Nandini Kochar – Global Youth Ambassador February 2021

Nandini Kochar Qc

Global Youth Ambassadors, GYA of the month

What is your project and how did covid affect it?

Ray of Hope Botswana a youth-led organisation that runs educational classes and programming for children from underprivileged backgrounds. We work in one village in rural Botswana but attract children from surrounding villages. Over five years, our volunteers have been taking classes on a weekly basis that have supported and deepened the education that the children were receiving from their schools. When Covid hit Botswana, we decided to enter the space of e-learning. We ran a fundraiser and raised quite a bit of money that we used to purchase tablets for the children. We also partnered with a startup that has created an educational app for middle school and high school children that runs in line with the national curriculum.

We were very aware that this app had deficiencies. It was targeting a very specific group of children, and children under the age of 7 were once again left behind. Now we’re working on developing our own app that is focused on the cultural, linguistic and economic context of these children. There are very few e-learning apps out there that are suitable for a child from the context we are working in. They are usually very English heavy, and include spaces and objects that these children have never seen. It’s a very different reality from a 5 year old in the US. The hope is that this app will expand beyond the village we are working in and be useful to children across rural Botswana.

What opportunities has covid provided?

Encouraging people to donate. We have always used online funding but when Covid hit and our fundraising response was a direct response to it, we saw a positive response from donors from across the world. Now, it seems easier to reach out to people and ask for help. People want to help! We would never have imagined creating our own app if Covid hadn’t happened. It forces you to be creative. It’s so urgent and immediate that it compels you to act efficiently and effectively. We are pushed to think outside the box. Currently, we have a team of volunteers from around the world who are helping us build an app for children in Botswana in collaboration with our student volunteers here. All this is happening virtually. I would have never imagined this would have happened if it weren’t for the pandemic.

How do we hold people to account to continue to see this progress?

Covid will impact kids in the long run and that in itself is urgent. It is not easy for us, university and high school students, to hold governments accountable. But, in the partnerships and collaborations that we do hold, we recognise that digital learning is an investment for the long run. Technology was not something we prioritised before, but now we are now more aware of how it can be used to address the education gap that has been amplified by Covid. I don’t know what it’s going to look like two years from now, but my hope is that we don’t forget what this time meant for us, as well as for these children.

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