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On 5 December 2013, POTI student Sharique Manazir was presented with an Online Volunteering Award by UN Volunteers, part of the UN Development Programme. Manazir was one of 10 such awardees for the year 2013,who was recognized at UNDP’s centre in New Dehli.
UN Volunteers contribute their time and skills to projects online that advance the work of various partner organizations around the world. Manazir has been active as a UN Volunteer for the past year and a half, in addition to his otherwise busy schedule working for social development in his country and around the world. A 25-year-old native of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India, Manazir earns a living as an assistant manager in Mumbai for an international company, but said he hopes to work for the UN one day in an official capacity. The UN Volunteer program, Manazir said, has allowed him the opportunity to continue the work he has already begun through his own initiative and to find a place making real contributions in the UN system.
“It actually opens door for me to work on issues like poverty eradication, making basic education accessible, enterprise development, and policy-making in peacekeeping,” he said.
Working with a team of volunteers from around the world who were also awarded for their efforts, Manazir supported the Association of African Entrepreneurs in Ghana with fundraising and enterprise development for youth. Manazir hopes that by sharing resources for business enterprise, the youth who are in touch with the project will have new opportunities as future entrepreneurs.
“The whole assignment was meant to bring skill and economic support at one place for youth in Africa,” he said. “We worked on commercials for e-Coaching cell fundraising initiatives, sharing information with the global volunteer team about fundraising activities. We later carried out research work on entrepreneur opportunities in African countries and came up with a book, Hopes and Mirages.”
From a small town in the rural region of India where he grew up, Manazir witnessed first-hand the challenges that he hopes to address through his work. He said he was initially inspired by his father, who for the past decade has run a primary school for underserved students. Whenever he was home from college, Manazir volunteered at the school, helping his father there. Once, Manazir asked his father why they didn’t move the school to a more urban location where it would be more profitable. His father’s response remained with him.
“He said, ‘If I leave them, who is going to make sure these people can complete their education at such a low cost?’”
After that, Manazir began to appreciate how many of the children faced difficult circumstances, often confronted with choosing between work and education. This experience influenced much of Manazir’s involvement with development projects and research, including analysis on consumer behavior in rural areas and lecturing on e-Commerce at a national seminar organized by India’s University Grants Commission.
“Access to education is a huge problem today in the world,” Manazir said. “Today we are faced with two different situations; either access to education is way too costly or it is not accessible at all. We need to bring free education to everyone, everywhere.”
Manazir thinks that online education can play a critical role in addressing this challenge, if implemented fairly.
“E-learning can actually solve lots of issues, and the major one is access to free education for everyone” he said. “But we need to make sure the platform is uniform and available for everyone.”
Manazir sees the experience of the UN Volunteer Program as a great gateway for others to play a part in reforming education worldwide. He said he even believes that universities and other learning institutions should incorporate international online service-oriented projects into their curriculums.
“The UN Volunteer Program is an amazing platform, which in my personal opinion should be made compulsory in every country for all graduates,” he said. “Not only will it help the younger generation to understand other cultures, but it will bring them closer to problems and issues of people which many times remains unnoticed. It will promote universal brotherhood and eventually lead to peace.”