Night Schools’ address a critical gap in the Indian education system. Many children, especially from economically disadvantaged sections of society, drop out of school because they repeatedly fail their exams, need to find employment to contribute to the household income or need to baby sit younger siblings so that their mothers can go out and work. ‘Night Schools’, aided by the state, run in partnership between private trusts and the municipal corporations, are expected to serve this population, a gap which even public schools which are free or deeply subsidised, are unable to address.
In existence since 1850, ‘Night Schools’ however, have been severely neglected over time. In 2008, Nikita Ketkar established Masoom, an NGO that addresses the need for infrastructure and quality education in night schools. Masoom was registered as a Charitable Trust with the aim to empower, strengthen and transform ‘Night Schools’, by improving infrastructure, enhancing teaching methods and Government advocacy that will help build a stronger academic foundation, resulting in wider opportunities for the students.
In early 2016, in partnership with Level Up Village, a social impact company, based in the US, Masoom piloted the concept of a mobile bus to deliver science & technology curricula called ‘Tech on Wheels’. The idea was to reach out to 1000 existing students (400 night school & 600 day school); enroll an additional 300 out-of-school students into night schools and conduct student leadership programs with over 60 students in each batch.
‘Tech on Wheels’ while solving the twin problems of no space and limited digital infrastructure, is designed to inspire students to explore their passion for science, discovery, invention and innovation in a digitally connected world. The objective of this project is to change the way students see and understand STEM subjects and to empower students by collaborating across cultures.
In 2016, BP began working with Masoom, to deliver the second ‘Tech on Wheels’ bus. The bus will house a computer lab that can accommodate as many as 28 students, 2 trainers and a library section with reference material. Travelling from school to school, where the students will use the facility to learn computer skills, build some employable skills, as well as to learn to use digital research material on the web, it will reach almost 400 students across the selected night schools and play a role in enrolling at least 300 out of school children. Between 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm with 3-hour sessions per day, each batch will use the facility to learn computer skills, build some employable skills, as well as learn to use digital research material on the web.
The BP Tech on Wheels bus was launched on June 16, 2017 in Mumbai, India. Bob Dudley, BP Group Chief Executive, handed over the keys to Masoom to formally launch the bus and kick start the classes. He spent time interacting with the students who have benefitted from Masoom’s first Tech on Wheels bus and commented, “I was deeply moved by the stories of hard work and commitment to continuous learning that I heard today. Even if one child here meets their hope and aspirations it would be very satisfying.”
The views expressed here are personal.