This summer we had many volunteers from around the world help out setting up Labs, Mapping Curriculum and Training teachers in rural India. One of our star volunteers was Vaishnavi Nandanam from Freemont, CA who spent 3 months helping us with content and curriculum mapping before venturing out to work with our partners “Parivarthan Foundation” to setup a TAC Lab.
Read about Vaishnavi’s experience below…..
Volunteering and internship for TAC in the junior year of my high school was truly an eye-opening experience. Teaching young children at a remote village, Juvvalapalem, and watching these kids eagerly learning the new material and always smiling despite their tough situation forced me to reevaluate all the things I had for granted.
As a TAC volunteer, I communicated with local non-government organizations in India to identify schools and orphanages which could benefit from a TAC educational hotspot. I eventually collaborated with Parivarthan foundation, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to bring about socio-economic changes among the rural and underprivileged communities. With the help of Parivarthan, I identified a school in a remote, Indian village called Juvvalapalem, and was able to work with its school teachers to structure the educational content to suit their state curriculum.
In the beginning it was very difficult to identify relevant content because not all the topics pertaining to this state curriculum were covered within TAC’s existing material. To fill this gap, I had to find content providers that specialized in the missing content. BodhaGuru was one such content provider and with its help I was able to put together the missing content. Additionally, as the students only spoke Telugu, I translated the slides and quiz sections of each topic from English to Telugu. By doing this, I was able to build content for this village school that provided educational video lessons, questions and answers, and quizzes for each topic of their Science curriculum.
Later, as a summer intern, I traveled to Juvvalapalem to deploy the hotspot and train the teachers and students on how to use this educational system for their classes. The journey to the village was not an easy one; the muddy, uneven and narrow roads made travelling very difficult. Beyond that, I faced several technical problems while setting up the hotspot. Although the school had computers, the network connectivity was broken due to recent flooding that damaged the cables.
I re-networked all the computers, installed the hotspot, and connected the computers to the hotspot. The erratic power outages and low efficiency of the power backup did not make things easier. However, I was able to overcome all these hurdles by working long hours when the power was available and, within a few days, I successfully fixed all the network issues. Then I trained the Parivarthan teachers on how to use the hotspot, which does not require internet access, in their lessons which they eagerly embraced. The children were extremely enthusiastic as well; they were captivated by the video animations that told their lessons in their native language, Telugu. The schools’ staff was also extremely supportive of the whole program and gave us extra time with the kids.
During my time in Juvvalapalem, I also trained the Computer Administrators of Parivarthan to manage the hotspot. But to maximize the effectiveness of the TAC system, I had to find more permanent solutions to the network and power problems the school faced. Therefore, after I came back to US, I discussed this limitation with TAC founder and subsequently, TAC supplied tablets to this school. Now the students can also use tablets instead of computers when there are power outages and the power back up systems are completely drained. Furthermore, tablets cut back on all of the networking and cables involved since the entire system is wireless. After deploying these tablets to Juvvalapalem, I am communicating with Parivarthan administrators on weekly basis to further ensure that the program is running smoothly.
I hope to return as TAC intern yet again next summer to Juvvalapalem, and spend more time interacting with the school children and teach topics related to health and hygiene. I would like to say my ‘many thanks’ to the TAC founders and staff for providing the opportunity to contribute to TAC’s mission and make the educational content available to the children at Juvvalapalem. My special thanks to Parivarthan foundation for helping me at every stage of my journey and my stay at Juvvalapalem.