A Mastermind with a Purpose

Bridging the gap between educational systems through technology

Here is Tanya, an eleventh grader aiming to bridge the gap between educational systems through technology. In conversation with Radhika Ramesh, the young innovator talks about her novel idea and the challenges that come with it.

It started as a matter of curiosity when 14-year-old Tanya Elizabeth Ken was intrigued by the world of technology, and fascinated by the concept of ethical hacking, brought it up with her parents while in her 8th grade. With their help, Tanya continued to carry out her research on the topic of cyber security – its concept and key factors, as her aim is to become a cyber-security architect. “I realized that to achieve my goal, I needed to learn programming. Hence, I went on to learn C and C++. My teachers saw my interest in programming and persuaded me to participate in the Technovation Challenge,” says Tanya. The Technovation Challenge is a global competition held in the US, for the past seven to eight years. She won the first place in Technovation Challenge 2019. The challenge aims at solving real world problems through technology. Tanya is currently the student ambassador of the competition and is responsible for making girl students aware of the same.

Soon, she also discovered the issue she could address: the gap between educational systems, mainly in terms of mentoring. Coming from one of the top schools in the city, Tanya believed that she could create an app to bridge that gap. She teamed with her classmates and created Lakshyashala, a learning app used to help students from underpriveleged communities. “Schools must no more be a Pathashala (place for learning), they must be a Lakshyashala (a place with a purpose or an aim). The app is all about engaging students through career and beyond through mentoring,” adds Tanya, who conducts workshops across these schools to spread the word.

“This move has been a great experience and learning for me and my team,” she adds. Lakshyashala’s primary objective of working towards a career, features peer-learning modules and skill-developing modules and foregrounds equality in education.

It wasn’t a smooth road from the start, though. Her initial journey of balancing team Lakshyalaya and schoolwork was not easy. However, she left no stone unturned. “My parents, technical team and associates have only made my work-life balance easier for me,” states Tanya. She usually plans her sessions with Lakshyashala during weekends and makes sure she concentrates on her education just as much with an organised weekly schedule she strictly adheres to.

Being a minor, Tanya cannot become the director of the initiative. Hence, she concentrates on marketing and social media. Tanya’s Lakshyashala has however, delivered unbelievably. The team has catered to more than 500 students from the backward communities and is growing gradually. After a successful year, Lakshyashala is emerging stronger than ever. More than 100 girl students are encouraged to take part in the Technovation Challenge and are learning more about technology. Lakshyashala sent out three teams of girls this year to the Global Technovation Challenge where 57 countries participated. One of the teams comprised two students from Paadhai, a home for destitute, joined by another student from a top city school.

Tanya has been closely associated with Paadhai for 10 months. Paadhai is a home for underprivileged girls coming from broken or abusive families. The NGO takes care of the children’s basic needs including education and heathcare until their career opportunities open up.

Tanya understands that she only need facilitate the process, and the ideas will come forth: “Given the opportunity, students are capable of understanding and bridging the gap themselves. I am here to guide and support them towards the execution of their concerned project,” she adds. Lakshyalaya collaborates with various NGOs to reach children in their communities and offers career support.

In the spirit of inclusion, Tanya continues to push ahead with this project, as well as her other student responsibilities, making waves in the world of education.

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