The Vidyarthi Bharti Students Organisation helps out students from poor financial backgrounds, and says demand for its free classes peaks during board exam season, when students need someone to clear their last-minute doubts; it organises these classes in gardens and other open spaces
While education is supposed to be the great leveller, very few people really work towards ensuring that those from underprivileged sections of society get an equal shot at it to improve their lot in life.
Kishor Jagtap, the founder
One of the exceptions is the Vidyarthi Bharti Students Organisation, which, in the board exam season, is helping to clear the last-minute doubts of those who cannot afford to hire tutors. Led by its founder, Kishor Jagtap, the organisation is also assisting in helping disabled students procure writers for their examination. Not only this, it also sets up blind students with members of the organisation, most of whom are students themselves, who can read out the study material for them.
A volunteer conducts classes in the garden opposite Pragat Vidya Mandir School in Andheri
“I have been teaching for almost two decades now. I had realised that there are many students who have a lot of doubts just prior to their examinations and most of them — especially from the lower-middle class and even poorer sections of society — can’t afford to join classes that can help them,” said Jagtap.
Founded in 2006, the organisation now has around 100 students that volunteer to help various students from the primary classes to the graduation level.
“We have students who, along with their own studies, teach the subjects that they are good at, to other students in need. We have volunteers who teach in Hindi, Marathi as well as English. We are usually approached by students who are appearing for their SSC and HSC board papers that need urgent help at the last minute,” said Vijeta Bhonkar, vice-president of the organisation.
The students, along with Jagtap, usually teach in various playgrounds and gardens across the city. “Since the SSC exams are going on, I currently have students dropping in to get their last-minute doubts cleared. In the mornings, I conduct my classes in the garden opposite Pragat Vidya Mandir School in Andheri,” said Jagtap.
The tutoring is offered free of cost as the beneficiaries are usually students from underprivileged sections. The volunteering students often lend a helping hand in night schools as well.
The organisation also arranges for writers for disabled students. “Many a time, we are approached by students who need writers at the eleventh hour. They contact us through various sources and we immediately try to assist them by arranging for student writers, who have to be at least one class below the appearing student. A Std X student, for instance, would need a student from Std IX or Std VIII,” said Bhonkar.
The writers are mainly provided for blind students for their board examinations. “These students get in touch with us via their friends or other sources. These children genuinely need help, as they cannot write their paper on their own and, thus, if time permits, we meet them a day or two before the examination just to make sure they get acquainted with us. Else, we finally get to meet them directly at the examination centre an hour or two before the paper commences,” said Deepa Bedekar, a volunteer with the organisation.
Visually challenged students are also helped by setting them up with students who can read out their study material to them. “Sometimes, these students come across someone who has mentioned a particular reference book or notes. When they approach us, we read out the book or set of notes for them, so that they can make notes in Braille,” added Deepa. The volunteers also try and provide study material, like guides and reference notes, to SSC and HSC students.
Vidyarthi Bharti Students Organisation also fights for the rights of underprivileged students. “If some student from the Schedule Caste or Schedule Tribe category is denied admission, or there seems to be a problem in the fee structure, we step in and try to help the student out,” said Pooja Badekar, the president of the organisation, and a practising lawyer.