During my student life, I often observed social issues such as the huge gap in educational opportunities for the poor and women. This made me want to tackle these development challenges.
Coming from one of the premier engineering colleges in India, I decided to apply my technical aptitude to find solutions to problems facing society and work towards societal development. Initially, I started working for the education development in the local areas of Delhi and later joined Eckovation. They seemed to share a similar goal – to ensure reach of quality education through technological solutions.
With the vision to provide quality education to every student, we, at Eckovation, started Project Unnayan Banka, collaborating with the district administration of Banka.
Banka has an average literacy rate of 58.17 %, which is much below the national average. This, when combined with the startling fact that only 35% of the students passed the Bihar State Board Examination, clearly highlights the dismal condition of education in the region.
I have spent six months in the district, initially studying the constraints in school education, suggesting a model for improving the public education system and skill development, discussing the constraints and solutions with the highly enthusiastic district magistrate of Banka, Mr Kundan Kumar, and solving the hurdles faced in implementation.
The experience was distressing. Muddy miry lanes lead to the ruined building, “khandar”. There were only a couple of classrooms in the school with very poor attendance. There was no furniture for students and they were sitting on carpets. Some schools had no science teachers and the students had never learned science as a subject before. But the funny (and fortunate) thing was that there existed a computer room with an LED TV which was apparently locked for years.
With bare minimum resources and little hope, we initially launched the project in five schools where basic infrastructure, including Smart TV, was available, and identified two highly motivated teachers from these schools. The schools who became our partners in this pilot phase were: Project Girls High School, Chandan, Banka District, Bihar; CMS Sr Sec High School, Shahpur, Banka District, Bihar; Project Girls High School, Katoria, Banka District, Bihar; JPSHS Gurudwar, Banka District, Bihar and PGHS Kharhara.
The first 15 days of implementation were very difficult – there were electricity cuts at the time of Unnayan classes; schools were not able to play the Unnayan session without IT support and most importantly, we needed a tool for continuous monitoring and accountability.
We provided proper training and motivation sessions to the teachers to make them acquainted with IT operations and trained them for daily reporting on the Eckovation application. Schools bought inverters from their development funds to avoid interruptions druing the Unnayan classes. The support from all these five schools, the education department and the IT team of the district helped us set actionable insights for scaling the project while ensuring accountability through the best use of advancing technology.
In this pilot phase, the involvement and performance of tribal and minority students was highly encouraging. The average marks of students almost doubled in just six days. Before the Unnayan sessions, the average marks of students was 37% and post-Unnayan sessions, the average marks rose to 70.9%. This motivated Team Unnayan to expand the project and currently, it includes more than 4,700 students. The project is going strong, riding on the enthusiasm of the students and their teachers.
The majority of the students of Unnayan Banka belong to tribal communities and have been deprived of quality education for years. This initiative has created hopes in the students and their families to excel in academics and provide much needed support to their families.
We are using mobile vans to reach the students in the core affected areas. TVs and inverters have been set up in the village schools. Block division offices have been set up and skill training is provided in the KYC centres of the blocks with special classes in the evening for board exam preparation. This massive education revolution in the district is continuously monitored here and the teachers have daily responsibilities which they’ve to report daily.
The Unnayan model is today helping around 5,000 students in the Banka district, ensuring 100% accountability at each and every stage. The performance of the students post this initiative is highly encouraging.