India: AAS Vidyalaya has come up with a unique low-cost concept of AAS Vidyalaya Education Cafes for students in rural areas. These cafes are equipped with TABs, and students can walk in any time of the day, log in with their registered ID and password and study for as long as they desire. The beauty of these cafes is that they can be quickly set up in small towns and villages. Responsible companies with robust CSR initiatives and having their manufacturing plants in distant locations have tied up with AAS Vidyalaya to set up these Education Cafes in and around their manufacturing plants. These can serve the children of their own workers, contract labourers and nearby villagers. Presently, AAS Vidyalaya is executing such projects for reputed companies like Godrej, ACC, TMILL (a TATA Group company) and NCC (formerly Nagarjuna Construction).
The student’s progress is monitored based on app usage, sessions attended, tests taken, marks obtained, and a few other criteria. The impact is gauged by increased marks vis-à-vis previous years for those who are going to some school and the number of drop-outs who enrol to restart their education. A few NGOs and responsible citizens have helped AAS Vidyalaya in this initiative by collecting used smartphones and distributing them to the ones in need. About this unique idea, Vikas Kakwani, Founder of AAS Vidyalaya said, “At these education cafes, we provide students with unrestricted Premium Access to AAS Vidyalaya’s content which includes classes of all subjects and tests and we have online subject teachers for query resolution. We also have dedicated mentors/class teachers hired from the local community who help us in identifying and enrolling the students, spreading awareness, as well as interacting with students and parents to ensure everything runs smoothly. Right now we have opened seven cafes which cater to more than 1500 students and we plan on opening more in the coming few months.”
A lot has been read and heard about the digital divide between India and Bharat especially since the COVID-19 pandemic forced all schools to close down that left online education as the only solution. The digital divide is indeed a reality. Smartphone penetration in India as of date is between 40-45 per cent depending upon the source of the research. This also includes a substantial number who have only one device in the household and if the earning member has to carry it then that leaves only a short period of time either in the mornings or in the late evenings when the children can use it to study. Then again it has to be shared amongst the children. Through this social initiative, AAS Vidyalaya hopes to address this issue and make it possible for students to study for longer periods of time in a school-like environment.