For 15-year-old Ravi from a small village near Mumbai, school is no longer drudgery. The huge load of textbooks he reluctantly lugged to school every day is gone. In its place is a Kindle loaded with his textbooks and reference material.In the dusty village of Kurund, on the outskirts of Mumbai in Maharashtra, 15-year-old Ravi Kumar has very limited access to higher education. He knows that access to a computer along with the Internet and reference material would help him score better in the exceedingly competitive college entrance exams, but he also knows that they are out of reach.
Ravi is just one of the vast majority of children in the 2,30,000 villages of India, whose lives and futures are limited by the lack of access to quality education and technology that could empower them. But almost overnight, things have changed for Ravi and his classmates. This was after Amazon Cares chose his school, Adarsh Vidya Mandir Secondary School, along with six Zilla Parishad (district-level) schools, for a program aimed at improving the standard of education and thus transforming the lives of local communities around Amazon’s fulfillment centers (FCs). The chosen schools are near Bhiwandi, a city about 20 km from Mumbai, and home to three FCs.
It started with 7 Kindles
Education is a major concern in the villages of India. The state of the libraries in most village schools is woeful. The few books there are either outdated or irrelevant. Thus, there is no motivation for students to read. As part of our digital initiative, in 2015 Amazon Cares gave away seven Kindles to every government school in villages around Bhiwandi. The response was encouraging. So we distributed around 100 Kindles loaded with hundreds of free books to 9th and 10th grade students of five schools in 2016. The response has been overwhelming. The children are delighted. “The dictionary in Kindle is easy to use. Now I don’t have to ask anyone to explain the meaning of difficult English words,” adds a student The rise in confidence levels shows.
This initiative has benefited over 1,600 students.
E-Paathshala — the ‘electronic teacher’
But Kindles are not the only way Amazon Cares is trying to improve educational outcomes in this belt. We have also provided the schools with E-Prashala kits specifically developed for village schools. E-Paathshala (where ‘E’ stands for ‘electronic’ and Paathshala means ‘a big school’ in Sanskrit) is an LED-based projector that runs on solar energy, eliminating the need for conventional power supply, which is erratic in rural areas. With in-built resonance speakers, it is loud enough to be heard by 100 students in a classroom. The software, which covers the syllabus from 1st to 10th grade, is easy to use and requires zero maintenance.
A library for each child
Besides, Amazon Cares has also set up digital libraries in these schools, with over 3,000 books in each library. Apart from school textbooks and reference material, local content has also been developed. And children are discovering the joys of reading story books.
“I now like reading. I love to read old folk tales in English as well as in Marathi in our e-library. It is like having a whole library all to myself,” says Shweta, a 9th class student.
Helping the Digital Literacy Mission
Our educational digital initiative is also contributing in a significant way to National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM) which aims to make students computer-literate. Students can register for basic computer literacy courses where Amazon India provides training and infrastructure. This gives them an edge over others in obtaining government certification that would help them in their future course of study.
It is an added plus that these initiatives are taking the drudgery and monotony out of learning and making the rite of education an interesting and joyful experience.