Education Chennai

Class 12 student on a mission

Gunisha Aggarwal (centre) gives a gadget to a student; her sister Arshita Aggarwal is by her side Photo: special arrangement  

In September, when online classes began for Sangeetha. R, a first-year commerce student at D.G. Vaishnav College, she relied on her elder sister’s smartphone to attend them.

It was an inconvenient arrangement, particularly for the elder sister — who is married and lives near Sangeetha’s home — to give her kid sister the smartphone in the morning and collect it in the evening. On days when Sangeetha had homework to do, she would wait for hours before returning home with her smartphone.

This arrangement came to an end when their mother, a sweeper at an office, learnt about Help E-Learning Programme (HELP) started by Gunisha Aggarwal, a Class 12 student of Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan School — Nungambakkam.

HELP provides smartphones to underprivileged school and college students to help them attend their online classes. One of the beneficiaries of this two-month-old programme, Sangeetha says, “I never expected to own a smartphone. My father is an auto-rickshaw driver and we can’t afford even a basic smartphone.”

Gunisha gave serious thought to taking up this work when her mother Vaneeta Aggarwal gave a spare laptop to their housemaid’s daughter so that she could attend online classes. The fact that she would be helping bridge the digital divide in her own small way was the deciding factor.

Also read: School for underprivileged children takes a big leap to tackle the digital divide

“To further the objectives of HELP, a website, www.helpchennai.org, has been developed. Through this site, people can express their interest in donating their spare laptops, tablets or smartphones. Besides, students can place a request seeking a device. We seek details like the names of the student, school or college, parents’ occupation and family income. People can also volunteer with HELP, which includes checking and servicing the gadgets that we collect. So far, HELP has reached out to 10 students and received 250 requests in the past few days. The response for donation of devices is also good. So far, we have received 50 gadgets,” says Gunisha, daughter of Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal, Commissioner, Greater Chennai City Police.

Reports of how youngsters are struggling to get smartphones to attend online classes are said to be driving people to support the HELP initiative.

There are two incidents that are particularly gripping. L. Samuel, a 16-year-old from Kodungaiyur who had completed Class 10, was found cleaning a stormwater drain near Koyambedu market so that he could earn some money towards buying smartphone to attend online classes. The Pulianthope and Anna Nagar police provided him with a tablet.

In another incident, a 13-year-old schoolboy was lured by a criminal gang into phone-snatching. While trying to snatch a mobile phone from a truck driver, he was caught and handed over to the police. When questioned by the Thiruvottiyur police, the juvenile cited the need for a mobile to attend online classes as what drove him to the criminal act. Later, the Thiruvottiyur police gifted him a smartphone.

The Rotary Club of Chennai Towers has supported HELP by providing it with 100 new tablets. The initiative has also reached out to 82 students at Seva Chakkra, an orphanage in Choolai.

“My elder sister, Arshita Aggarwal, a law graduate, also supports this cause by identifying needy students and connecting us with non-governmental organisations. We are also planning to approach teachers of schools run by the Greater Chennai Corporation,” says Gunisha.

HELP can be reached at 99403 48747; or write to support@ helpchennai.org


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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 12:03:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/class-12-student-on-a-mission/article32879326.ece

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