"I accompanied my elder sister to tata's house for the first time when I was in Upper Kindergarten. Now I am in the seventh class. I remember, at that time we were the only students attending these classes. Tata taught me computer and mathematics while ajji focussed on language studies. I have been attending these classes for eight years now and I will continue to do so. Even though the students' count has surged now and classes are conducted online, it is fun to study with them," says Sahana, a student of free online coaching initiative conceptualised and run by Bangalore residents Badrinath Vittal (83) and his wife Indira Vittal (77).
The classes which incepted with a strength of two students now have more than 1000 students studying online across Karnataka. There are 80 faculties pan-India who have voluntarily joined this initiative to contribute their part. Conducting online classes has helped the Vittal family reach underprivileged students who need their guidance and support. This would have not been possible with in-person lectures owing to travel restrictions.
Students from primary schools, secondary schools, and CA aspirants have been benefitting from this initiative.
"It all started around eight years ago when our cook requested monetary help to enrol her daughter to private coaching. As I am retired and free, I decided to conduct classes for her daughter free of cost. My wife too showed interest and joined me in teaching. I taught her maths and other technical subjects and Indira helped her in language subjects. Later her younger sister, who was in Upper Kindergarten, too started attending classes. The class of 2 grew to 8 when their classmates and children of maids and workers showed interest in learning from us," says Badrinath Vittal, founder of free online coaching Vidya who is a retired civil engineer.
Virtual classes have widened the reach of this initiative, however, there are a few challenges as well. Most students come from poor backgrounds and hence do not have access to smartphones and the internet. To solve this problem, the Vittal family helped a few and appealed to donors to come forward for these children.
"We have arranged smartphones for around 100 children. However, it is not possible to help everyone, hence we request donors to provide financial aid. In this process, we directly connect the beneficiary with the donor without the intervention of any middlemen. The money is directly transferred to the beneficiary's account," says Indira Vittal.
To run this initiative smoothly, they have appointed people to manage class timings. Classes are strictly conducted according to the timetable which is designed in a way that it does not clash with school lectures. Studies begin at six in the morning and go on throughout the day.
To increase the scope of this programme and accommodate more students, they have now installed projectors in schools. Now, the entire class can avail the benefit of studying from expert faculties sitting in another part of the country.
"We never imagined that we would go this far. Pandemic actually helped us reach needy children. Now there is no looking back, we will take it to next level in the coming days," says Badrinath Vittal.