Published: 24th May 2017
In a government school with no electricity, this teacher walked in with his own laptop and helped his students scale new heights
What do you do when the government funds computers for your rural school, but there’s no electricity around? If you’re Karunai Doss, then you’d take your PC, mobile phone’s net connection and teach
For the students of the Government High School in Naranapuram, Virudhunagar whose parents work at the firework factories in and around Sivakasi, computers were once mere machines that were out of their reach and Japan was just the name of a country that they had once heard in a Geography class. With classes as large as 200, teachers struggled. Virtual classrooms were beyond their imagination in a school that did not even have proper electricity supply.
Then in 2008, a teacher, Karunai Doss decided that he was going to do something about it. He walked into the classroom with a laptop and used PowerPoint and multimedia presentations to teach his students. The concepts were broken down in simple English and Tamil for them to comprehend with ease. For the first time in their lives, the students were motivated to look beyond books and blackboards.
Rise of Technology: Karunai Doss brings virutal classroom to the school
For this 39-year-old, who began his teaching career in 1997, the turning point was when he attended a training programme organised by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Microsoft in 2006. “Through this training programme, I learned to manoeuvre MS Office. PowerPoint caught my attention and I started making presentations that could strip a concept down to its basics so that the children could comprehend it better. I found it to be a very efficient teaching method and I could see that my students were actually developing an interest,” he recalls.
Even though SSA granted the school a computer-aided learning centre in 2006, there were neither computers nor was there electricity. Everyone was unsure of what to do. “That’s was when it struck me that I should just take my laptop and use that to show them the presentations. I would use my mobile phone’s internet connection and we would conduct Skype classes, connecting with teachers and students in other parts of the country,” he explains.
I wanted to change the entire scenario in our society and no profession gives a better opportunity than teaching
Karunai Doss, Government school Teacher
The results were phenomenal. Technology suddenly became his students’ best friend. For the first time, he saw them self-motivated and he didn’t have to remind them to study. Recalling an incident, Doss says, “Once during a connecting class, we saw a fourth grader recite 500 kurals from the Thirukkural. Then, a student of mine came forward and said that he could recite 600, and he did. Brilliantly, I might add. No one forced him to do it. These classes develop a sense of healthy competition and this makes me happy.”
Karunai once organised a connecting class with a few students from Japan, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these students from Naranapuram.To make learning interesting, Karunai also adds elements of music and clippings of his own voice to his presentations. “Since it is my own voice, it is easier for them to understand. The presentations are in both Tamil and English,” he says.
For his innovative way of teaching, Karunai Doss has been recognised by several platforms. He has won the NDTV-Pearson Teaching award four times in a row. He was also the recipient of the Global Role Model Teacher award. The Azim Premji Foundation has donated ten computers to the school.
The electricity issue has also been resolved. But Karunai Doss is still the same. He is currently mentoring a 13-year-old who wants to build a fire safety device to help the firework factory workers of Sivakasi. He has started a crowdfunding campaign for the same as well.
Here's the link to the Milaap campaign that Karunai Doss is running: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/jayakumar