Wonder and awe filled the eyes of children crammed into his apartment neighboring an urban slum in Kolkata, India as Paul Javid showed his bright-eyed students National Geographic on his small TV for the first time. Javid, son of Mona CEO, Mahnaz Javid, and Co-Founder of Cody Inc., has been involved with Mona since the beginning. His path to India and involvement with Digital Study Hall grew out of an interest in development and exposure to international issues from a young age.
Digital Study Hall (DSH) began as an effort to improve education for poor children in India. Co-founders Randy Wang, a technologist, and educational professional Dr. Urvashi Sahni understood education in India and had the drive to make it happen, Javid said.
DSH, often described as Netflix meets Youtube on a dirt floor, records live classes and then distributes DVDs to poor and rural areas. Teachers learn to mediate the lessons and the classes become interactive. The program brings quality education to classrooms otherwise lacking access and resources.
Javid first heard about DSH through Wang at the University of Washington and soon thereafter found himself living in India for a year, developing a second hub for DSH between Lucknow and Kolkata.
“My work was two-fold,” Javid said. “Finding a really good school to create and capture content and finding the rural pilot schools that would actually use and consume the content.”
Working closely with Dr. Sahni while in Kolkata, Javid said getting things done was a particularly difficult aspect of his work. It took 10 times as long as it would back home to get anywhere, organize anything, hire anyone or find a teacher.
“It was one of these things, where things were hard but also really special, Javid said. “You didn’t really feel the extra effort because once you got to the finish line it just felt so special.”
Javid said he would often see children from the nearby slum working around his apartment. After speaking with the children Javid invited them to his apartment for English lessons. The kids had never seen a TV so Javid turned National Geographic on for his students one day.
“Their minds were blown because they’d never seen outside their own world, let alone these natural wonders,” Javid said.
After returning home from India, Paul shared his experiences with his mom, Mahnaz Javid, building a bridge between the Mona Foundation and DSH. Mona began supporting DSH in 2008, providing over 460 girls with scholarships.
Javid said people who believe in the importance of educating women should help DSH because of the mission and powerful woman making it happen. Along with educating women in a country still very male-oriented and dominated, Dr. Sanhi epitomizes everything Mona stands for. She is a strong powerful woman, looking to make a change for the better through the power of education.
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Strategic Communications Intern