IITian boots up after-school digital project for rural kids

An IIT and IIM alumnus left his job far away from home to set up a digital after-school programme for underprivileged kids so that they don't have to face the problems he did.

By Nishant Sinha
  • Published 5.11.16
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Pramod Kumar takes a class at the Bhore centre of Prakash Academy in Gopalganj. Telegraph picture

An IIT and IIM alumnus left his job far away from home to set up a digital after-school programme for underprivileged kids so that they don't have to face the problems he did.

Pramod Kumar, originally from Hajipur, opened Prakash Academy earlier this year with two centres in Gopalganj district - at Bhore and Husseypur - resigning from his job in Tanzania. The academy aims to provide quality education to underprivileged students in rural Bihar, hone and develop their skills in English, mathematics and science so that they are well-suited to rise up to any occasion in the future.

"I came from a lower middle class family and when I joined IIT-BHU I could not speak English too well," said Pramod, a 2012-batch ceramic engineering alumnus of IIT-BHU, who later pursued MBA from IIM-Kozhikode in 2014. "Through the academy I want to ensure no other child goes through what I did, and instead can deal with any situation ahead."

After his MBA, Pramod worked with HCL and Quality Group Ltd (Tanzania) for one-and-a-half years. On his visits home, he would convince parents to send their wards to the after-school programme. Although the ride wasn't easy, he succeeded and now the academy - that opened its doors this May - has 170 underprivileged children from Gopalganj district where 27-year-old Pramod has roots.

The children are trained through the use of modern technologies, including Internet TV, large screen projectors, innovative videos combined with lectures.

"While visiting villages near Hajipur and across the state during holidays, I always felt the contrast between facilities available to students in towns and villages. While students in towns and cities have ample opportunities and resources to choose from, students in the villages do not have the same liberty," he said. "The academy started on May 18 with the aim to provide quality education to underprivileged students in rural Bihar. The condition of education here in Bihar is very dismal. Students of classes VII and VIII in rural areas are not able to read and write properly. They can't even solve simple mathematical problems of Class III."

"To improve the situation I started the academy which runs after-school programmes to make sure children from the villages can access the same resources as their urban counterparts. I want them to be more confident about their potential when they leave their homes to pursue a career or higher education," added Pramod.

Pramod recalls how he went from door to door and convinced the parents to enrol their children in the academy. Pramod and his team carried laptops to show the parents the different teaching modules.

"The parents were very enthused by how we facilitated our lectures with interactive videos. These classes are immensely useful because they make it easier for children to visualise what they are taught," he said. "The only problem is that a lot of schools in Bihar don't have these facilities. Exposing children to technology will help them get acquainted with what they are going to experience in cities, and it won't be such a culture shock for them."

Although Pramod started the academy with his own savings. Soon BIT-Mesra alumnus Kaushik and a private engineering college graduate Aman came on board. Now the team has hired teachers and other support staff.

Now, realising that the venture cannot be sustained without help, the academy has requested parents to pay Rs 100 a month for the after-school course.

"If the parents are in a tight financial situation, then we fund the child's education. This might seem steep to some, but it is difficult to run a school if the teachers are not compensated well. We also need money for salary, books and other items for which I have started a donation campaign," Pramod said. "We plan to open such centres every 5km so that it remains approachable to students by bicycle. In the near future, the academy will be expanded to Siwan, Saran and Vaishali districts."