Meet Yashoda, a super-teacher from Ganga Khed, a small town in the Parbhani district of Maharashtra. Her inspirational journey started in early 2020 when she joined the Pi Jam Foundation team as an instructor for their Pi Lab programme. This programme aims to teach children computational thinking and problem solving through a curated pedagogy that goes beyond mere coding.
Yashoda’s students are among the 55% of students in Ganga Khed who do not have access to technology and therefore are unable to participate in online learning. These students were left high and dry during the Covid-19 school closures. Eager to continue learning, they knocked on Yashoda’s door, with only plastic bags for gloves and masks. There was no way she would turn them away.
Undeterred by the small space she calls home, Yashoda decided to improvise: she set up a mat and Raspberry Pi computer on her kitchen floor to serve as a makeshift classroom. Such remarkable decisions have to be taken given that the pandemic has only hastened a growing digital divide, with a significant number of students unable to access online learning that has replaced traditional teaching methods. These students at the bottom of the access pyramid especially miss out on learning computer science, which has been deemed a foundational skill by India’s National Education Policy 2020. Yashoda manages to teach 6-7 Pi Lab students every day, one student at a time, all while ensuring social distancing norms are followed. For well over three months now, more than 25 students have been learning uninterruptedly at Yashoda’s. She has altered lesson plans and training methodologies in innovative ways and teaches her enthusiastic students concepts like algorithms, data representation, and computing systems using examples from their daily life. The students are encouraged to apply what they have learned by identifying problems in their neighbourhood and coming up with creative solutions.
Even a temporary break from learning can snowball and adversely affect a child’s learning outcomes. With the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of schools, Yashoda believes that it is her duty to make education accessible to her students. “We cannot afford to have our students deprived of education simply because they lack resources. As a teacher, I want to do everything I can to reduce educational inequality and skill gaps,” she says. Yashoda’s story inspires us all and proves that where there is a will, there is a way.