Obviously, most students do not appreciate all the subjects and courses offered by the university curriculum. But inevitably for completing their course they somehow manage to get through that period of studying the most boring subject without any choice. Every year there will be huge cry on making rural service programme compulsory for doctors during internships and many doctors take it up with brooding. Similarly, as part of Social Responsibility initiative, many universities have made their graduates involve in social service. St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai also has a programme for its students to mandatorily do 60 hours of social work as part of the curriculum.
Venil Ali, student of B.Sc Honours from St. Xavier’s College (2002-2007), was a girl with dreams of having a lucrative career to take care of her immediate family and to lead a comfortable happy going life like any of her peers would have thought of. But as part of her course, she had to involve in a 60 Hours Social work. Venil took up this task hesitatingly to teach school kids at her neighborhood NGO called V-Care, whose objective is to educate cancer affected children so that they are supplemented for missed out regular classes. Usually, at V-care, Students from various parts of the country assemble and Venil had to take two hours of class every day. As mentioned Venil took up this teaching assignment due to compulsion, but as the adage goes “A person often meets her destiny on the road she took to avoid it,” Venil Ali also started developing an aptitude for teaching and what seemed to be as task ‘by-chance’ became task ‘of-choice’! In the end, instead of delivering 60 hours of mandatory class to the students, Venil gave 400 hours of voluntary class to those cancer affected children. Thus a girl who never dreamt of doing social service in her entire life started enjoying every bit of it.
Germination of Social Service Seed during Post Graduation
After her graduation at St. Xavier’s Venil joined Lokamanya Tilak Municipal Medical College for post graduation in Biochemistry at Sion, Mumbai. Also, the seed of ‘Teaching kids’ that had germinated in the undergraduate days was eagerly looking for another opportunity to shine. Co-incidentally during her stroll from college to the home, she used to notice children of small age spending their whole day in the streets of Mumbai. So, Venil made up her mind to give education to all these unprivileged children in her summer vacations. She could manage to get a Balwadi room in nearby railway complex. She could register 80 students for her school and named her organization as LEAP—Lets Educate All People. The creativity in her school kids was optimally explored and one of the pictures drawn by those students indicating a Frog LEAP-ing out of a big well speaks for it!
With the success she could gather from the part-time initiative of LEAP, the urge for Venil Ali to be a full-time educator got intensified. By the time she could complete her Post Graduation in Bio-Chemistry, she was completely prepared to take up the less lucrative teaching profession.
Call for Teachers from Teach-For-India (TFI) Organization
Venil’s innate drive to be a part of full-time teaching network got right direction with TFI organization roping in her as a teacher. As a full-time teacher at TFI with a fellowship, she started analyzing the role of inequity in Education. Her first experience was in a private school at a place called Govandi, in Mumbai for 3rd standard students. According to Venil, the first experience was not a good one with many students showing disinterest in her maths class. Though she couldn’t contemplate the reasons for this behavior of students; her second experience with Govt. school boys of 3rd Grade at Worli was completely different one. Contrary to the public opinion about Govt. school children, these kids showed good comprehension skills as against children from Govandi School. This experience helped Venil to understand the discrimination in the education system is not an isolated problem of classroom alone but it is a complex issue comprising of school, parents, community and the government and economic situations. On successful completion of the fellowship at TFI, she opted to a part of TFI faculty instead of hop to Biochemistry career.
Growth as a Teaching Fraternity @ TFI
According to Venil, working with TFI is not only about teaching but it involves building a strong education movement that can solve the educational problems at a bigger scale. She has worked in various capacities with TFI like Program Manager -2011-2012, Senior Program Manager 2012-2013, and presently as City Director for Mumbai for four consecutive years.
Kalam Fan Club wishes Venil Ali still greater success in her collective endeavors to build better eco-system in the Educational Arena.