“I committed myself, that day, to the exploration of education. Whether it be rich or poor, young or old, smart or slow, enthusiastic or uninterested, each human deserves a chance at a fascinating, empowering, enlightening education. Each of us deserves the light-bulb moment in which we realize our strength, what we excel at, and how we can use that to benefit the world around us.” – lines from Shabnam Aggarwal’s blog
What is the objective of The Teach Tour?
The objective of The Teach Tour is to uncover how and why we failed to educate children worldwide and the way I do that is by talking to as many people on ground as possible.
Why did you embark on such a crazy journey?
I was in Hyderabad co-founding and working for a company called MILLEE. At MILLEE, we were developing educational games on low cost mobile platforms for children in rural India. I was selected for the fellowship at the Unreasonable Institute and I went to the institute with the intention of creating a business model for MILLEE.
What happened at the institute was, I met incredible people and through my conversations with them, I started to realize that, trying to find a business model for MILLEE is perhaps not the right thing for me to do. Taking into account the failure of projects like one-laptop-per-child which had incredible minds behind it, technology didn’t seem to be the sole answer to the problem. I realised that good projects like one-laptop-per-child failed because they haven’t thought through the issues that exist in the low income markets. With that observation, I decided to embark on this journey, to find out what the low income teachers want, what the children want and what other people who implemented projects for low income schools are troubled with.
If we all have similar challenges and similar troubles then we can work together and collaborate more often as opposed to competing against one another, so as to bring education to 72 million children who didn’t have access to education before and even bring quality education to millions more who go to school but don’t receive quality education.
How did you get funded?
It took me a little while to get funded. But to get funding really relies on your network. I know everyone says that, but, it is so true. Because the funders who decide to fund you, are not actually funding your idea and what they actually care about is the person. I have known my funders for over a year now. We have been working in the same office in Hyderabad. I didn’t need funding when I first met them and so the relationship grew without any expectations. Then when I finally decided to go on this tour, they were really excited about it and wanted to fund it.
How do you document your observations?
Apart from my own blog, I also blog for my funder’s website which is enterprisingschools.com and then there is something called the conversation mapping which happens on my blog as well as on the ground. All the research I do is completely open-source.
What are your biggest challenges?
Right now, I really need to find a partner who is interested in this tour, education, writing and research. I had a partner before but it didn’t really workout. Secondly, connecting with as many people as possible in India and Africa so as to get as many perspectives as possible has been challenging.
What are your most significant learnings so far during this journey?
I have learnt that technology will never be the end game, it can only be a means to an end. We cannot and should not ever try to cut out human beings from the equation to reduce poverty. We will only make advancements when we determine how to empower the people with tools such as confidence, empathy and humanity.
What will The Teach Tour culminate into?
It is kind of undetermined at the moment. What I was thinking is that The Teach Tour could be like IDEO, but, specifically for education at the base of the pyramid.
What kind of support are you looking for?
The partnership that I have with my funders doesn’t fully cover costs. So I am looking for more funders to come on board. Also, I love hearing from more and more people about what their experiences in education sector have been.
Explore Shabnam’s world http://theteachtour.com/ Join the conversation and spread the word.
Note: Shabnam is putting a pause on the tour for a while so that she can go back to the United States to work on partnerships and funding for the Africa, Nepal and Bangladesh parts of the tour. The next half of the tour will begin around July 2011.
And if you think you have what it takes to partner with Shabnam on The Teach Tour, write to her at [email protected]