ThinkSharp’s mission to bridge rural-urban educational gap has created ripples in rural Maharashtra; Over 6,000 students have been benefitted by StudyMall project which provides modern education facilities to rural children without charging any fees.
Published on December 20, 2010 at 4:59 am
Updated on March 20, 2021 at 06:46 am
Little Shraddha is immensely fascinated by aeroplanes. Every time she sees one passing over her village Surungali in Maharashtra, she waves to it. Shraddha closely watches planes on television and is eager to learn more and more about it. The seventh-grader dreams to fly a plane but doesn’t know how to pursue a career as a pilot.
StudyMall, a digital class-cum-library equipped with educational resource material, is providing answers to Shraddha’s unending curiosity and has emerged as a haven for rural children like her.
The first StudyMall was set up by ThinkSharp Foundation, a non-profit organisation, in Surungali, in 2013. It houses a digital classroom equipped with learning tools such as window/android projector, computers, multimedia content, and power backup through UPS or solar energy. It also has a well-stocked library with books on poetry, environment, science and general knowledge. The interactive, colourful and safe set-up is a storehouse of knowledge for the children in the village.
StudyMall engages with children in varied ways. The digital content, due to its interactive nature, makes learning concepts easy to grasp. It also enables teachers to teach in a more demonstrative and effective manner. Similarly, the library with engaging and colourful books instils a love of reading and improves the reading skills of students. The classrooms which have a positive and progressive environment improve students’ interest in the study. Workshops and trainings connect them with the current world. All this leads to improvement in learning outcomes.
This unique and out-of-box concept is the brainchild of Santosh Phad, a social entrepreneur who understood the wide rural-urban education gap because of his personal experience. Phad, born and brought up in a small village Mandwa in Beed district of Maharashtra, reached Mumbai for studying MBA after his college education in his district. He had to struggle there because he lacked English-speaking, computer and other soft skills. The rural institutes where he had studied till graduation did not emphasise on such skills. He continuously thought about this disparity and told himself “this is not fair”. This thought process drove him to change the scenario and thus he conceived the idea of StudyMall and ThinkSharp Foundation was born. He along with his team members coined the term “StudyMall’ from the word shopping mall.
“At a shopping mall, one can buy almost anything. So we thought that if something of that sort is created or developed where all kinds of educational facilities are available then there would be no rural-urban gap. So we decided to call this project StudyMall. We target rural school children between the age group of 5 to 18 years. It is totally free for them and we want them to learn as much as they can. For setting up StudyMall, we collaborate with government schools or community,” Phad told The Good Sight.
“Running a StudyMall requires the involvement and participation of all stakeholders including teachers, school authorities, the village community and government officials. We set up and maintain the StudyMalls, however, day-to-day running is carried out by teachers and school authorities. We have monthly follow-ups with the school and teachers,” he added.
Phad along with his two team members set up the first StudyMall at Surungali in 2013. Today the project covers 32 rural government schools in Maharashtra, benefitting more than 6,000 students. Also, over a hundred teachers have been benefitted by this initiative. They intend to set up 100 StudyMalls in 100 schools in the next five years.
The change brought out by ThinkSharp has already been acknowledged at national and international levels by different organisations. Digital Trailblazer Award was bestowed upon Phad by India Today in 2016.