Education is the basis of any society’s development. The kind of society we have is the result of the kind of individuals that make it. An uneducated mind is a clouded minded. Education clears the clouds of misunderstanding and superstition that haunts India’s rural and urban slum population. This cloud is the cause of so many other problems that haunt a society of uneducated individuals. Education gives them the tools to understand the environment they live in and prepares them to change it. An individual that knows that he has the capacity to understand reality and change his own conditions through productive work is the basic pillar of any civilized society.
Beena Rao, a native of Patan, understands this and is determined to make the society we live in a better place. She is a lecturer at the Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology (SVNIT) who has started an Initiative to teach slum kids in Surat for free. She started in 2006 by going to the slums and teaching the kids there. After a few years, in 2009, she started an initiative “Prayas free coaching classes” with an aim to get young college kids to devote their free time to educate the kids from the slums.
She is very dedicated to her cause. When she thought that the parents of the kids were not very eager to send their kids to her classes, she started inviting doctors and police officials as guest lecturers to earn their trust.
Besides the regular subjects, she also encourages kids to learn yoga, sports, and art and craft. She also emphasizes on the importance of moral education and teaches the students about the value of hygiene, the power of truth and the virtue of honesty.
Her efforts are paying off as over 5000 kids have started using scientific jargon instead of abuses and slurs in their daily language. The kids are now able to read and write and understand various concepts from various subjects. She now has 8 coaching institutes in Surat with over 1200 students enrolled. The classes are run from 6 to 8 in the evening.
She says that her role model is her father. He was a violinist who used to teach blind kids in his spare time for free. This was what inspired her to take this initiative of teaching slum kids for free. She had to face a lot of problems with her initiative. Like this one time when she was in need of Rs.15000 to pay the volunteers in her organization but she couldn’t find anyone. She requested help form many people but didn’t get any response. Then a man from the Halpati Samaj Community, a liquor shop owner, came to her to offer his help. He was not very proud of his profession and wanted his kids to get an education and get a good and reputable job for themselves. He found out that Rao was running these coaching classes for free and wanted to help her so that the kids in the slum would not have to grow up to sell liquor. This incident strengthened her resolve to do even more for her community.
When asked to define her primary goal she said, “I want to make the slum children as good as mainstream students.”