'Skype school' brings knowledge to Indian village

The electricity keeps cutting out, the Internet connection is crackly and the speakers don't always work, but Santosh Kumar knows that 20 pupils far away in eastern India are relying on him.

Once a week, Kumar uses the Skype computer programme to teach maths to children in Chamanpura, a poor village in the struggling state of Bihar, 600 miles (970 kilometres) from his two-storey house in the suburbs of New Delhi.

The free Internet service allows the class to see, via a projector, Kumar's tutorial which includes an animated tale about a greedy priest and a wily countryman to teach the students about numbers and the concept of infinity.

"The first time I did this, they were really excited by the technology, now they don't care," Kumar said. "It's normal to them."

Kumar, a successful 34-year-old engineer, grew up in Chamanpura village before battling his way to a place at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and on to a well-paid job in the Indian capital.

"It's an uphill task to bring education to villages," he said, recalling his teenage years when he would cycle eight miles to college in a nearby town.

Kumar's cousin Chandrakant Singh, also now a well-paid engineer, decided during a trip back to the village to set up a school for children aged between 6 and 12.

"I wanted to provide a world-class education to students in the remotest place on Earth," said Singh, who remembers studying at night under the dim light of a kerosene lamp.

Unfazed by the fact that Chamanpura has no mains electricity, or by the refusal of experienced teachers to travel to Bihar, Singh approached his friends for donations to fund the Chaitanya Gurukul boarding school.

He installed two power generators and organised training for 16 local teachers before hitting on the idea of using Skype to connect students with professionals across India.

"The world's greatest teachers don't want to go there, so I thought maybe we could use technology to help our students learn faster," he said.

The school opened its doors in April 2010, offering admission to 500 students, 50 of whom pay nothing, with the rest charged according to their parents' ability to afford fees.

The Skype lessons take place in the evenings after the day's regular classes and at weekends.

Kumar was on board from the beginning, adamant that he could help the students and give them more "clarity" on what they learnt in class.

"Some of them were curious, others got intimidated, I had to work with them to rid them of their fear," he said, pointing out many of them had never seen a computer before.

"Now it's like television for them, it entertains them and hopefully they learn something," he said during another power outage. "The technical problems happen often. It's extremely frustrating but we carry on."

During his maths lesson, some students appeared engrossed by the video, while others chattered inaudibly in the back rows.

But they snapped to attention during the question session, with everyone answering correctly.

"It's a very different way of teaching, it helps me remember what I learn better than if I just read it," Anmol Kumar Jaiswal, 11, told AFP via the two-way Skype link.

Pragya Parashar, a 12-year-old girl sitting behind Jaiswal nodded in agreement.

"I like these lessons, it helps me understand things better," she said shyly. "I also want to become an engineer like my teacher."

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    Ashdown Group: Part time Network Support Analyst / Windows Systems Administrat

    £30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

    £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas