As debates around the accessibility to technology for students reach a fever pitch, a sister-brother duo has kickstarted a social initiative – Project Pahunch – to provide access to online education to children who are currently unable to attend online classes. The project is currently only operational in Mumbai.
The onset of the pandemic brought along a lot of challenges. For students, access to gadgets and internet connectivity has been on of the foremost issues and thousands have been dealing with the fallout of classes shifting online. Payal, a domestic helper working at Malaika and Ishan Shivalkar’s home, faced a similar challenge.
For the first few months of the pandemic, Payal was using her neighbour’s phone to attend classes to prepare for the upcoming board examinations. However, as and when the country started to open up, her neighbour started going to the office. This left her with no other choice but to either miss out on her online classes or spend thousands of rupees in order to get her old phone repaired – which was not an option due to a lack of resources.
The incident came as a wake-up call for Malaika and Ishan, and they decided to launch Project Pahunch on August 6. The aim of the initiative is to crowdsource old gadgets that are in a working condition so that students can access their basic right to education.
A third-year law student at National Law University, Jodhpur and a Class 11 student respectively, Malaika and Ishan started by getting in touch with as many NGOs and experts as possible in order to get a deeper insight into the problem.
“We have spoken with a few such NGOs in detail about taking this project forward – Teach For India, Mumbai and Angel Xpress Foundation, Colaba,” Malaika said.
“It has been less than a week since the launch of the initiative, and one person has actually purchased 20 new educational tablets and donated them to Angel Xpress Foundation in order to fulfil the needs of the children that have already been identified by them,” added Malaika.
Aside from speaking with the two NGOs, who have so far identified a total of a 120 students in Mumbai who do not have access to proper gadgets, Malaika said that they have also been approached by several other NGOs as well as individuals who wish to contribute to the cause.
“We wish to be able to collect as many gadgets as possible and distribute them to as many children as they can to make sure that no child goes by without access to education,” she said. “No one can predict how long this [pandemic] will go on for, and we feel that no child should be left behind.”
Featured imaged credit: Reuters