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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Taking the e-nitiative

Reading Time: 4 minutes

With eVidyaloka, NISHTHA SHARMA is helping to educate children in rural India through Skype

For students in government schools across India, learning is often restricted to the handful of resources available in the classroom. Schools often struggle with a lack of access to quality education that has exacerbated the gap between rural and urban India.
Seeing this issue, in 2011, IT professionals Satish Viswanathan and Venkat Sriraman, from Bangalore, founded eVidyaloka to create a knowledgeable and empowered rural India.
Nishtha Sharma.Indian Link
***
Monday and Thursday afternoons are different at our house. As afternoon rolls on, I log in to my Skype account to connect with government school students thousands of miles away, in Itki village of Ranchi district, Jharkhand, India, to teach English to the students. As one of the many volunteers for eVidyaloka, an Indian not-for-profit organisation trying to overcome the geographic barrier usually required to volunteer in India, I contribute to reduce the learning gap and facilitate quality learning among government school students in rural India.
My own journey with eVidyaloka started out of a passion for volunteering. However, as a high school student back in 2013, I found myself restricted by time. But eVidyaloka came to me while I was browsing opportunities to make use of my bilingual skills.
The concept is simple, and it was possible, and sustainable for me to commit two to three hours a week with a three-month commitment, all from the comfort of my own home.

Nishtha Sharma.Indian Link
Nishtha Sharma

eVidyaloka aims to transform India’s education landscape by harnessing the potential of technology to connect volunteers across the world with rural and remote schools in India.
They strive to achieve this by involving the local communities to a digital classroom for learning, and by empowering volunteers to contribute no matter where they are. Standardised lesson plans and teaching aids provide a consistent learning experience and technology helps connect passionate volunteers with enthusiastic children.
As concerns over teacher shortages in India have soared, eVidyaloka is recruiting volunteers who wish to be a part of the solution to supplement the existing system of government education with quality teaching capacity.
The digital classroom consists of a computer and monitor set up in the school, along with teaching volunteers, a classroom administrator, students, and an online database where the syllabus, along with multimedia aids and language support, is posted by volunteers. The volunteer teachers supplement the teaching requirements of an English, Science, or Maths class, easing the burden for regular classroom teachers.
Nishtha Sharma.Indian Link
While I was very apprehensive in the beginning, with no prior teaching experience, all my nerves went away as soon as I had my first session. I instantly connected with the children who were shy, but beaming with excitement. Since then I have taught Science and English to children who were inquisitive not only about the subject, but also my life in Sydney.
However, while the concept is wonderful, it is not without its own set of challenges. Connecting with schools located in rural parts of India with limited infrastructure, inundated with connectivity issues, frequent power cuts, and absenteeism are all impediments.
Nevertheless, apart from feeling a sense of satisfaction, teaching at eVidyaloka has helped me to improve my Hindi. I had to become an expert in knowing the days of the week, and other Hindi words I was not familiar with, to be able to teach effectively.
Today, more than 30 centres are operational, across multiple states including Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, involving 533 teachers from around the world, conducting over 9000 classes and benefitting more than 4000 children through 1,94,240 learning hours across rural India. The teachers work across cities, countries, and time zones delivering quality education in local languages. The project’s impact has been acknowledged by majpr mainstream media outlets in India, and eVidyaloka receives donations from major corporations including Larsen & Toubro, Infosys, Miebach, KPMG, and individual donors.
Nishtha Sharma.Indian Link
As the organisation is in the process of setting up more schools across India, it is looking for volunteers from locations across the world to teach, donate, or carry out other tasks such as content creation for their open content platform, or to build and aggregate standardised lesson plans and digital resources in local languages. The schools are currently seeking Kannada, Telugu, Bengali, Marathi, and Tamil speaking volunteer teachers to work with hundreds of eager kids across India.
While my own efforts are small, the addition of more volunteer teachers to inspire these highly intelligent, inquisitive, and disadvantaged children will have an enormous impact on rural education in India.
The organisation’s website provides detailed guidelines for volunteering or donating towards its activities. Readers can also reach me directly for more information at nishtha.sharma@yahoo.com.

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