Project Free to Lance: Digital literacy and freelancing skills for students

Publication date
Sabrina Nasrin, Teach For Bangladesh alumna
Students seated at desks in a classroom, shot from behind their heads as they look at a female teacher presenting in front of the whiteboard

The digital age is here, and education will need to adapt! It may seem like everyone has the chance to learn new skills and prepare for our fast-paced world but, in my classroom in Dhaka's Lalbagh district, a vast majority of my students (214 out of 246) lacked access to technology. This divide was especially concerning with the rise of blended learning after the pandemic. Eighteen of my students belong to an organization called Shishu Bikash, a governmental center where orphans and children from extremely poor families are being sheltered, and never had access to a laptop or computer, let alone to acquire digital skills. This sparked a thought in me to bring technology directly to my students, and especially to these 18 students, and to introduce them to freelancing as a way for them to acquire different skills and be prepared to enter into the world of work through freelancing. With that thought, along with my Teach For Bangladesh co-fellow Marina Hossain, we launched a project named Free to Lance.

Free to Lance aimed to introduce our 12-14-year-old students to digital skills and the exciting world of freelancing. The project equipped young minds with the tools they need to explore freelancing as a future career path through several seminars and workshops on topics like photography, content creation, graphic design, logo making, and data entry.

To inspire our students, we made sure they received career advice from accomplished professionals such as Nusrat Jahan, who began her photography career at the age of 17 and now works with BRAC and conducted photography projects with UNDP. We also connected our students with Shams Asif, deputy manager of 10 Minutes School, a renowned online educational platform in Bangladesh. During the career sessions, Shams shared the secrets of digital earning through graphic design, web development, and data entry. Students were so fired up, they participated in a test to win scholarships.

A man representing 10 Minute School presents to a classroom of children


10 talented students are now enrolled in 10 Minute School courses, developing the skills to become successful young freelancers. They are now managing our “Human Library,” an outcome of the Free to Lance initiative. The idea of the Human Library is that the students who are part of it learn different skills at home with the help of YouTube or other online sites and then teach other students what they’ve learned during Digital Technology periods. These student leaders who take on the responsibility of teaching other students are called the “Knowledge Hub” of the Human Library and they have led lessons for their peers on topics like addition and subtraction in Excel, designing slides in PowerPoint, and editing pictures and videos. This fosters a collaborative learning environment as it allows students to learn from their peers, building confidence and fostering a sense of community. 

Securing support from parents, teachers, and the school management committee was essential to maximize the outcome of this initiative. We therefore organized discussions on topics such as "Why should our kids need the knowledge of freelancing and digital platforms?" and "What support can we provide as parents and teachers?" to engage these groups as key stakeholders in the project.

Running this project had a great impact on me as well as my students as observing the way students were pursuing finding a solution for their future career and at the same time improving their economical state pushed me to think outside the box. I built better collaborative skills as I worked to connect my students with experts and help them build connections that might clarify future career paths for them. Overall, working on Free to Lance really helped me develop my own problem-solving skills and ignited my desire to continue working towards bridging the tech gap in resource-limited communities. 

Free to Lance was a success for me as it prepared students for the world of work in a concrete way through exposing them to new career pathways and helping them develop digital skills while also reminding me, too, that with vision, anything is achievable.