Published: 17th March 2021
This Teach For India project makes a case for why being well-versed with Gmail is more important than coding
Hyderabad-based Project TakeOver was started to propagate basic computer literacy and though coding is also important, they believe that skills like using MS Word and emails are mandatory nowadays
Ever heard of a student taking attendance with the help of Microsoft Excel? That's now a reality at Sri Siddhartha High School, Hyderabad. What's the big deal, you ask? Especially when even seven-year-olds are making apps. Akansha Shrivastava explains it succinctly when she says, "Every child might not make it big and create apps. Most of them might just bag desk jobs, which will still be a dream come true for them. And a desk job, why actually every job, demands knowledge of Excel, Gmail and other such basic functions more than anything else. And this is what we focus on." So it's back to the basics, as basic as learning to operate a computer, for Teach For India fellows Akansha and Ishmael Zabi who started Project TakeOver in 2019 to enable computer literacy.
Akansha Shrivastava and Ishmael Zabi | (Pic: Project TakeOver)
A small functional projector room served as their home ground and this is how they beat the problem of infrastructure. "Though it was theoretical, the students from classes VIII to X were very happy. Especially since we were working at a low-income private school, this seemed to work out well," explains the 25-year-old. By now you must have guessed that when the COVID scare started and schools were shut down, it rendered them helpless. But here, they saw an opportunity. They quickly discovered alternative apps like WPS Office for Excel, Canva for simple graphic design projects and other open-source apps and it came as such a relief. Zoom was the medium and these apps became tools.
Though the duo fundraised about five lakh rupees to get tabs for children, they handed it over to the school so that the school can cover fees and other costs
A smartphone is a staple in every household, but might not be in the hands of the children, say, when their parents go out to work. This they countered by uploading their lessons on YouTube. In this way, they surmounted one problem after another to keep the show running. They have impacted over 200 children in five different schools. They also have eight student leaders who will carry forward the project and reach out to more children once the duo's fellowship concludes. So they have been thinking about the future already? Oh yes, exclaims Akansha, who pursued her Bachelor's in Computer Science Engineering from VIT. In fact, they do see this idea running successfully as a start-up or a project that can be carried forward by other fellows.
Her wish | (Pic: Project TakeOver)
So the online classes aren't your typical class, it is actually a simulated office where the co-founders are the CEOs and the children are employees who are supposed to send emails, make posters and even PPT presentations as a part of their assignments. "We have successfully convinced them of the fact that MS Word is actually digital paper. So we give them assignments like writing 150-word essays and they use features like different fonts, colours and so on to personalise it," explains Akansha who quit a comfortable job at Deloitte to heed the calling of a teacher. They design posters around social issues like Earth Hour and water conservation, plus send formal and informal emails too.
During this pandemic, Teach For India gave away about 200 tabs in Hyderabad which helped the duo's cause
And what about Excel? They use it to record temperature and calculate the average. These real-time and relatable assignments ensure that the children are self-motivated to follow through on them. Now that students are back in their classrooms and though the focus is on finishing the syllabus, they are as interested in these basics as they were when Akansha placed a laptop in front of them for the first time.
Some of the student's work | (Pic: Project TakeOver)
For more on them, check out instagram.com/takeover_tfi