Pradeep Mukhathala is a cashier at the Electricity Board office in a small town in Kollam, Kerala. But he’s much more than a government officer to many.
He landed the job by clearing the Kerala State Public Service Commission (PSC) exam, a highly sought-after competitive exam in Kerala, which consists of written, practical, and physical tests to recruit candidates for civil service jobs in the state. The top scorers are ranked in various lists for different job categories, from which they are further selected after interviews.
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Pradeep had to prepare for the PSC all by himself due to financial and social constraints. Despite the lack of guidance or coaching, he appeared in twelve rank lists in 2009 at the age of 25 and was offered several government posts. Today, he runs one of the most popular PSC coaching centres in Kerala in Mukhathala, his hometown, from which he gets his surname.
While many turn their coaching classes into lucrative businesses, Pradeep does it for free. He juggles it with his regular work at the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) for the sake of those who can’t afford any other formal preparations. Thousands from all over Kerala come to this small town and live in hostels and PGs here just for his classes.
“Ten years ago, I couldn’t have imagined a life like this. I was just a boy from an obscure place in Kollam. My parents were clueless about education and career options,” says the 35-year-old to The Better India.
Pradeep took up Humanities in high school as he enjoyed Geography and History, and went on to study Economics in college. He wanted to give the Union Civil Services Exams (UPSC) a shot but couldn’t afford any coaching. He cleared the preliminary tests twice but didn’t make it through the mains. That’s when he decided to attempt the PSC. He was doing his MA in Economics at the time in Fatima Matha College, Kollam.
Pradeep was overjoyed when he made it in the rank lists. Some of his options were the police force, the fire force, university assistant, and corporation assistant.
After considering all his choices, he chose the KSEB position in Mukhathala as it seemed to be best suited to his abilities, had a good career trajectory, and he could be close to his family.
Autodidact Turns Teacher
Pradeep’s coaching stint began in 2012 when he became the Joint Secretary at the local public library.
“I met a few youngsters preparing for the PSC exam, and upon hearing about their struggles, I decided to help them out with their studies, sharing with them tricks, short-cuts, and exam strategies. Word got around, and soon the number grew to fifteen,” he recalls.
In 2013, one of them made it to the PSC rank list. When more and more people joined his sessions, he moved his classes from the library hall to the porch of his house and later to the terrace.
Today, he teaches Mathematics, English, General Knowledge, and Current Affairs required for the PSC exams. The students are split into two batches, with classes on alternate days. He conducts classes from 4.30-7.30 AM and later from 7:00-10.30 PM. Between these sessions, he’s at work at the KSEB office.
Over 700 of his students have made it to the PSC list, and nearly 400 have found government jobs so far.
So, what keeps him going?
“The happiness of my students and their families when they pass the exam,”asserts Pradeep.
Besides PSC preparation, Pradeep and his group of students do a lot of charity and volunteer work. When they hear of anyone in need in the community, they all chip in and help out in whatever way possible. At the beginning of the school year, they distribute books and bags for children in orphanages. During the floods that hit Kerala last year, groups of his students volunteered in Alleppey, Chengannoor, Vaikom, and other affected areas for a week.
“I tell my students that you have to supplement hard work with goodness for wholesome growth,” says this inspiring teacher, who wishes to continue his free coaching classes for as long as he can.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)