This profile was prepared when Mahabir Pun was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Mahabir has designed income-generation initiatives that deliver new economic possibilities to villagers and fund schools, allowing them to operate independently of the state and extend education to the 8th, 9th, and 10th grades. Community members channel profits to areas of critical need for the schools–from teachers' salaries to electrical generators that run classroom computers. To improve the quality of instruction, to inject creative and effective ideas into the classroom, and to prevent teacher burnout, Mahabir is linking teachers by computer and Internet. Thus, he is using technology to overcome the geographic isolation of many of the communities in which he works. The creative solutions he has designed allow teachers in neighboring villages–usually hours away by foot–to communicate, share ideas and resources, and support each other. Mahabir is bringing computers and computer training to the classroom because he sees that especially in isolated areas, Web-based learning can benefit students and teachers, as well as attract volunteer doctors, teachers, students, and tourists, and provide a market for village products. Mahabir's idea is replicable in other areas characterized by geographic isolation and a dearth of educational and economic opportunities.