BIHAR: Priyanka Kumari, 36, is neither a graduate in information technology nor has she received any formal education in digital education. She is a panchayat teacher in a government-run middle school of Sitamarhi in Bihar. She has mentored hundreds of woman teachers in rural government schools in the district in ‘digital empowerment’.
Besides being B.Ed, Priyanka holds masters in history and education. She joined the Malhatola Middle school at Parihar in Sitamarhi as a panchayat teacher in 2007. She persisted with her passion for discovering the digital space even after marriage. She trained herself in the basics and realised that the practical applications were a must for several women like her to become empowered in many ways.
“Creating emails and PPTs, handling social media, and understanding cyber security rules are most common features of digital space. But rural women were hardly aware of such facilities,” says Priyanka.
When Covid hit Sitamarhi badly in the first phase last year, it led to closure of schools amid a sudden lockdown. Priyanka saw an opportunity to educate women about the new, brave digital world. She formed a group and introduced woman teachers to make a fresh beginning in their lives. A smart phone was all that she needed.
“From July 2020, I started motivating and mentoring woman teachers of various government middle schools. I began with 20 teachers,” says Priyanka. She has so far mentored 250 woman teachers and others. Shivani Kumari, a teacher in Bathanaha middle school says: “Before I joined the digital empowerment initiative, I was using my smartphone only for making calls and sending messages on WhatsApp. After some online training, I am now able to create emails and handle my social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. I am also aware of cyber security tips, do online transactions and attend Zoom meetings,” says Shivani.
Ditto for Madhu Kumari, another panchayat teacher at Yogabana Middle School in Sitamarhi. “I was almost zero in digital knowledge till July 2020. Thanks to Priyanka, who has mentored me like a social activist, I am now hands-on with all online works,” she says. When a woman teacher joins Priyanka, she is administered an oath for promoting the acquired digital skills among other women.
She is now the household name in Sitamarhi and whenever any new digital initiative is launched by the department of education, she is the most sought after name. “Teachers are in constant touch with me and whenever there is any new programme, they request me to organize classes for them,” she said. “In the new technology-driven era, women need to be not only educationally capable but also digitally. A digitally-aware woman can educate more people in the hinterland and get knowledge of benefits of many schemes, which have been launched by the government,” says Priyanka.