Mumbai: Andheri to Kandivli, distance education via Skype
An HR professional teaches spoken English to a school student in Kandivli via Skype, during her lunch hour
Malathi Rai, 45, is an HR professional who works in Saki Naka, Andheri East. During her lunch hour, she also teaches spoken English to a student from Shishu Vikas Secondary School, Kandivli, with the help of Skype. An inconspicuous school in Kandivli, with about 280 students from the economically disadvantaged strata of society, Rai had a casual interaction with the children at a day spent in the school, as part of a company CSR activity. When she asked the students, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
A 12-year-old girl answered, "Miss, I want to talk English like you." Rai recalls, "The sentence reverberated in my head as I drove back to work. It was such an innocent statement and yet so poignantly profound. A desire to learn a language that would open the doors of opportunity for her and help her climb up a few steps from where she found herself and her family. It seemed so reasonable."
Rai, who works in an organisation of over 800 English-speaking people, could easily help these children. But, for anyone to commute to Kandivli every day to teach spoken English was impossible, given the traffic snarls and the cost of commuting. The challenge was to bring the student and the teacher together without spending too much time or money. So, she came up with the concept of teaching via Skype.
While talking to mid-day, Rai said, "The school had a few desktops and an Internet connection. We installed the software and trained them on using it. We gave five headsets to the children, and a virtual classroom was created. Five of our employees give up 30 minutes of their lunch hour, three times a week. Each employee is assigned one child so that there is a one-on-one relationship and progress can be monitored."
One of the five teachers said, "I love it. My student [has become] so good. The day she pronounced 'delirious' and 'devastated', I was ecstatic." While this is a pilot project, it is infinitely scalable. The one-on-one student-teacher ratio also makes the teaching process engaging. "I am amazed that sitting at my desk, I am able to contribute to changing someone's life," Rai said.
One of the students, Shruti Chalke, Std 8, said, "Meeting professionals like Rai and observing their fluency in English language urges us to speak just like them. I want to be as confident as others when I speak English." Sahil Jadhav, another student from Std 7, said, "When I go home and speak English in front of my family and friends, they feel proud."
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