Vancouver Charity Asks Students to “Search for Jugaad”
For the winner, a contest held by The Walking School Bus will end in a cash prize and a free expedition to India
News / January 23, 2018
KPU students with innovative ideas for making education more accessible abroad could soon be headed to India with $1,000 in their pocket.
The Walking School Bus, a charity founded by Aaron Friedland, has launched a contest called “Search for Jugaad”, which encourages young and bright students to submit their best ideas for how to make education more accessible in Africa and India. A colloquial Hindi term, “jugaad” can be interpreted as “an innovative fix or an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness,” according to the group’s website.
Those who enter the contest are expected to submit an elevator pitch of their idea, which must pertain to improving access to education and should consider the charity’s pre-existing projects. The winner will receive a cash prize, a mentorship, and a trip to India to work with the Walking School Bus team this April.
Aaron Friedland was a first-year student at McGill the first time he went to Uganda. There, he quickly noticed how long the schoolchildren in that country had to commute to get to school, often making multiple kilometre-long treks or hitchhiking their way to class. Friedland started the Walking School Bus to help improve the education system in these areas, adopting a research-backed approach to the organization that has now led to the creation of several initiatives such as solar powered classrooms and the school bus itself, which transports students to and from class every day.
“When I was in the classrooms, something that routinely reverberated in my mind and that I could just not stop thinking about was that if I had grown up in that community, had I grown up in that school … I definitely wouldn’t have made it to high school,” says Friedland.
Growing up, he suffered from dyslexia, but Friedland is now pursuing his doctorate degree at UBC.
“I think a big part of the drive later on to develop these solar powered classrooms and provide access to this more robust education was selfish,” he says. “[I] was thinking about how I would have been in these communities and thinking about what we could actually do to improve this situation.”
The expedition to India is optional for the winners of the contest. If they choose to go on the trip, they will be working with development practitioners, educators, students, professionals, and researchers on the ground in Uttarakhand, Northern India to bring their idea and WSB’s other projects to life. Right now, youth in the communities there walk between five and six kilometres per day to get to class through uneven terrain. The expedition team will be working in a total of three schools, one of which will only receive a water catchment system.
Friedland says that students who are interested should be taking “20 minutes to four hours and writing their idea down and submitting it.” Two years ago, he submitted his idea to the Next Einstein Contest without expecting to hear back, but won the prestigious award and accepted it from Anderson Cooper in Toronto shortly after. He notes that the same thing could happen to a KPU student.
“I think there are a lot of students who are thinking, ‘I don’t have a good idea,’ or they’re suffering from a little bit of imposter syndrome and they’re thinking, ‘my ideas aren’t valuable or they’re not worthy,’” says Friedland. “I think that 90 per cent of the work is thinking of a good idea, and everyone I know has a list of good ideas on their cell phones or that they keep somewhere. If any of those ideas can improve how people are accessing education or nutrition or curriculum, let us know, because we can use that as well.”