Additional scholarship winner Darren Ramsook has created a free online learning platform eLearn Caribbean, for CXC and CAPE students who need help with mathematics.
It is a way of expressing his gratitude for the scholarship he received in 2015. A former Naparima College student who recently completed his BSc in electrical and computer engineering, Ramsook said his intention was always to use his knowledge to give back to the country which educated him.
When, last month Education Minister Anthony Garcia pointed out that nearly 1,500 students claimed zero passes in the 2018 CSEC examinations, out of 11,000 students regionally, Ramsook felt compelled to launch the free online programme he had been working on and which can be now be accessed via http://www.elearncaribbean.com.
Within hours of publishing the post on line, he received approximately 200 shares, which was also retweeted 400 times. Since then more and more people are now accessing the videos he has already created for CSEC maths across the Caribbean. While mathematics seems to be the most problematic subject for students, Ramsook’s desire is not to stop at math but incorporate interactive videos of other subjects. However, his challenge at the moment is content and he is appealing to people who are willing to publish content on this site to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ramsook said he sees this platform as having multiple capabilities in the long term. The beauty is that it is not limited to students of a particular age but provides a platform for older individuals who may not have been successful in previous examinations or never ever got a chance to write the subject before due to financial or other constraints.
It is also being developed to work alongside the current teaching infrastructure in secondary schools. “I believe that the platform as well as teachers can make their lives easier by sharing the load as different students react in their own way to certain teaching methods. For example, if someone did not understand how a teacher taught a topic in mathematics, they log on to eLearn Caribbean and get a different perspective,” he explained.
Ramsook said originally, hearing horror stories of people falling victim to crime, drove him to create this platform using education as an attempt for a long-term solution to crime. He said he wanted to transform youths involved in crime into contributing citizens as some of his ‘friends’ were led down the wrong path over a series of bad decisions.
“That was when I realised that criminals were not formed overnight but were created over an evolutionary progress starting at a very young age. In an effort to make a difference I began helping out my fellow youths in any way that I could have by volunteering in Peer Counselling groups and even just helping out friends with schoolwork.”
During his second year at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Ramsook recalled there was an element in a course called the Community Service Learning (CSL) Project which challenged groups of students to find problems in their communities and develop solutions to fix them.
This gave rise to his work on the first prototype of the online learning platform. After seeing the potential of the platform, he felt certain that if fully utilised it could be used not only to help students in TT but in the wider Caribbean.
“I started working more on the platform from the last day of my final exams in May and with advice from one of my key mentors, Dr Akash Pooransingh, I created a plan on how I should start publishing the platform. It was only on August 16, that I went public with eLearn Caribbean and it just blew up since then.”
In addition to creating a learning platform to help others, Ramsook also helped to bring joy to others through his passion for music via the four-piece instrumental band from San Fernando called Triplets.
He said Triplets, originally formed at Naparima College with three colleagues, Joshua Regrello, pannist, Lyndel Bertie, electric guitarist, and himself on the bass guitar, maintained the name when Presentation College student and drummer Daniel Ferguson joined the band. All four, three of them scholarship winners, are pursuing tertiary studies here and abroad.
Even though they are in demand and recently returned from a gig in the United States, Ramsook said this does not distract from their focus, but helps to “cool their heads”.
Touching on his personal life, Ramsook said his desire to help is inspired by his family, including his dad, a former police officer, who was left paralysed by an accident from the chest down because of a reckless driver in 2009.
“That time right after the accident was a very trying time for my family but we learnt to play with the cards that we’ve been dealt. This was really hard on my mom and it forced all of us to take on responsibilities and make sacrifices we weren’t comfortable with. Seeing my dad and family fight their way through and emerging the positive people we are today, despite our challenges, makes me believe that there is a better tomorrow.
“I take that same thinking of believing that there is a better tomorrow and apply it to our country all the time. That is actually one of the objectives of the learning platform - creating a better tomorrow starting today. I always have this urge to give back to my country because of the scholarship given to me in 2015.” He said he finds purpose from reading about the many problems society faces and coming up with solutions to solve them.
At the moment, he says, his head is bursting with ideas, but the focus is on eLearn Caribbean to reach the hearts and minds of people across the region and leave an overall positive impact.
“I really do hope that people of today utilize eLearn Caribbean so that they, as well as the country, can reap their rewards as contributing members of society. Even if this has a positive effect on only one person and it helps them out, I can die happy with that in my mind,” he said.