The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help other. –Albert Schweitzer
In India, the primary education has been guaranteed for children up to class VIII by the Right to Education Act. But the deplorable conditions in government schools have seldom done anything to combat student dropout rates, assist the underperforming learners or even ensure that children keep coming to school. The school boards lack in the management area; most of the officials are corrupt and hardly do their duties. Teachers in the government schools, especially in primary schools, are mostly incompetent and not often found doing their job properly. Particularly in rural areas, where people are financially much weaker, the education system is all the more dull and beyond redemption. Lack of schools and teachers and financial aids are the main causes that the village children are deprived of proper learning. It is ruining the lives of children across the country.
Nevertheless, some people are fighting against the system and trying to bring about a revolution within it. Beena Rao from Surat is one such dedicated lady whose efforts are changing the lives of thousands of slum children with her single initiative. He mission is to give free education to underprivileged children. For this, she has set up ‘Prayas Free Coaching Classes’ and sought to provide, according to modern standards, free education in poor neighborhoods and slums of Surat. She started her venture with teaching 2-3 children herself. Now, she has a team of 34 volunteers who teach around thousands of students at eight different coaching centers across Surat, the capital of Gujarat.
Beena’s father was a violinist and always used to find time to teach blind children free of cost. His moral and charitable influence was a primary source of inspiration that Beena decided to serve the society and ensure that education reaches to all children. Along with her husband, she started teaching a few children in 2006. Today, her enterprise has grown to cover more than five thousand children in several different areas of Surat.
The Prayas team consists of volunteers who are mostly college students. Along with the team, Rao finds a way to engage the children even during their vacations. For the younger students, there are movies to watch in the evenings, and for the older ones, they are asked to read books which are supplied to the slums via a mobile library. Beena Rao works as a co-member with her young volunteers and cheers them for their hard works. They teach the students from Class 3 to 8. The funds for the salaries of the volunteers are managed partly from the donations received under ‘Prayas’ and sometimes from Rao’s own pockets.
The free tuition classes under Rao’s organization emphasize upon bringing an all-round development of the children, meanwhile inculcating ethical and virtuous values in them. The motive is not only to impart education to the children but working upon enhancing their lifestyle, aspirations, manners and etiquettes, self-esteem and confidence. That is why Rao organizes many workshops for the children in productive areas like science, yoga, sports, art & craft, etc. And, to pass on better understanding and knowledge to the children and motivation in their parents, Rao also invites many police officials and doctors as the guest lecturers.
There are some people truly blessed with high principles and wisdom. These people do not only improve their lots, but they have the zeal to bring improvement in other’s lives too. Beena Rao is one such exceptional lady on a mission. A professor at Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Rao earns nothing from her non-profit organization. Neither she expects anything in return except participation from slum children. She has an aim to make these poor students as good as mainstream school students. The efforts of Beena have received much praise. Many media houses have dedicated articles to her enterprise and endeavors to uplift the poor children.
Beena’s story does not only inspire us but teaches too. We may note that Beena Rao was inspired by her violinist father who taught blind students for free in his spare time. Taking a cue from him, Rao started Prayas to make a large impact in the cause of education of deprived children. We need more parents like Beena’s father who set high ideals before their children that encourage them to do something in the interest of others.
While the successive governments are the main culprits, we the people of the country are no less to be blamed for such pathetic condition of education. It is up to us to take part in the process of development and to make sure that we give our best for it. The respective governments and authorities are also to be held responsible for managing and looking after the education affairs. Media has to play a key role to bring the importance of the issue to the public notice. Nonetheless, individual contributions are always needed. We need to appreciate the philanthropic works and exhort folks so that more like Beena Rao come forward. It is now to us to carry on the educational ventures started by people like Rao. If we are going to be a developed nation, then we should know that education is the most elemental part of it. And, for that, we need collective efforts in a progressive direction as shown by Beena Rao.