Choosing the arduous path a few years ago Prem Kumar Gokuladasan left his lucrative job in Europe. Then, he decided to help the less privileged students of rural areas in India. Now, the Chennai based techie's app Kalvi40 is helping students in government schools bridge the digital divide amid the Covid pandemic.
Short video lessons easily accessible in rural areas with bad internet connectivity offered by Mr Gokuladasan's app are helping hundreds of children whose education has been disrupted owing to Covid induced lockdowns. Not only this, the app is also a boon for schools which don't have enough teachers.
Neglecting education of the rural poor has already pushed them behind by 40 to 50 years, a sombre Mr Gokuladasan said adding that the increasing rural-urban divide influenced his decision to return to India. Prem's work has brought together more than 500 volunteers from around the world who help in creating content for the app. Subject experts simplify the lessons to create three minute audios which are then converted into engaging videos.
Empowering rural children with quality education, that's what keeps me going, ex TCS and HCL IT professional Mr Gokuladasan said.
In this gruelling task, Prem's wife Lakshmi Priya has been a constant support. "He sacrifices a lot for this noble cause. Now, he has a larger family of students and we are so proud of him."
B Charulatha, a class 8th student said that because of the app's video lessons she is upto speed with her education even though classes are yet to resume in her village in Tamil Nadu's Thiruvannamalai district.
"I like it. The video lessons draw our attention. They are clear and easy to understand. We also have videos on puppetry, origami etc," Charulatha, a farm labourer's daughter said.
Another challenge that the students face is lack of accessibility to smartphones. To address this, Mr Gokuladasan's BumbleB Trust has started funding a gadget worth Rs 5,000 using which students can watch the videos even on old cathode ray television sets.
Mrs R Thenmozhi, head mistress of the government school in Payyur village has been using the app since 2017.
"There is a marked improvement in students' ability to recall what they have studied as the quality of lessons on the app is amazing."
A Ashwith who shares his family's single smartphone said that the app allows him to study anytime. "There is a true or false section, and we can immediately assess ourselves. These help us in real learning. I also love the stories," he said.
A Cinthuja who belongs to Tamil Nadu's Salem district works on the project from Tokyo and focuses on churning out educational videos. "This is close to my heart and gives me immense satisfaction as I always wanted to work for a social cause without monetary compensation", Ms Cinthuja who guides fresh volunteers said.
So far, the app has over 4,600 videos on five subjects and has been downloaded 55,000 times from the playstore. Through the app, the team has already reached out to 290 government schools who continue to use the resources provided by them.
Inspired by the UN statement towards developing the full personality of students, Mr Gokuladasan's app provides 15 additional components including reading exercises, learning French and Spanish through Tamil, capsules on environment, storytelling and history.