The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a new era of technology dependency and online learning. In these testing times, it is technology and computing that were found to our rescue. This made us believe, more and more, about how much relevance and application computing and technology is gaining rapidly. Education did not completely cease for us, for we had access to much knowledge and sources of teaching online.
However, it is also in these testing times that the children across various NGOs faced setbacks in terms of education. The children were rather disheartened to not be able to study in times that they were eager to. The pandemic, very unfortunately, equalled to education coming to a complete halt for them. This is when Avani Goenka, a Class 11 Student at Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata founded Project 21.
Project 21 envisions to build a ‘tech inclusive society’. Not an easy task at all, but they believe tbey can take a step closer to achieving our dream of building ‘tech equality” by assisting one child at a time. With social work managed under four wings, they ensure that each child has knowledge and exposure in these relevant fields.
Post that, they identify individuals with special inclination and interest in these fields, whereupon, the ‘shaping careers’ wing of Project 21 further assists them by connecting them with professionals and mentors in the relevant computing field. In their mission of ‘Building Digital India-one child at a time’. In India, the underprivileged lack access to technology and computing knowledge in times when it is more necessary than ever.
Recognizing this pertinent issue, Project 21 conducts workshops and master classes any various NGOs and government schools. In these lessons, we teach them the much relevant and in-demand technical skills ranging from coding, webpage designing, software development, computing systems and applications, digital literacy, computer operations, among others. This knowledge not only opens their minds up to a world beyond just knowing English and Maths (which is conventionally what education means for them) but also helps generate interest in these relevant fields.
Thus, by doing so, they transform them into more employable individuals who are well equipped with the professional skills of the twenty first century. If not that, they simply believe in igniting a smile or a dash of hope in all children alike by exposing and nurturing their minds in the whirling world of technology and computer science. The problem here was that ‘education’ never really meant anything more than English or Math for them, even in Grades as high as 7.
This, in turn, left them unequipped to make a transition to online learning because of the lack of technical and computing knowledge that they possessed. Recognizing this issue, Avani Goenka, launched her NGO, Project 21. Along with a dedicated team of 20 individuals spanning across 7 countries, she has successfully conducted online workshops on ‘Digital Literacy in times of Covid’, ‘Digital Literacy: A life skill in the 21st Century’, ‘Basics of HTML coding’, ‘Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?’.
These workshops have impacted 120+ children in Lebanon, Ukraine, USA, Canada and India – all by virtual methods of delivery and teaching. Special shoutout to Melissa Soto from New York, Maya Belle from Canada, Rysha Sultania from Bangalore, India, Priyal Babaria from Dubai, Swaranya Srakar from Kolkata, Mira Shena from UK, Karen Lin from Ukraine without whom, Avani believes, Project 21 would not be able to ever gain the momentum and pace and generate the kind of impact that it has been able to.
Therefore, they are in action to redefine what education means to them and to open up a world of possibilities and opportunities for the less privileged. Avani believes she has a long way to go to address technology inequality and hopes to spread our NGO from 5 countries this year to over 20 countries by the end of 2020 and generate greater and deeper impact.