How a community radio station is spearheading education for the poor in Maharashtra

Vishwas Radio 90.8 is taking school education to the doorsteps of underprivileged students on the other side of digital divide, with no home internet access.

The Federal 2 Jan 2024

Volunteers spread awareness about financial literacy to women. Photo: PIB

A community radio station in Maharashtra’s Nashik district has been instrumental in the education of scores of underprivileged students who can’t afford smartphones. Radio Vishwas 90.8 has taken upon itself the responsibility to imparting quality education to about 60,000 students in the region.

Run by the Pune-based Vishwas Dnyan Prabodhini and Research Institute, the community radio’s core aim is to provide education to children for whom smartphones are the unattainable luxury. The institute was founded by Vinayak Vishwanath alias Appa Pendse in 1962 with the objective of fostering leadership development and education and, ultimately, changing the face of the nation.

Having branded itself as “an educational experiment for the intellectually gifted,” the institute has centres in Nigdi, Solapur, and Harali with sub-centres in Salumbre, Shivapur, and Velhe. It also has extension centres in Ambajogai, Dombivali, and Borivali.

Recordings broadcast for students

Zila Parishad schools and Municipal schools in Nashik district provide free education to students from Class 3 to Class 10. Thanks to the radio station, what is taught in these schools is on the airwave for the convenience of the students. According to the radio station director, H V Kulkarni, the lessons are streamed for 14 hours a day.

Audio lectures were aired and made accessible to all the students who study in Zila Parishad and Nashik Municipal schools. The programme was broadcast in various languages; Hindi, English, Marathi, and Sanskrit.

“The syllabus prepared by the government was recorded and broadcast without missing a single lesson. Teachers also distributed 451M devices with USB, Bluetooth, and high-end speakers to students in areas where there are no radios,” Kulkarni said.

The school lessons are available in different languages, like Marathi, Hindi, English, and Sanskrit. The lessons are recorded in a studio by around 150 teachers and later broadcast. A few surveys have shown that this has benefited students on the margins, who do not have television at their homes. Making it easily accessible to all makes it easier for many students to listen to the lessons at any point of time during the day.

Lessons according to the timetable

As part of the station’s programme to educate the masses, students attending classes from their homes are given a timetable in advance, just like those enrolled in regular schools. According to the station, lessons are taught daily and children take down the notes. Needless to say, it is very useful for children for whom digital devices are out of reach.

Teachers and students record lectures for ‘Education for All’ initiative. Photo: PIB

“These are the students who are trapped in poverty and cannot afford smartphones for their education. The ‘Shikshan Sarvansathi’ (Education for All) project was implemented with the help of 150 teachers who recorded lectures in our studio. The lectures were then aired according to the slots allocated to each subject. The programme received a huge response from the targeted community; approximately 50,000-60,000 students of municipal and Zila Parishad schools have benefited”, Kulkarni said.

The lessons were first recorded by the teachers of Zila Parishad Schools, who cater to the pupils in rural areas, many of whom come from the economically weaker sections. Later, the station reached out to the children in slums and villages. Vishwas Radio has also started uploading all these lessons on YouTube. Radio operators underline that this way students would be able to understand the lessons even when schools are shut.

The recognition

In recognition of its noble mission, the station was honoured with two national awards at the two-day regional radio conference in New Delhi in July last year.. The first prize in the ‘Sustainability’ category and the second prize in the ‘Thematic’ category were awarded by the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur to Radio Vishwas Center Director Hari Kulkarni and Coordinator Richita Thakur.

In 2021, it won the first prize in the ‘Sustainability Model Awards’ and the second prize in the Thematic Awards category for ‘Shikshan Sarvansathi’, which ‘was started in June 2020 to provide free education to students from Class 3-10 during the pandemic.

© The Federal website – January 2, 2024

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