced program for students who already have a good understanding of the subjects. Students who perform well in the phase tests of the initiative are prepared for competitive exams like JEE Mains, NEET, NTSE, Olympiads.