BHUBANESWAR: Lack of resources prevented Dipak Sahu from pursuing higher education. However, he does not want children in his neighbourhood to suffer his plight. Dipak and his wife Sitarani are running a free library and a coaching centre.
During the Covid-19 pandemic when school education became a privilege for only those who owned a smart gadget, a couple from Kalahandi district decided to extend free coaching to children from poor economic backgrounds who were left out of the virtual classrooms.
Dipak Sahu, a 48-year-old Junagarh-based businessman, and his 45-year-old wife Sitarani opened a coaching centre for such students on November 1, 2021 where children from poor families are being provided coaching in all subjects free of cost. The couple has appointed three part-time teachers to teach the children.
Currently, 105 students from primary to high school levels are studying in the coaching centre that remains open for them from 7 am to 8 am and 4.30 pm to 8 pm. While Dipak, who runs a chain of three restaurants and catering service in Kalahandi, funds the coaching centre, his wife Sitarani manages the facility.
Dipak hailed from a poor family and could not study beyond matriculation due to lack of resources at home and Sitarani has done her post-graduation in history. In fact, it was Dipak who insisted Sitarani to complete her graduation and do PG after their wedding while he concentrated on growing his restaurant business.
“Fortunately, the business did well. When we started getting a stable income, we decided to open a public library for those youths who want to appear for the competitive examinations,” said Dipak who built his business after being selected by Subroto Bagchi for the Nano Unicorn project.
The project is being implemented in collaboration with the Odisha Skill Development Authority by Tata Strive, a skill development initiative operating under the aegis of the Tata Trusts. Under this, micro-entrepreneurs in Odisha can launch or grow their own businesses. He opened the library in 2019 and continues to procure books and magazines that can help the youth in preparing for competitive examinations.
A year later when schools shut down for Covid, the couple decided to open a coaching centre for poor children. “We started during Covid to coach children who could not afford mobile phones to attend virtual classes or had access to supplementary class-specific study materials. Today, children from all areas nearby come to our centre for free coaching,” he added.
Every month, the couple sets aside a part of the money that they earn from their business. “The children who come from different areas do not need to bring anything here. We provide them books, note copies and stationery free of cost,” said Sitarani.
The idea is to ensure that these children do not miss out on education for want of money. To ensure that the classes are not monotonous, the teachers organise extra-curricular activities like paintings, drawing, debates and sports for the children at regular intervals, she said.
Currently, the coaching classes are operating from the library but the couple is building a permanent coaching centre over 14 decimal land that they bought in 2021 in Junagarh. The facility can accommodate 500 children.