Yameen Ahmad and his university friend Syed Naimul Hossain used to discuss the inequality of education in high-need communities, during their tea breaks, between classes. After graduating, their paths diverged, but their shared concern and a dream to do something about it remained intact.
Fast forward a couple of years, Naimul found himself in a software development company working with tech for social development, while Yameen started his fellowship in an educational non-profit organisation.
Yameen's experience of working in run-of-the-mill schools gave him a different perspective on education in Bangladesh.
"I think my daily experience and struggles working in schools gave a lot of context to different problems," Yameen said. "Lack of resources, internet, infrastructure - is among many hurdles that hinder education at the grassroots level," he added.
Teach it was founded by Naimul, Yameen, and Tahmid to help students attain quality education. They began their journey with a computer literacy programme for underprivileged students. "We wanted to change the status quo, if they don't have computers - let's get computers and if they don't have internet, let's manage that as well," Yameen said.
"The Idea of Teach It came at a later stage when we realised that we need to make a sustainable impact in the education system," he added.
"We wanted to establish a platform where teachers and students can learn and share skills among themselves - where teaching is incentivised and where parents are not overburdened with the cost of education," Naimul added.
Open the Teach It website, a swiping tab invites students to start learning - with an introduction of the instructors. "I am Asima Tasnim, your grade five math tutor. Come and join our classes to learn in a fun way," reads the bio.
Teach It has a pool of instructors who take live classes through the Teach It platform. Teach it currently is providing free National Curriculum based education for Grade five students.
So how does Teach It function? We asked.
"It's simple. A student can register on our website with their Google or Facebook account. Just log in and one can avail the lessons for free," explains Naimul. Some lessons are also uploaded on YouTube.
However, Teach It does not plan to confine itself to Bangla medium curriculum lessons. Due to the pandemic, their plan to grow has been hindered. But Yameen and Naimul are hopeful to cover more grounds in e-learning.
"We want to start lessons for GRE, GMAT, and similar higher education-related lessons in the future. Besides, we want to cover more lessons for soft skills development," Yameen said. Teach It already has a series of soft skill learning videos."
Currently, five sections of lessons are available on the platform. Bangla medium grade five, technology, arts, school support, and university support.
The sections span from art tutorials to preliminary guitar lessons. "Want to brush up your MS Excel skill? We have some lessons on it as well," said Yameen.
Teach It was one of the top startups of Banglalink IT Incubator 2.0 and was one of the top nine startups of Youth Co: Lab Bangladesh, organised by UNDP and Citi Foundation. Teach It was also a graduate of Startup School by Y Combinator and is a grantee of Startup Bangladesh- Idea Project, and the Queen's Commonwealth Trust Award.
"Our e-learning industry is booming. Teachers are now more willing than ever to be a part of virtual learning. Platforms like Teach It is helping them get accustomed to the mechanism of online learning," Naimul said.
"The name of our start-up came from the idea of asking someone to teach through our platform. We would routinely ask our peers, 'Hey, you are good at this subject. Why not 'teach it'?" Yameen said.
How does Teach It build its pool of instructors? If quality education is to go digital, tech-savvy instructors are the bedrock of this revolution.
"The interested teachers can message us on our Facebook page or can simply register with our website as a user and upload videos. We will then communicate with them and guide them," Yameen said. The instructors of Teach It are young professionals, who have experience in the education sector.
Asima Tasnim, who is a school teacher and has worked in an educational non-profit organisation, had her first experience of teaching online with Teach It.
"My experience with Teach It as an instructor has been rewarding. It's not just the students who learn from us. Instructors are also learning to make e-learning more effective. I certainly learnt a lot," she said while conducting her class on grade five geometry.
Still, in its growth stage, Teach It aims big to make a visible impact in the education sector of Bangladesh. Teach It aims to utilise the power of the people to democratise education and make it accessible to the masses.
In five years, Teach It aims to create true value in terms of quality and availability of education for the people of Bangladesh," Yameen and Naimul said about their plan.
The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed many educators to embrace virtual learning. Has Teach It scaled up during these trying times?
"As the national shutdown required all the educational institutions to remain closed, we tried our bit to help the students of grade five in learning and revising all the topics," Yameen said.
"In some cases, some of our instructors lived outside of Dhaka, but as our very idea is to teach remotely, unstable internet connection could not hinder our classes. Our usual pace might have been disrupted due to the pandemic. But the pandemic is a silver lining for online education indeed," Naimul added.
The Teach It co-founders think it is important to reach the students out of Dhaka, who might not have the same level of understanding of the technology.
Tehzib Sadaf, an instructor of Teach It, teaches grade five science. He was surprised to see more and more students from different districts participating in his live stream.
"When I assign homework during my live class, many fifth graders use their parents' Facebook account to log in and do the homework," Tehzib said by way of explaining how parents are becoming supportive of e-learning.
Primary school students can be naive while learning online. "When I somehow overlook someone's comment about the lesson, they repeatedly write, 'Sir, why didn't you see my correct answer?' This is kind of cute and inspiring," Tehzib smiled.