Age is no marker for learning, or even when it comes to imparting education. A true proponent of this philosophy is 16-year-old Arushi Aggarwal hailing from Haryana, who provides free and quality education to underprivileged children in the remote parts of Bihar.
Arushi is a Class 11 student at New Jersey’s West Windsor Plainsboro High School. Previously, her education was in Bengaluru.
A young and enterprising student, Arushi has always been passionate about using her skills to help others. Although she has a keen interest in all her subjects, Arushi has a soft spot for Computer Science.
Arushi was in Class 7 when she joined her first robotics team, and came to realise the significance and opportunities that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) offers. During this stint, she imbibed several lessons from her mentors who steered her towards her goal of imparting quality education in India.
In fact, the same robotics team she was a part of, made it to the World Championships in Detroit, Michigan.
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“This experience opened my eyes to the lack of female representation in STEM. After talking to mentors and connecting with the girls at the competition, I learned that a reason for this is (lack of) confidence. Many students don’t have the confidence to try something new,” Arushi has told the media.
This realisation encouraged her to start an initiative called Unknown16 that provides students with online resources and opportunities, to help them instil confidence in themselves. Unknown 16 works closely with NGOs to help them develop their curriculum, and Arushi frequently takes classes and spreads awareness about STEM as a career.
The vision of Unknown16
When Arushi launched her initiative, she also created programming curriculums so that she could distribute them to NGOs that could be later used to teach students.
“As I was reaching out to NGOs, I came across someone from the Lahanti club, a youth collective from Bihar, who enquired and told us that they have students who want to learn to programme. However, the challenge was that the children didn’t know how to speak in English,” she shared with a media publication.
She wanted to help them out, and so Arushi spent her weekends teaching English to these students through Skype. Not that this journey was not fraught with challenges – there were issues when it came to providing them with internet access, computers, and space for the children to learn.
Arushi also established computer labs in four villages – Naiadih, Kumbadih, Govindpur and Jabardah of Nawadi Panchayat, Chakai Block, Jamui, Bihar. The classes for the students from Grade 1-12 are held every weekend in the morning. Besides, Arushi has also raised over $1500 in donations from a Gofundme page and some more with Lahanti’s help.
The duration of these classes is one hour, and Arushi teaches English using the names of everyday objects from their houses. Her learning centres teach over 300 children across four villages.
On her future plans, Arushi has said, “I want to pursue a major in Computer Science and wish to address environmental issues with the help of technology. I also want to start my own company some day.”
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(Edited by Athira Nair)
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