A bunch of college kids in Jamshedpur, with nothing more than compassion in their hearts and a determination to make a difference, started teaching underprivileged kids in 2007. Today, their effort has grown into a large-scale organization called Sankalp that reaches out to over 650 children in three states of India.
Seven years ago, some students from the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Jamshedpur, started teaching the children of their hostel mess workers. “We didn’t have any plan. We started within our college and then went to the nearby villages and tribal areas. Kids there hardly attended school and lacked even basic learning skills,” says Shivendra Shrivastava, an alumni of NIT who started the program.
Today, this small initiative has become a structured organization called ‘Sankalp,’ which caters to the educational needs of tribal and marginalized children in three states of India.
This NIT-alumni-run organization, with over 200 active members, does not only provide quality education to the kids but also enables some of them to attend sought-after private schools in the city.
Working in three states now – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand – Sankalp reaches out to over 650 students with the help of NIT students, teachers and volunteers.
“The students are mostly from government schools or they are dropouts. Class 7 students do not even know the basics of what a Class 3 student should know; they can barely write in English and Hindi. We are trying to bridge the gaps in their learning,” says Shrivastava.
The Sankalp team divides the children according to age groups and learning levels before beginning the process of teaching them. After one to two years of observing the students’ performance, they start preparing the academically oriented for better schools. Currently, 23 of Sankalp’s students attend good private schools in Jamshedpur.
All activities, education, books, and other necessities are funded by the alumni of NIT. Some money also comes from current college students who contribute Rs.10 per month to Sankalp.
Over a period of time, kids who barely knew the basics of language and maths earlier have begun to score well in school, are eager to learn, and show confidence in their abilities.
“The tribals say that earlier no one would come to help them. Even the NGOs that intervened came for a few months and left. There was no long-term sustainable model. Through Sankalp we are trying to bring about a permanent solution to the problem with the help of college students,” says Shrivastava.
Amar Pratap Singh is one shining example of the impact Sankalp has had on the children’s lives. Singh joined Sankalp in 2007 and has been with the organization since. Currently a student of Class 11, he is a conscientious learner and has high hopes for his future. A documentary film maker who visited his village near Jamshedpur was so impressed with his development that he made a small documentary on Singh, which has won three prestigious international awards.
However, Sankalp has faced several challenges along its journey. To start with, it took a long time for the NIT students to build trust about their intentions among the villagers and convince them that they would be there for the long term.
Since the organization is managed by working professionals and current students, it is very hard to keep the classes going regularly. They do so with the help of an excellent team of volunteers and teachers. The team is so dedicated that despite roadblocks they haven’t missed taking a single class in all these years.
Sankalp currently runs eight centres in three states in the country, reaches out to more than 650 children and sponsors the complete education of 41 of them.
“There is so much more we want to do. I have involved myself full time in this initiative, but we are always looking for teachers and volunteers who can take this up in rural areas. We have the whole module, syllabus and everything ready. We just need someone to take responsibility now,” says a hopeful Shrivastava.