Badrinath Vittal, 82, a resident of Bengaluru is a retired civil engineer and a Master’s graduate from IIT-Bombay. Six years ago, he noticed that his housemaid needed monetary help to enrol her daughter into tuition classes, who was studying in Class 6 at the time.
“Instead of giving my house helper the money to enrol her daughter into tuition, my wife and I volunteered to teach her daughter free of charge. While I taught her Science and Math, my wife, Indira Vittal, 77, would teach her the language subjects and social studies. In a few weeks, even my house help’s second daughter joined the tuition class and she was only in kindergarten,” says Badrinath, admitting that he was unaware then that this small initiative would soon lead to classes for more than 100 children across Karnataka.
And, all of this without any advertising, social media campaigns or marketing.
It was around the same time in 2014 when a few others living in the same area requested the couple to teach their children, and the class grew from two students to eight.
Badrinath says, “The children were from underprivileged backgrounds and their parents were either working as house helpers or as daily wage earners. When the lockdown was announced, these children could not come home for classes but I was keen on continuing this initiative, so we arranged online classes. Most of their parents had at least one smartphone at home.”
To Teach 100
When the word about this tuition class spread, a local newspaper covered the story about the octogenarian couple’s efforts. The story spread across Karnataka and more parents reached out to the couple, requesting them to tutor their children.
From eight students the online class grew to 100, and Badrinath was spending his entire day scheduling the classes and ensuring school and tuitions would not clash.
Apart from this, he also had some requests from parents for smartphones so that their children could join the classes too.
“The students were from rural parts of the state like Haveri, Doddaballapur or Gangavathi, and their parents did not have access to smartphones. So, I reached out to friends and family and requested them to either donate a smartphone to these children or purchase a new one, if they could afford it. The response was overwhelmingly positive and more than 30 students received devices,” says Badrinath.
To ensure the device directly reaches the student, Badrinath coordinates with the donor and the student’s family. He provides the donor with the student’s address to ensure the transfer is hassle-free.
But, it was not only students who wanted to participate in the free tuitions. On reading the news reports, Badrinath also got requests from retired teachers and professors who were willing to teach the students for free.
Badrinath says, “There are more than 10 volunteers who teach different subjects. Some are students from BMS College of Engineering, some are retired professors from a reputed college, and another volunteer is a scientist from ISRO. Owing to the help we received, we were able to start sessions for college students, and introduced special spoken English classes, which are currently in high demand.”
Jyothi Ramesh, a resident of Bengaluru, takes the spoken English session for both students and adults. A graduate of master’s in English, Jyothi says teaching is something she is passionate about.
She says, “The initiative started by Mr Badri has brought together a group of like-minded individuals who share a passion to teach. One month ago, I started conducting spoken English lessons for grades 6, 7 and 8. Now, there are three different sessions — for students, for teachers, one exclusively for homemakers. The sessions are not focussed on learning English grammar but more about how to use the language while speaking.”
Till date, 170 people are enrolled in the online classes and Badrinath continues to receive enquiries from students and volunteers. If you are interested to teach, or know someone who can benefit from the free tuitions, or even provide a smartphone to support this elderly couple’s endearing initiative you can contact Badrinath at 9901841508 or his wife Indira Vittal at 9900408760.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)