Published: 23rd October 2020
Here's how this 16-year-old is teaching underprivileged kids in Bihar's villages from New Jersey
Despite being in a different time zone, Arushi Aggarwal is teaching kids in Bihar's villages virtually on weekends. We find out how
There is no age limit to learn or even educate yourself. We all know that striving to learn new things every single day only betters our knowledge and our lives as a whole. And sharing this knowledge should be our ultimate aim. Taking inspiration from this approach, Arushi Aggarwal, a 16-year-old hailing from Haryana, spends her time in providing free and quality education to underprivileged kids in the villages of Bihar.
Although she hails from Haryana, Arushi moved to Bengaluru and then to New Jersey when she was 10 years old and is currently studying in Class 11 at West Windsor Plainsboro High School South, NJ. "My education has largely been in Bengaluru and New Jersey. Apart from my regular studies, I have developed a deep passion for Computer Science and thus using my knowledge to combat real-life challenges.
When I was in Class 7, I joined my first robotics team with no previous knowledge of what it was about. Soon, I was overwhelmed by the multitude of opportunities that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) has and learned a great deal through mentors, which led me to think how it can be used to facilitate education in India," Arushi tells us.
When in Class 8, Arushi's robotics team made it to the World Championships in Detroit, Michigan. "This experience opened my eyes to the lack of female representation in STEM. After talking to mentors and connecting with the girls at the competition, I learned that a reason for this is confidence. Many students don’t have the confidence to try something new. So, I began an initiative called Unknown16 to provide students with resources and opportunities so they can build confidence in what they do. Through Unknown16, we provide online learning resources and curriculum to NGOs and students and take classes for students in my community to teach them and help them develop a passion for STEM," adds Arushi.
When Arushi first started Unknown16, she also developed programming curriculums so that she could distribute them to NGOs which they could later use to teach students. "As I was reaching out to NGOs, I came across someone from the Lahanti club, a youth collective from Bihar, who enquired and told us that they have students that want to learn to programme. However, the challenge was the children didn't know how to speak in English," she explains. That's when Arushi decided to dedicate her weekends to teach these children English through the video-calling software Skype. Although she was determined to provide them with education, challenges were never-ending — providing internet access, computers, space for the children to learn. Arushi set up computer labs for them herself with the help of Lahanti. She opened labs in four villages - Naiadih, Kumbadih, Govindpur and Jabardah of Nawadi Panchayat, Chakai Block, Jamui, Bihar. "I host classes every Saturday and Sunday at 5 am (NJ time) in the morning. I teach students who are in Class 1 until high school. I also raised over $1500 in donations from a Gofundme page and some more with Lahanti's help. My parents were extremely supportive throughout the journey too," says Arushi.
Each of these classes spans over an hour and Arushi teaches the children English with the names of relatable objects from their houses. Arushi's learning centres cater to over 300 children across four villages, who now have access to technology and receive quality education virtually. As for her own future plans academically, Arushi wants to pursue a major in Computer Science and wishes to address environmental issues with the help of technology. She also wants to start her own company someday.