‘Skype school’ brings knowledge to Indian village

2011-04-08 07:50

New Delhi – The electricity keeps cutting out, the internet connection is crackly and the speakers don’t always work, but Santosh Kumar knows that 20 pupils far away in eastern India are relying on him.

Once a week, Kumar uses the Skype computer programme to teach maths to children in Chamanpura, a poor village in the struggling state of Bihar, 970km from his two-storey house in the suburbs of New Delhi.

The free internet service allows the class to see, via a projector, Kumar’s tutorial, which includes an animated tale about a greedy priest and a wily countryman to teach the students about numbers and the concept of infinity.

“The first time I did this, they were really excited by the technology, now they don’t care,” Kumar said. “It’s normal to them.”

Kumar, a successful 34-year-old engineer, grew up in Chamanpura village before battling his way to a place at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and on to a well-paid job in the Indian capital.

“It’s an uphill task to bring education to villages,” he said, recalling his teenage years when he would cycle eight miles to college in a nearby town.

Kumar’s cousin, Chandrakant Singh, also now a well-paid engineer, decided during a trip back to the village to set up a school for children aged between six and 12.

“I wanted to provide a world-class education to students in the remotest place on Earth,” said Singh, who remembers studying at night under the dim light of a kerosene lamp.

Unfazed by the fact that Chamanpura has no mains electricity, or by the refusal of experienced teachers to travel to Bihar, Singh approached his friends for donations to fund the Chaitanya Gurukul boarding school.

He installed two power generators and organised training for 16 local teachers before hitting on the idea of using Skype to connect students with professionals across India.

“The world’s greatest teachers don’t want to go there, so I thought maybe we could use technology to help our students learn faster,” he said.

The school opened its doors in April 2010, offering admission to 500 students, 50 of whom pay nothing, with the rest charged according to their parents’ ability to afford fees.

The Skype lessons take place in the evenings after the day’s regular classes and at weekends.

Kumar was on board from the beginning, adamant that he could help the students and give them more “clarity” on what they learnt in class.

“Some of them were curious, others got intimidated, I had to work with them to rid them of their fear,” he said, pointing out many of them had never seen a computer before.

“Now it’s like television for them, it entertains them and hopefully they learn something,” he said during another power outage. “The technical problems happen often. It’s extremely frustrating but we carry on.”

During his maths lesson, some students appeared engrossed by the video, while others chattered inaudibly in the back rows.

But they snapped to attention during the question session, with everyone answering correctly.

“It’s a very different way of teaching, it helps me remember what I learn better than if I just read it,” Anmol Kumar Jaiswal, 11, told AFP via the two-way Skype link.

Pragya Parashar, a 12-year-old girl sitting behind Jaiswal, nodded in agreement.

“I like these lessons, it helps me understand things better,” she said shyly. “I also want to become an engineer like my teacher.” 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.