A new app called Taleemabad is bridging the gap of students overlooked by traditional schooling in Pakistan. While 51% of people in the country are expected to own smartphones by 2020, only 52% of children can read a simple sentence by the time they reach secondary education. Even in areas with no electricity supply, people bring phones to local mosques to charge their phones on mosque generators. Because of this, Haroon Yasin, founder of the Orenda Project, created the app with the children he saw struggling in Pakistan’s slums in mind. He believed that he could reach the impoverished children he saw while traveling through Pakistan, and conjectured that even though traditional education failed, a partial education using smartphones was possible.
“We began to see this as a terrific opportunity to put out the work that we did, and that’s how Orenda was born four years ago to digitise the natural curriculum, applying all of the things that we learned as teachers, despite being reluctant technologists,” says Yasin.
As some children don’t know their native language well enough to proceed to higher-level skills, Taleemabad offers basic numeracy and literacy skills, essentially creating an opportunity to learn for children starting from zero.
The app boasts over 100,000 users in Pakistan, many of whom are based in Pakistan’s poorest regions, like the Inner Sindh. The app teaches writing, identification, vocabulary, spelling, and phonics of English and Urdu along with math skills (counting, writing, addition, subtraction, concepts, and shapes), as well as general knowledge of plants, animals, social skills, family, and "common sense."
Yasin has also joined the Malala fund, the charitable organization founded by Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai to increase educational equality. When the Taliban controlled much of northwestern Pakistan, girls were forbidden from attending school, and according to Human Rights Watch, 3.5 million Pakistani children do not attend school, 85% of them being girls. An education app like Taleemabad may reach children who have slipped through the cracks of the education system.