The pandemic had kept students away from schools. Even after the schools reopened, there were several students, particularly from the marginalized sections of the society, who could not afford to pay fees and hence skipped going to the schools. Vasanthan Library School has been conducting free classes for such students since May 15. Beneficiaries include students of Adi Dravidar schools.
Vasanthan Library was set up by Sudha and her husband, Ulagoli, in memory of their son, Vasanthan, an IAS aspirant who met with an accident and died prematurely at the age of 22 in 2014. The library started with the aim of coaching poor students appearing for competitive exams including civil services. Vasanthan had a Masters degree from Madras Christian College.
Sudha says, “From my son’s vast collections of various books on competitive exams such as civil service exams, NEET etc. we set up a free library in our residence in 2015. My husband stands by me in this initiative. In the library we conducted meetings where several experts delivered lectures to benefit the students. Sometimes, dramas too were enacted. We have also instilled in the students the value of planting saplings. During lockdown, we started free online classes to help educate students from the downtrodden sections.”
Recalling the initial days of the initiative, Sudha further says, “Initially, I myself took classes for students from Class 8 and 9. Prema, who is part of my Whatsapp group, offered to help. Later, Sukanya from Bengaluru offered to teach mathematics to the students. The support from various do-gooders on the Whatsapp group started swelling and several volunteered to handle classes. Adhavan Kathiresa Pillai from Denmark is handling acting classes. Santhi, Dharani, Sujatha and Ramesh from Singapore are taking various classes as also teachers from Pune, Dellhi, Dindigul, Madurai and Tiruchi. The teachers are generally called ‘sharers of knowledge’, that is to say, companions of knowledge.”
Every day there are 10 sessions from morning to evening, each running to 45 minutes
The free online classes cover not only the syllabus prescribed, but also cater to the personal needs of the students. There are even classes on music, acting, painting etc. Classes are held in English as well as Tamil.
The Vasanthan Library Online School has attracted students from Chennai and from various places in Tamil Nadu. Every day there are 10 sessions from morning to evening, each running to 45 minutes. While there are students attending all sessions, some prefer particular classes in some subjects. Even if only one asks for a class in a subject, their request is accommodated.
The free online school now teaches about 250 students, Sudha says, “We instill among young people the pleasure of learning. That is our motto.”
Coming to know about this free online education, the Adi Dravida Welfare Commissioner allowed the Adi Dravida students to avail themselves of this free service. “So far, 20 Adi Dravida school students have used our online education service,” says Sudha.
Now that the schools have reopened, the students attend the online class right from 6.15 am before going to their respective schools. In the evening, classes are held from 5pm to 8pm. “There are requests to conduct offline classes for students at various locations. So, in deference to their wishes, we plan to make use of the services of teachers in the places concerned. I hope our plan will materialize from Pongal,” says Sudha.
Sudha says, “We instill among young people the pleasure of learning. That is our motto.”
Retirement benefits typically go to fund a secure post-retirement life. But Ulaga Oli’s benefits have funded his wife Sudha’s service project. “A girl from a poor family, who was attending coaching classes in a center to prepare for the TNPSC exams, wanted a cycle for a convenient commute to the center. We bought her a cycle.” says Sudha, adding that “at present we are involved in the efforts to mobilize Rs. 8 lakh to meet the medical education expenses of a girl studying in the Annamalai University whose father died recently.”
Sudha and Ulaga Oli need funds to keep their project going and expand. Those interested to help can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9716177728