Towards better education: this crowdfunding initiative is empowering teachers to make a differenceDeepika Rao
In an attempt to help government schools across the country, MyDilse.org is providing teachers with the opportunity to run crowdfunding campaigns on its platform to procure essential material to help improve the quality of education as well as infrastructure.
Stories of public schools across the country facing closure cannot be ignored any longer. Lack of funds, infrastructure, updated technology or even something as basic as classroom furniture not only render the school incapable, but has an impact on students’ learning too. The system needs improvement and Hyderabad-based MyDilse is rooting for teachers to take up causes for their own classrooms through a large crowdfunding initiative.
Naveen Pallayil, a digital philanthropist and the director of an American multinational software company, began MyDilse.org, a Tech for Good platform through which school teachers from across India make requests for much needed material for their students through the mode of crowdfunding. The organisation is developed by the Dil Se Education Foundation.
“The Indian education system is one of the largest in the world with 65 percent of its children studying in public schools run by the Indian government. The vision to make India literate cannot be achieved by the government alone. Even if they provide basic financial aid to these schools it is never enough. Some of the remote schools struggle for even basic infrastructure like benches, blackboards, books and more,” Naveen said.
In October 2015, he started off by helping with reconstructing classrooms, washrooms, study areas and study material. Realising that this had a limited impact and that there were more schools and students in need of help, he set out to establish MyDilse, mobilising as many teachers as possible who were passionate to drive the change.
“I grew up in a small village in Kerala where my mother was a teacher in a government school and my father was in the military. With the responsibility to support three kids and the limited income from government jobs my parents could only afford a public school education for me and my siblings. Being educated through this system I understand the importance and impact of this not only on a student but also on our country. This motivated me to bring a change and help improve the situation however I can,” he added.
Having a technology-driven platform has enabled teachers from cities like Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Maharashtra, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Karnataka, among others, engage with the organisation.
“If you look at the kind of projects running on our platform, they don’t cost a lot, these are basic amenities that any student deserves. We are trying to support a teacher trying to provide the best in-class education to his/her students, and at times that might cost just Rs 500 totally, but would make a big difference to the student who receives it. Till now, we have raised a good amount of funds through our platform and we hope we are able to grow and keep changing students’ lives every day through our efforts,” Naveen added.
A teacher, once enrolled on the portal, can start a new project by describing the requirement. The team at My Dil Se then reviews the requests, validates the cost on various e-commerce portals and approves the project, making it available for funding. Once a project is funded, items are purchased by the organisation and shipped to the schools using e-commerce platforms.
From basic seating facilities like rugs, chairs and benches, to teaching material like laptops and projectors, or even Geo Boards to help students explore various geometric shapes and learn arithmetic, the portal has a number of requests across all ranges.
“We have also seen many rural public schools requests to help build toilets, as female students don’t come to school because they don’t have toilets. Even female teachers find it difficult to teach in such schools. This further pushes parents to not send their girl child to a school with only male faculty. For such requests we usually partner with local contractors or any MNC donors who, as part of their CSR activity, help build this infrastructure,” said Naveen.
Management students bridge the gap
Getting teachers on board was a challenge, Naveen recalled. Schools and teachers had to first be aware of the organisation and then understand the concepts of crowdfunding, internet and social media.
In order to contact teachers, train them on using social media and explaining the impact of crowdfunding, the organisation turned to volunteers pursuing their education across premier management institutes. This was intended to connect with teachers and help them create a campaign and execute the campaign on their behalf.
“The initiative could serve in developing grassroot understanding of communities. Graduates or those pursuing their studies in these institutions can develop skills like campaign management, content marketing, persuasion and more. The research involved to connect with these teachers and the effort required to help them understand the concept in the right manner is a hands-on experience. Such level of learning gives way for a high impact. This opportunity excites most of our volunteers who join us as campaign managers,” Naveen added.
The organisation is associated with the philanthropic wing of tech Leaders like Google, which provides them with G-Suite and Ad Grants to promote the platform. Similarly, they are associated with NASSCOM Foundation's BigTech, Microsoft Philanthropies, AWS, SmartFifty (IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, in association with Department of Science and Technology).
“I want to be able to think about the future and feel good about it. We’re doing what we can to have the next generation get the best of everything possible; to be inspired by what is likely to happen and to look forward to the what’s next. That’s the underlying principle behind mydilse.org."
"I may sound ambitious or too optimistic but our vision is to make the Indian education system world class; there should be no differentiation in the ability to deliver the same job between a public school graduate and a private school graduate. The day we reach this stage I will feel content and happy that I achieved what I set sail for,” Naveen said.