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The day after Solve Challenge Finals, eight individuals from all across the world sat huddled with coffees and a shot of inspiration on a cold New York morning, sharing the stories of the journeys that led us to that very room. We had just been selected as the new Teachers & Educators Solver class, and our orientation session was nothing short of invigorating, lighting a spark in each of us.
It was humbling to see that while we came from different countries and different backgrounds, our stories were similar, deeply rooted in our personal experiences. Yet we were all working towards a common goal: creating affordable, accessible, high-quality resources to educate our children.
My Story: How Stories Can Transform a Child
Personally, my mother has always stood up for me and for what is right. Growing up, this gave me the utmost confidence to be—and do—what I wanted. It also made me wonder what part I could play in making sure that every child lived her life with the same sense of security and confidence.
I’ve worked with Pratham Books, a unique nonprofit children’s book publishing house, whose mission is to put a book in every child’s hand, for 12 years now. I know that most underserved children are first generation readers and don’t have access to quality education.
Even more troubling is that their parents are often not equipped to help empower their children's learning. To support these children, we need to entrust this responsibility to their next circle of influence, their teachers, and give these teachers all the support they need.
This is why I am excited to lead the StoryWeaver platform for Pratham Books. StoryWeaver’s innovative publishing model addresses the inequality that exists globally—not enough children’s books, in not enough languages, with issues of poor access and affordability.
The platform provides open access to a large repository of storybooks, and has tools that allow the content to be translated and versioned to suit local needs. StoryWeaver has stories in tribal and endangered languages, and stories on overcoming domestic violence, civil rights, and STEM, which inspire children to learn effectively and dream big.
StoryWeaver puts the power in the hands of teachers to use, create, and adapt reading resources that help transform children.
Their Stories: Seven Inspiring Solutions
Carlos Pereira’s 11-year-old daughter, Clara, has cerebral palsy, making it impossible for her to walk or speak. Carlos spent a lot of time educating himself about his daughter’s disability. From there on, he built a series of services for people with disabilities. One of them is Livox, a software for Android tablets that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence that enables people with speech-related disabilities to communicate up to 20 times faster.
Having migrated from Korea to London, Heejae Lim understood the challenges faced by migrant parents. She founded TalkingPoints, an education technology nonprofit with a mission to make it easy for any parent to be actively engaged in their child’s education. The multilingual communication platform allows parents to communicate with teachers across language barriers.
Melissa Corto grew up with a special needs sibling and having worked extensively in the space, she knew that technology could aid special educators in effective teaching to improve results. She founded Education Modified to empower teachers with the latest research-based instructional strategies to effectively implement students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEP).
Passionate about seeing hands-on education manifest around the world, Heather Beem moved from her base in Boston to Ghana to start Practical Education Network, an organization that equips West African STEM teachers to employ inquiry-based pedagogies in their classrooms, using low-cost, locally-available materials.
Priya Lakhani founded Century Tech as a way to solve the crisis levels of student underachievement and teacher workload burden in the UK. Century is an educational platform that provides personalized learning for students, leveling the playing field by improving learning outcomes for all users. It empowers teachers with the right tools to deliver meaningful education.
Rudolph Ampofo went through the complete cycle of the Ghanaian education system, throughout which he always felt that he and his peers had limited access to education resources. Rudolph currently leads Eneza Education Ghana, an organization working towards improving access to quality and affordable educational resources by leveraging SMS, USSD, and web applications.
When she was 20 years old, Audrey Cheng moved to Kenya to work in venture capital. She quickly noticed that most tech experts in Kenya were self-taught, while many university IT grads could not find jobs. She realized that universities taught outdated skills that did not match the needs of companies, so she founded Moringa School to provide young Africans with in-demand digital skills to advance their careers.
The Story We Wish to Write
Each one of us Solver teams are inspired to do what we do because of our unique experiences. We left the Solver orientation session with not only a fresh view of our work, but also with new ideas, theories, plans, and designs to work towards our common goal: supporting the valuable resources that educate our children.
So, as the year progresses, we hope to partner to work towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
A child reads a book on the StoryWeaver platform. (Photo: Pratham Books)