Arshya Gaur, a 17-old humanities student of class 12 at Delhi’s Vasant Valley School is getting attention as her edtech platform, Read Together, a multi-media learning content aid to enhance the experience of children who struggle with reading or have learning disabilities in English language is impressing more and more people.
The web platform to impart video lessons to pre-schoolers was created by her last year in response to her own teaching class that she was passionately offering to nearby slum children since a student of class X being disrupted by Covid pandemic. However, creating the platform and content wasn’t enough as her target children were mostly without access to devices or connectivity. To help them get connected, she raised more than Rs 11 lakh and bought tablets, computers and wifi connections. So far 65 such children have received devices from her.
The content and platform she created is being used by hundred others as they are finding it useful for their children. Bollywood star, Kareena Kapoor Khan, who is also mother of two kids, in fact gave an instagram shoutout to the site.
Arshya, came into limelight for going public with her battle with anorexia and depression and her poetry book,’ How to Open a Parachute’ on this journey last year. She was invited to ‘India Today Conclave’ in 2019 and then to Jaipur Literature Festival last year. She has also has won the Gold Award in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Writing Competition.
Speaking about the turning moment in her life, when she was aged 13, Arshya says, “The growing up and usual teen pressure, physicality, nicknaming of chhotu and Motu, all took a toll on my mental health. I was depressed and had anorexia.” This journey of overcoming mental health illness aided by professional therapy and family cum teachers support lasted about two years. “All this while, I felt better by writing as it came naturally to me. So, I started writing poems about my own journey but there was no intention of publishing them. Then two years, later I compiled them and realized these are worth publishing and thus the book was born,” she adds. She is confined to poetry alone but as a debater and writer on issues of children and children she contributed articles to The DailyO, and also has her own blog, ‘Phoenix Fantasies’ where she posts her other writing pieces.
As she was in class X, she also discovered her passion for teaching English language to nearby children in the slum area of her school. After one year, the covid pandemic outbreak actually put brakes on this passion and she spent most of 2020 summer break in figuring out how to reconnect with those children and deliver learning aid to them using technology. “I was stuck and wanted to continue through digital mode and thus the idea and project of Read Together came about,” she says.
The site contains English rhymes and similar content based on NCERT recommendations for small children. According to her pre-primary and primary students are neglected all over the world and often left out mainstream conversation. “So, my focus is on this segment,” she adds. Having created the technology platform, her next challenge was to get visitors and intended target children. For this she contacted several schools and digged out EWS data from them. To bridge the gap of no access due to lack of devices and connectivity, she went to Ketto,org crowdfunding platform raised money (Rs 11 lakh so far) to buy devices for these children. In this campaign she has found a lot of support and says, “Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the CEO of Paytm has expressed interest in my project.”
Though she is planning to go to the US for her career and work as author and policy related matters there, still she feels her platform can potentially diversify to cover topics that are left out in school curricula such as hygiene health, basic general knowledge and other aspects. “I would love to see where it goes, it needs hard work and who knows it may even turn another ‘Byju’s’ one day!”