Recently we discovered a pioneering way in which Skype helps children develop communication skills and learn English: Right To Learn provides learning support for children from challenged backgrounds. While the organization may be relatively small, the positive impact they make on these children’s lives is immeasurable.
Right To Learn provides computer training, life skills, reading and writing skills—all for free.
We caught up with their founder, Malaysia-based Yans Ganghadaran, and found out more about the innovative ways that the organization uses Skype as a tool for education:
“We are a small, but effective, non-profit center helping children from ages 6 to 16 to get on the learning track and enjoy school.”
Yans explains how volunteer teachers use Skype to teach the children:
“A pre-school teacher does phonetics to teach children to read in our classrooms. We then arrange each child to have Skype reading sessions with volunteers so they have an opportunity to read outside the classroom.”
While talking to Yans, one of the interesting things we found was that the lessons are in no way encouraging children to read perfect “Queen’s English”. This is about reading naturally, being able to understand various accents and also to build rapport with people while communicating.
Yans also tells us how lots of children are benefitting from their work—thanks to volunteers.
“The gap between distances and time difference is no longer restrictive with this medium. It has broken down borders for those wanting to do something for education, or just give back to society from affluent countries to poorer countries. Now everyone can volunteer. I have people from Albania who have been eager to volunteer and we are still working out the time difference and a suitable schedule.”
One question we had was how communicating via a computer screen affects the personal interaction between teacher and student:
“At first they are intimidated. Getting on a computer, let alone social media, is a daunting task for children from low incomes, shelter homes or orphanages — as is the case of children in our care. But as time goes by, they build a rapport with their tutor. The interaction not only helps them with reading, but it builds their confidence.”
While Yans’ experience with teaching on Skype is limited, it is more than clear what Right To Learn has achieved so far. Take the story of seven-year-old Krisha Logen from Malaysia. Krisha couldn’t read or write English at all, only speaking Tamil because her parents were unable to afford a pre-school education for her. With two younger siblings and Krisha’s grandmother to care for, their combined monthly income of S$840 just wouldn’t stretch to anything extra.
That’s where Singaporean based Ms Jayashree Velupillai came in to volunteer to teach Krisha every weekend over Skype. Jayashree says of the experience:
“These kids, I do not think they have enough support, so that inspired me to stick with it. They are like my children and just like I wouldn’t give up on my own children, I won’t give up on them.”
Yans also shares another story of a young girl called Kavinna who, due to a childhood illness, was slow in speech.
“Kavinna came up to me and in her gentle way asked me why she didn’t have a “Skype teacher” and was it because she was not a “fast talker.” That made me laugh and cry at the same time — she uses Skype with my daughter who lives in London now.”
Yans admits that there is still a lot of growth potential for Right to Learn:
“I am currently working on a video by the children in the Skype reading program requesting a Skype pal of the same age in a different country in much the same fashion as a pen pal. It is a work in progress. I should have it up on my Facebook page later this month. The objective is to find someone who they can talk to and relate to — learn about how children their age are doing in another country.”
If you’d like to volunteer, why not enquire on Right To Learn’s Facebook page by dropping them a message? In the meantime, we wish Yans all the best of luck with her amazing work.
Got a Skype story? We’d love to hear it. Just tag us #Skype on social media.