Way to School: Meet Venkatraman Iyer who creates education trust to enroll dropouts

A Good Samaritan is ensuring that 25 slum children, who quit their education during the pandemic, don’t lag behind

Published: 04th September 2022 04:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th September 2022 04:34 AM   |  A+A-

An NIOS programme being run by Swabhimaan Trust at a slum in Koramangala.

An NIOS programme being run by Swabhimaan Trust at a slum in Koramangala.

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Education is a common thread which binds a country’s vision together, be it economic, social, political, or cultural. It is that sea of dreams and possibilities on which sail a nation and its citizens, steering towards their futures.

Sadly, however, the recent pandemic exposed a harsh reality – about the affordability of education. As Covid struck, many lost jobs, and several among the have-nots were compelled to pull their children out of school as they could no longer afford the fees.

This prompted conscious citizens to not only come forward to bridge the academic gap between various strata of society but also to help poor children study through the pandemic.

Hope for 25
Twenty-five children from Koramangala’s Rajendra Nagar slum, in Bengaluru, dropped out of school during the pandemic. But there was a ray of hope. Venkatraman Iyer, a Middle-East returnee, came forward to ensure that they don’t fall back on their academics. Iyer enrolled them into the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) programme through his Swabhimaan Education Trust.

The children, who are in Class X, have been attending the programme for the last four months for free. Iyer, who founded the Trust over two decades ago, says the pandemic forced parents to get their children out of school and wait out the pandemic to rejoin later. These students would lose at least a year or might have altogether discontinued their studies.

The Trust is enabling these children to keep pace with their studies.

“A house was taken on rent and we set up a classroom and computer centre on the top floor. We registered the 25 students into the NIOS-Delhi system. Qualified teachers, hailing from humble backgrounds, have been roped in on a salary basis. We are sure of success as the best teaching method has been adopted,” Iyer says and adds that from next year, the programme will be scaled up.

One of the teachers, Ibrahim Ahmed, who is pursuing a BSc second year at Lal Bahadur Shashtri Degree College in RT Nagar, Bengaluru, is confident of his students cracking the exams in March-April.

Ahmed’s teaching skills were noticed by Iyer in 2020, when he came seeking a scholarship. Impressed by his mathematical prowess, Iyer offered him a job, though Ahmed was still a PU II student.

“We have been taking classes for regular school students for the last three years, and since 25 others have dropped out of school, Iyer sir had this idea of registering them in the NIOS programme. In recent tests, many of these kids scored 20 on 20 in maths,” says Ibrahim.

Focus on Kannada too
“Some students are migrants and speak Hindi. We make sure that they learn Kannada as well,” says Iyer. Suraj Kumar Pandey, a student who dropped out of Green Land High School in Koramangala, says his father – a construction labourer – found it difficult to fund his education during the lockdowns.

“I was taken into the programme in June after my school barred me from attending classes for not paying the fee. Here, we are taught between 6.30 am and 1 pm,” he says.

For Irsran Pasha’s father, an auto driver, arranging monthly school fees post-Covid was impossible. Since Iyer was around helping slum dwellers, the family approached him for the fees, but he enrolled Pasha for free. The parents are now confident that Pasha would excel in studies, as he has secured good marks in all the subjects in the recent class test.

From a measly 12 per cent literacy rate in 1947 to over 77 per cent today, India has indeed come a long way in educating its people, but a lot of issues still need to be addressed. The silver lining, however, people like Iyer are ensuring that no child is deprived of pen and paper, and a dream. 

Swabhimaan Trust was founded by Venkatraman Iyer and his wife Vijaya in 2001. Initially working to support poor single mothers, the NGO gradually began serving several critical areas, like education, healthcare, microfinance, and food distribution, among others and especially devoted itself to improving the lives and livelihoods of the poor residing in Bengaluru’s slums.  

India Matters


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