free tuitions

Ninth Main Road in Kannagi Nagar turns into a tuition centre every evening.

Its 5.15 p.m. and a group of children take their place on a tarpaulin sheet spread across a portion of Ninth Main Road, Kannagi Nagar. Auto driver D. Vasudevan and his wife Uma Maheshwari walk in with books in their hands. The couple has been organising tuition classes for over 200 students; they are taught every day till 7.45 p.m.

At Kannagi Nagar, this is undoubtedly the largest open-air tuition centre where children learn under the street lights. The number of children here has only been increasing as the couple don’t charge any fee.

Uma Maheshwari, a class VI dropout, started offering classes outside her house on the same street five years ago after her husband fractured his leg. “We felt the burden as there was no earning member. My children were going for tuitions and we had difficulty paying their fees which was around Rs. 300 per child,” says the mother of three.

Getting children to attend these evening classes was not difficult as most of the parents are uneducated in this slum settlement and were happy to see their children engaged after school. They had close to 100 children in the first month, but getting teachers was a challenge. They had to be paid.

“We paid them Rs. 1,500 as salary by pledging Uma’s jewellery, which we continued for six months,” says Vasudevan, who studied till class X and is an auto driver for the last 17 years.

Today, ‘Babasaheb Ambedkar Free Night Centre’, as it is called, has five teachers; a majority of them are beneficiaries of this initiative and are pursuing their third year in college.

The last five years haven’t been easy for this couple who has faced resistance from some residents who didn’t like the idea of classes being conducted on the street.

“At least 50 students are dropouts and getting them to attend these classes was not easy,” says Vasudevan who takes classes twice a week.

Once a year, the couple organises a tour for the children and their parents, taking them to a place of entertainment which they manage through sponsors. They have also started a small saving scheme to encourage children to save.

Two years ago, Uma submitted a petition signed by children requesting the Education Secretary to give them a place. “With no roof, we cannot conduct classes during monsoon. ,” says Uma.

The couple have many other plans. If they get sponsors, they want to offer children evening snacks or fund the higher education of meritorious students.

“I want to see children from Kannagi Nagar also become engineers and IAS officers,” Uma says adding that “change is possible.”

The couple can be reached at 8678957785, 7299095646