At Whitefield, 70 volunteers teach students in spare time

From Bangalore Mirror

Students from 15 government schools in Whitefield no longer face the ‘one teacher for all subjects’ teaching system. They now have 70 residents who on voluntary basis teach students their various subjects.
It all started six months ago when two techies from the area Harshavardana and Naveen Kumar Dahiya decided to talk to people in their neighbourhood and get volunteers to improve the condition of government schools. On weekends for almost a month the two would knock each door of every apartment asking people if they were ready to volunteer as teachers. Their efforts paid off and they got more than 15 techies who were ready to volunteer every Saturday to teach students.
Of their passion, Dahiya said, “Since all our volunteers were working professionals, we started taking classes on Saturday. Soon, a lot of people started approaching us asking if they could join in. In a matter of six months we grew to 70 volunteers and expanded to 15 schools from the initial one. We have around four volunteers teaching in each school.”
More than 15 of the volunteers are retired teachers and home-makers who take regular classes in the government schools. One such volunteer is Gayathri Vamsi, 34, who teaches spoken English in Hoodi Primary School. Vamsi teaches students from class 3 to class 7. She takes one class each day for an hour from 9.30 am to 10.30 am.
Vamsi, who has more than eight years of volunteer teaching experience in US, said, “I moved back to Bengaluru from the US in June this year. I wanted to do some volunteer teaching work and decided to focus on government schools. I did approach a few schools, but did not get a good response. In one of the schools that I went to visit I met a volunteer and she told me of the group and I started working with them.”
Vamsi uses a unique way of teaching spoken English to students. She uses books that are actually used for pre-school students. She teaches the students small words and creates a story out of it. She tells it to them in Kannada and asks the students to translate it in English.
“When I first started teaching, there were students in standard seventh who did not even know to write their name in English. I had to start from the basics and made it as interesting as possible for them. Today they reply to my questions in English and interact with new people they meet in English,” said Vamsi.
The school has requested Vamsi to start teaching computers as well. The team has now expanded to government schools in Hoodi, Whitefield, Marathahalli, Kundanhalli, Nallur and Vijayanagar. They have started getting volunteers for BTM Layout as well and will soon approach schools there. They have created a Facebook page called Acharya’s to keep in touch.
They teach students computers, English and basic mathematics.
Sripriya S, is the founder of Shristi Technology Labs and a corporate trainer herself. She has now been teaching these students basic computers. Sripriya’s apartment, Gopalan Grandeur had a notice asking people to volunteer to teach. She immediately grabbed the opportunity.
Sripriya said, “The school had four computers but they were not being used much. The children were excited about learning computers. We teach the students for two hours. Since the number of computers is less, we keep taking turns or ask students to work in groups. I teach students till class V and the next lot is taught by another volunteer from my apartment. The experience is very satisfying.”
The volunteers adopt a holistic approach to development of the school. Along with teaching the students, the volunteers also organise sports’ and annual days in the school. The idea is to make the government school have all facilities that a private school has. All volunteers feel really nice as these kids have a lot of gratitude for us. Once I met a vegetable vendor near my house whose child was in my class and they told me that their child tries to teach his siblings English now. This makes me feel proud,” added Vamsi.
Another two retired teachers teach in Hoodi Government High School on a regular basis. Rajeshwari MS teaches spoken English classes. She also organises and trains students for quiz events. Under her guidance, a team from the school won Rs. 7 lakh as cash prize in a competition organised by Harsha Bhogale. Narasimhan Balasubramanian is a retired professor from Manipal University and holds maths classes.
Both the senior citizens have more than 25 years’ experience in the teaching field they handle higher classes.
“I was thrilled on the first day I spoke to students and they themselves requested me to help them with grammar. Their accepting and asking for help shows their interest level to me. I will teach more children after schools hours. As they are in higher classes and will be giving their board exams, I focus on teaching them how to answer exam papers and give interviews. I will also start helping them with Biology soon. I have taught Biology for more than 15 years,” said Rajeshwari, of her experience.

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