In 2021, Digital Promise and Ciena launched the Ciena Solutions Challenge, a global design challenge inviting middle and high school students to design solutions that address the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals within their communities. This blog post is part of a series in which educators from around the world share their experiences facilitating the Ciena Solutions Challenge with students. Featured below are lessons from educator Poonam Gupta who facilitated the Yugma student project team at City Pride School in Pune, India.
Our students started their Ciena Solutions Challenge journey by brainstorming topics related to the Sustainable Development Goals in order to come up with our big idea: reducing inequalities. From here, the group decided to work on making a difference in the lives of children with special needs. We reached out to the management team at ZEP Rehabilitation Centre, a school dedicated to students with special needs, located approximately 5 kilometers from our school, and they readily agreed to collaborate.
To understand the various challenges their ZEP Rehabilitation Centre peers face, our students conducted extensive interviews and surveys with stakeholders at ZEP Rehabilitation Centre, such as teachers, parents, doctors, and counselors. They learned that children with disabilities face stigma and are often rejected by society and parents. In addition, they discovered that there are few learning tools available in Marathi, the vernacular language. Parents of students with special needs are often worried about their future and ability to earn a livelihood. Further, society gives “lip sympathy,” but at the same time, keeps these students at arm’s length.
Considering our limited resources, we developed a focused action plan:
Our materialistic society has made us individualistic. The art of sharing and giving has been the ultimate aim of my life. Through their involvement in the Yugma project, our student team at City Pride School developed a stronger interest and commitment to working in partnership to improve the lives of students with disabilities.
As for me, I knew the dictionary meaning of the word “empathy,” but this journey has resulted in real soul searching. Technology has to be harnessed for the good of humankind and I hope that in the future, more people will continue to find ways to use it for positive social impact. Our history and mythology is full of stories about love and compassion and I feel that our small baby step has made our own project team’s lives more meaningful and fulfilling.