From an obscure village comes free Android apps that children can use and benefit
Imran Khan, a modest man from an off-the-map village, had his name up in lights when the Prime Minister of India picked him from among 1.2 billion people as a symbol of India, its resourcefulness and its magnanimity.
And truly, who could be a better epitome of India than this school teacher who made more than 52 useful and educational Android apps – and gave them away free!
Imran Khan’s apps, meant for children of various age groups, are available for free downloads (Photos: Partho Burman)
Just two kilometres from Alwar Railway Station in Rajasthan, the only Muslim family among 200 Hindu families lives at Laxminagar Colony in Ambedkar Nagar.
To this family belongs Mohammed Imran Khan, 37, the shy and quiet primary school teacher of Government Varishtha Upadhyay Sanskrit School, about whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his recent UK visit announced to a 60,000-strong audience at Wembley Stadium: “My India resides in people like Imran Khan from Alwar.”
Born among four brothers and three sisters, Khan is the third child of Suleman Khan and wife Asharfi. He did his primary schooling in Khareda village, about 25 km away from Laxminagar Colony, where his father owns 14 bighas of land
A scientist was what he aspired to become, but because of family responsibilities, he had to embrace the job-oriented School Teacher Certificate (STC) course and become a teacher.
A dramatic turn came in June 2010 when he was first introduced to computers. After six months of only playing games on it, he began to learn computer languages such as HTML, PHP and CSS, from his younger brother’s books and the Internet.
In 2009 he created his own website entirely on his Samsung Metro mobile, which contained tips on how to create a website.
It caught the keen eye of Ashutosh A.T. Pednekar, the then District Collector (DC) of Alwar, who encouraged Khan to create a website for Alwar government schools.
Khan first designed a Content Management System (CMS) for the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) and went on create the website – with more than 1,250 web pages and 1,100 images - for 55 schools.
In addition he created another website that offered information about the 3,300 schools in Alwar. And all this without any payment!
“Then Pednekar Sir introduced me to Apps,” says Khan, “and encouraged me to create apps for education.”
Imran's family, in front of their modest home in Alwar
Drawing from his own salary, Khan created the first app for NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) in 2012 – it was for science for class nine.
This led him to create more apps for young students. “Children can use these Apps for education, and education can change society,” says Khan.
Designed separately for Primary Students, Secondary Students and Competitive Students, Khan’s apps cover Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, English, Economics, Hindi Grammar and the Indian Constitution.
His most talked about app is for General Science in Hindi, and features 300 questions from daily life, supported by 300 images. The explanation for questions such as ‘Why do birds fly in the sky?’ is given in lucid language in Hindi and supported with images.
“It’s relatively simple,” explains Khan, “and therefore the most installed app from mine.”
Subsequently, Khan created the Rajasthan Administrative Services (RAS) Tutor, with 6,000 questions. Another major app is the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) Examination app with 3,000-plus questions, divided into Mental Ability, English, Mathematical Equations and Current General Knowledge.
These apps are equipped with a feedback and a report-a-question system, through which users can easily interact with him. “If I post a wrong question, it can be rectified soon,” Khan explains, “because I am not the master of all subjects.”
In order to fulfill the demands of his own creations, Khan is up and at work between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.
He reads various e-papers and selects questions to update the apps. “If I don’t update questions even one day, the students start checking if there is something wrong with their phones,” quips Khan.
Khan’s work has been expanding organically. Six months ago, on the request of a Delhi-based lady named Monica Sharma, Khan made the Picture Book app supported by 500 images, with text in both English and Hindi.
Imran with his two daughters, Samiya (right) and Saniya
His colleagues use this app in their schools too and students love it as well. Finding that there are many apps in English but very few in Hindi, Khan focuses his efforts on filling that gap.
All of Khan’s apps are available on Playstore. Ninety-eight percent of the users are Indians, and the rest are countries like Saudi Arabia, Canada, the UK, the USA and Australia.
Khan’s selfless and long-lasting engagement with apps has resulted in more than 3 million downloads and reaching 3-4 billion plus daily users. The amazing part is that all the apps are free and offline-supported, so one doesn’t need to depend on the Internet.
Khan’s mission doesn’t end here. This father of two girls – Samiya and Saniya – and a son Junaid, dreams king-size. He wants to maximize the use of Information Technology (IT) to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas.
“There are many intelligent students in rural areas, who need guidance and opportunity,” he says. “The future of India lies in the hands of the students in rural areas.”
That is what the Prime Minister probably meant on that evening at Wembley. But at that time, Khan couldn’t believe it - he saw the video footage 3-4 times on YouTube to make sure.
“I am a teacher and what I have done is my duty,” he says. “My efforts are small, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi made them big.”
Only partly true, that. Greatness is as greatness does, after all - Khan has proven that.