I joined Samagra on 15 July. After a week-long orientation, I was told I will be a part of the Samarth team, which works with the Government of Himachal Pradesh to improve learning levels of students across classes I to VIII. I was excited and looking forward to discovering what it would mean to work with the government on a daily basis.
My first week as part of the Samarth team began with the preparations for an event that would see the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Mr Jai Ram Thakur, launch two tech products developed by Samagra in collaboration with the state government. The Chief Minister launched the Shiksha Saathi App, meant to strengthen the school monitoring system, and e-Samwad, meant to increase parent involvement, in front of a gathering of over 150 attendees and members of the press in a grand fashion at the Peterhoff Hotel in Shimla on 30th July. This milestone marks another pioneering step taken by the Himachal government in its endeavour to leverage technology to bring about educational transformation in the state.
As the team tirelessly worked to ensure the event took place without a glitch, I did not fully understand the magnitude of what the event meant for the Samarth team or why it marks a significant leap towards achieving the overarching vision of improving the learning levels of students in the state.
The e-Samwad app will allow teachers to send regular SMSs to parents about student performance, thereby increasing parent awareness and involvement in their child’s education.
During the event, when the Chief Minister launched the app with the press of a button, over 10,000 SMSs were sent to everyone present in the venue along with parents in Mandi district–where the app was piloted. At that moment, the happiness I saw on the faces of my team members as well as government stakeholders who had worked relentlessly to make these applications a reality in the past few months made me realize the significance of the happenings of that day.
Besides the thrill of seeing the phones of all attendees collectively buzzing to receive the SMS, the highlight of the day was the Chief Minister’s speech. He candidly spoke about his experience of travelling 18 kms everyday to study at a government school in Himachal. He conceded that the challenge of access to education even in a hilly state like Himachal has been solved through expansion of schools; however, efforts now need to be focused on ensuring that government schools deliver quality education at par with private schools. He lauded the initiatives taken by the education department to use technology to improve learning levels of students and cultivate greater interest in learning. He explicitly appreciated the location functionality of the Shiksha Saathi App, which will be used by education officials on their monitoring and mentoring visits to 15,000+ schools across the state to capture observations. Officers will only be allowed to submit an evaluation when they are present at the school being monitored, thus bringing in greater accountability. It was heartening and validating to see congruence between the Chief Minister and Samarth’s vision for the future of the state’s education system.
The success of this event marked the culmination of months of persistent hard work, meticulous planning, accounting for all possible contingencies and collaboration with the Department of Education.
As I begin my professional journey, it was exhilarating to be part of an event at this scale. Not just because it involved the Chief Minister of the state, but the far reaching impact the launch of the two apps will have. The experience reaffirmed my belief in governance as a lever to bring about systemic change and I am convinced I have landed at the right place to fulfill my goal of creating large scale impact in the lives of citizens.
I left the venue that day with a sense of determination to keep the momentum going and taking Samarth to even greater heights in order to achieve the objective of improving the learning levels of government school students across the state.