Bastar, a district of Chhattisgarh, is a region that is witnessing the dawn of technological advancements. Through the efforts of Amazon India and the district administration of Bastar, technology is being introduced to schools and children are given the opportunity to embrace it at a very early age.
To make the students of Bastar aware of various careers that exist in tech industry, Amazon India organized Class Chats, which attracted participation from 9,839 students and 994 teachers from 87 schools in the district.
Introducing Class Chats in schools
Class Chats is "Amazon in the Community’s" flagship volunteering initiative to bring Amazon employees inside school classrooms to talk about various careers that exists in tech industry. This is done through a virtual mode to deliver an insightful career talk. This helps students better understand what opportunities exists in tech industry, what it’s like to work in this sector and what it takes to get there. Amazonians offer free and interactive Class Chats to students who otherwise face barriers in accessing this information..
The Class Chats program in Bastar comes on the heels of schools reopening, which were shut since the pandemic began. The Bastar administration felt that they could leverage the ongoing partnership with Amazon to give students an exposure of varied career choices through the Class Chats initiative.
Collaboration between Amazon, the local government, administrators, nodal officers, and school principals made it possible for this large-scale intervention. The local administration and partners helped in coordinating with schools, setting up necessary infrastructure like projectors, and testing internet connectivity in rural areas.
In line with Amazon’s obsession to deliver top class customer experience, Class Chats volunteers invest a lot of time preparing their presentations and undergoing coaching to provide students an engaging experience. In the case of Bastar Class Chats, the volunteers Ami Sampat - Sr. VUI Designer - Alexa International, Hemant Pandey, Sr. Technical Acct Mgr (INDIA) _ AWS Enterprise Support, Anand Goud, Product Manager - Prod Dev, Benefits Operations Services, Nishant Prakash, Manager - CX and Product Insights, Alexa International and Utkarsh Mehrotra, Data Engineer Intern , Music Technology put in extra efforts to understand what information might be most relevant to the students in the district and each of these volunteers customized the Class Chats experience to address those specific needs.
Helping students think clearly about careers
Jenis Chand, Teacher, Govt. Girls Higher Secondary School, Lohandiguda, Chhattisgarh says, “The session helped the students think clearly about their education and career goals and to start working towards achieving them.” Children were given an opportunity to interact with Amazon’s Class Chats volunteers and quiz them about their job roles. This provided them an insight into the volunteers’ journey of becoming a part of Amazon’s workforce. “I like Maths, and now through this program, I know more about opportunities that exist for me to pursue careers in the STEM field, " said a student of SAGES School, Bastar, after this inteaction.
Role models for women in tech
The girl students especially listened intently to Ami Sampat from the Alexa India team, as she narrated her journey of making it in the world of tech as a woman. Lacking role models in their own neighborhoods, young girls from the rural areas are often forced to discontinue their education. Especially for these girls, watching and listening to a woman in tech from Amazon was an inspiration and an acknowledgment that "girls can pursue any career they desire."
“The information about gender equality at Amazon and scholarship opportunities (AFE India Scholarships) for girls pursuing computer science education was very motivating to hear for all the girl students in our school,” says Savita Nair, Teacher, SAGES School, Bastar. Adds student Akansha Kumari, SAGES School, Bastar, “I realized the need for and importance of having mentors who through their experiences and life journey can guide students like me who are just starting their careers.”
Sailing through the COVID-19 pandemic
It is not the first time that Amazon India has done such a large-scale intervention in the region. The company has been making strides to bridge the technology gap for children in rural and underserved communities. In 2020, the education system in Bastar saw an unprecedented setback due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. One of the solutions implemented by Bastar administration was to introduce Alexa devices to 1000+ government schools. The teachers were able to successfully conduct unimpeded lectures and mohalla classes during the pandemic lockdowns and employ Alexa as a learning aide both in and beyond the classroom.
Alexa as teaching aids
Alexa devices are used not just as teaching aids but are also used to create more interactive and engaging classrooms with features such as blueprints and routines. The students also expressed how they turned to Alexa for questions that they were hesitant to ask their teachers or parents.
Amazon India with the help Alexa has been working in Bastar since 2020 to introduce technology to schools in the district. With active participation and support from the Bastar administration, the Alexa team has an ongoing partnership in 1,100 schools in the district reaching 42,000 students and 12,000 teachers.
Bringing tech education to students who lack access
Amazon is also supporting Computer Science education in more than 900 government schools in seven states across India under its Amazon Future Engineer Program. Since its launch in September 2021, the program has been able to reach more than 1.18 lakh students with Computer Science Exploration and Learning activities. Class Chats is one of the many offerings under Amazon Future Engineer through which students get to explore the world of computer science. AFE also offers 200 scholarships each year to meritorious students from low-income backgrounds to support their education in computer science and related fields.
Amazon India believes that technology can forge deeper connections, making India a well-connected potpourri of diverse cultures and communities that thrives on digital advancements and innovations. The Amazon Class Chats program aims to continue to bridge the digital divide in other underserved regions of India by collaborating with the schools, non-profits, and governmental agencies to empower children from marginalized communities.