Armed with an MBA from one of India’s premier business schools, Divakar Sankhla joined the corporate workforce like the majority of his fellow students in 2007. A chance encounter with a Teach for India advertisement tickled something in him. He felt that he could manage to balance both – make a difference through his teaching stints, as well as keep his corporate job.
“I felt that it was something that I could do alongside my job and I decided to enrol for it,” he speaks of his first brush with teaching. While Divakar was satisfied with spending time between his corporate avatar and his teaching stint, he knew that he could give teaching more.
“I would teach at an NGO from 8 am to 10 am three days a week and go to office thereafter,” he says.
For some time, it was fulfilling. Inevitably, as Divakar started spending time with the children the urge to do more for them crept in. The time he spent on teaching and thinking about teaching soon outweighed the time he spent on his corporate job. A son of professors, he believes that teaching was something genetic for him. The inevitable happened when he took a sabbatical and jumped into Teach for India fulltime – he hoped it would give him the chance to really understand if teaching was “It” for him.
“It is important to have teachers who are passionate and love their job. It will come through if they have these qualities and it was important for me to figure out for myself whether or not I had it in me to be a good teacher,” he says. He says he took up teaching as a challenge, “The Teach for India tagline said – are you ready for a challenge? That is exactly what I took it up as.”
Teaching the children at the NGO made Divakar realise how difficult teaching really was. “Initially it was a very difficult task. I had always imagined teaching to be an easy job but I was in for a surprise.”
“From walking into class unprepared and improvising, to spending days over my teaching material, I have grown with the children,” he says.
When asked about what kept him motivated and focussed on teaching, he says, “The urge to ensure that the children get the best is what keeps me going. This profession has taught me a lot over the years.” Despite working longer hours and putting in double the work that the corporate sector demanded, Divakar felt energised and content teaching the children.
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The idea behind Alohomora began soon after our Teach for India fellowship ended. “After all the highs from our students’ farewell notes and cards had subsided, we started to analyse the impact we had made on our students over the two years. While there was progress they had made, it was nowhere close to where a class 4 child must be academically.”
Co-founded by Divakar and Parinita, Alomohora, like the name suggests, wishes to unlock the minds of children and give them a safe space where they can explore and learn. “We wanted to move away from rote learning to a system where these children, while learning, also grow as individuals. It is important for us to be able to groom these children as future leaders of our country.”
At Alomohora, the founders lay a lot of emphasis on ensuring that the children become the stakeholders of their learning process.
Doing so makes them much more accountable to learning. Of course, this involves the teachers to buy-in as well. “We have seen that working with children is a much easier when you are flexible. It is teachers who come with rigid ideas and take far more time to adapt to change. Most teachers in government schools look at their job as a part time thing and do not like it when we request them to stay back for discussions and training,’ Divakar says.
At Alomohora, the team designs and develops project-based programmes to be implemented in various government schools and NGO’s. This year, the team will also be working with class 11 and 12 students across schools. “These kids don’t have the luxury of time to explore and see what works for them. It is critical that they find the right support after school and before college.”
Sharing a story of transformation, he says, “We had a student called Manisha in our school in Aya Nagar in Delhi, in class 8. She was extremely creative and often made various dress designs in her notebook. Once she started working with us under the digital learning programme she saw her designs come alive and that motivated her to make more.”
“In fact, on the day that we were showcasing the works of these children, she actually wore one of her own creations. That was such a powerful thing for us.”
In the coming year, Alomohora plans to incorporate technology into their teachings and are also looking to expand to other cities. “I am from Udaipur and would certainly love to go back and do something for the children there,” he says. Divakar feels thrilled to be able to give these children the ability to dream and make things happen.
If you wish to contact Team Alomohora,e-mail them at – firstname.lastname@example.org