Delhi student Anant Bagrodia launched the Volunteer for MCD Schools app to mobilise student volunteers to teach and tutor underprivileged children from across the capital.
Ten-year-old Prince Singh’s excitement is unmissable as the clock strikes 2 pm, signalling the end of the school day at SDMC Pratibha Vidyalaya in Delhi’s Defence Colony. His favourite part of the day is just about to begin — the after-school maths lesson.
What fuels this love for a subject that is often dreaded by most of his classmates?
Prince says his mentor Savya Mittal is the reason behind making these classes “exciting and fun”. Savya is one of the 100 student volunteers who has registered on the ‘Volunteers for MCD Schools’ mobile app, an initiative by Delhi resident Anant Bagrodia, who himself is a student in Class 12 at the Vasant Valley School.
While Prince is in awe of how Math can be simplified to such a degree, Savya, too, thoroughly enjoys the process of teaching. While the two spread out their notes, ready for another class of learning mixed with fun, Anant says this was exactly the motive with which he launched the mobile app.
“It all started as a passion project,” he explains.
A decision to tutor kids
The 16-year-old, who is currently in the thick of his own studies and extracurriculars, thinks back to when an anecdote shared by his mother ended up shaping this unique journey.
Shivani, Anant’s mom would dedicate hours teaching underprivileged children in MCD schools as part of a volunteering project. Some time in January, she recalled to her son how among the many children she would tutor, one child had caught her attention. Prince, as she later told Anant, was a bright child who could grasp concepts well with the right tutoring and help.
“But he is struggling right now,” Anant’s mother said. Intent on helping the young boy in some way, Anant took up the challenge and decided to dedicate two hours every week to this. Over video call, he and Prince would bond, learn the nuances of English grammar and the former would solve the latter’s doubts.
This continued for two months and Anant’s friends — who had observed how this experience had changed him — wanted to help too. “However, while many fellow students were interested in teaching underprivileged kids, there was no system in place for the same,” recounts Anant, adding that it was only during the pandemic that the state of educational infrastructure became evident and gave him the final push he needed to come up with a solution.
“With school having shifted online, countless children from government schools who lacked the facilities of a computer and internet connection lost out on the opportunity to attend school for almost two full years.” This, says Anant, meant they fell behind in terms of being on par with other kids their age who had access to tech.
Delving deeper into the research, he discovered that the 2020 Annual State of Education Report states that only 8.1 per cent of children in government schools attended online classes.
This, he points out, led to a significant educational gap that only worsened as the pandemic wore on. The problem wouldn’t end, but rather intensify as schools would reopen, he thought. This is because to catch up on the lost time, these children would require additional support to bolster their understanding and supplement their education.
“I witnessed this myself, as I was engaged in tutoring Prince,” he notes. “Like Prince, there were so many other students who might need urgent support, whose parents may not be able to afford tuition classes without incurring a heavy financial burden.”
This web of problems had one solution.
Creating an app that can catalyse learning
While deciding on the target group for his experiment, Anant chose the MCD school children of Delhi. The reason lies in the fact that these schools lacked the digital infrastructure to conduct online classes during the pandemic.
The months spanning May 2022 to July 2022 were spent negotiating his plans with the school authorities, detailing how the extra tutoring would greatly benefit the kids. The latter was in heavy agreement with Anant’s proposal. Now it was time to get started on the app.
Having always held a fascination for technology, machine learning, and data science, Anant applied this repertoire of skills and, by September that year, was ready for the launch. “The platform links students in need of support, with willing student volunteers. Through this model, I hope to inculcate a spirit of volunteerism in the youth and address educational inequalities brought to the fore by the pandemic, before it’s too late.”
Today, there are 19 MCD schools across Delhi — including areas like Kailash Colony, Vasant Vihar, Hauz Khas, Defence Colony, and Lajpat Nagar — which are being helped through the app. The app is available to download on the Google Play store and has over 100 student volunteers who have registered to dedicate their time and skills to helping these children.
“Students from Class 6 to Class 10 can volunteer,” says Anant. “Once they register on the app, the principal of the concerned MCD school will reach out to them explaining the needs of the students who need special attention.”
Not only do these student volunteers help the kids with maths, science, English, history and other academic subjects, but also conduct chess workshops, music lessons, life skill training, activities like solving the Rubik’s Cube, basketball training, and more.
These classes are conducted at a time that is mutually decided upon by the school and the student volunteer depending on the convenience of both. While sometimes they take place after school hours, sometimes it is on weekends.
Rahul Kumar, who studies in class four at the MCD Primary School in Andrews Ganj, says his favourite class was the chess workshop taught by Saara Mehta.
“I learnt chess from Saara, who was very kind and understanding. She helped me learn how to play chess step by step,” he adds. These activities cultivate a spirit of eagerness among the children, expanding their horizons beyond the four walls of the classroom and introducing them to so much more.
The student volunteers, too, say these classes are thrilling, to say the least. Saara, who studies in Class 11 and has been tutoring for three months, says the experience has been enriching. “It has become a highlight of my week, something I eagerly anticipate. The children I work with display remarkable intelligence, and witnessing their curiosity and growing interest towards learning chess has been truly fulfilling and personally rewarding.”
Anant, meanwhile, is constantly looking at expanding this idea to reach out to more schools across Delhi. The young changemaker recently raised funds from friends and family and donated 30 tablets to three of the MCD schools, enabling smarter integration of technology into the curriculum. Through the outreach created by the app, they have managed to help over 600 students, he notes.
Looking back at the trajectory of this unique endeavour and how it has shaped him personally, he says he feels grateful. A love for imparting knowledge combined with an idea has now turned into a beacon of hope for many students across the national capital.
If you’d like to be a student volunteer, you can download the app here and register yourself.