In October 2012, three IIT alumni – Mubeen Masudi from IIT Bombay and Imbesat Ahmad and Salman Shahid from IIT Kharagpur, decided to give up their lucrative corporate jobs and go to Kashmir to set up a coaching institute for students who have the potential to make it to the IITs, NITs and other engineering colleges in India. They call it RISE.
In 2015, the trio selected its first batch of students after organising a valley-wide RISE talent search, which saw the participation of over 15000 students.
500 of these students performed well and were identified for prolonged counselling and mentoring sessions where they were told about the colleges they can aspire for and how they can overcome challenges that come in their way. Finally, around 60 students who were engineering aspirants from this group, were admitted into the coaching institute located in Srinagar. About 30 of the finally selected students were taught for free because they came from extremely weak financial backgrounds and could not afford education of this kind. Some students had to pay a nominal fee of Rs. 1,000-1,200 per month to cover the cost of books. The annual fee for others was Rs. 20,000.
This year, 28 students cleared the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (Mains) for admission into NITs, and four students made it through JEE Advanced.
A resident of Hyderpora in Srinagar, Kaleem scored 221 out of 360 in JEE-mains, 2016 – becoming the highest scorer in Kashmir valley. His father is an engineer and Kaleem finished his entire schooling from Srinagar city. “I am very thrilled that I got a rank good enough to secure an admission to IIT. Ever since I started preparing for this exam, I had an aim of pursuing my engineering from IIT Bombay. I am yet to finalise on the branch I am going to pursue there,” he said while talking about his score.
Aqib was studying in Class 10 when he came to know about IITs for the first time. “I read an article written by Mubeen Masudi and found it very interesting and did some further research on IIT and realised that it’s the kind of institute I would want to pursue my education from,” he said. A resident of Tawheedabad Bagh in Bandipora, North Kashmir, Aqib’s vision is partially impaired and his father is a shopkeeper. The lack of resources when it came to preparing for IIT entrance exams made Aqib very sceptical about his chances. Learning about his background, the founders of RISE decided to teach him for free. Moving ahead, he wants to pursue physics, hence, he will be opting for Engineering Physics from IIT Delhi.
Malik was also introduced to the concept of IITs in 2012 when the RISE team visited his school to conduct some workshops. He moved to Kota for his preparations for two years after Class 10, but started facing some health issues by the end of Class 12. He could not qualify in JEE advanced that year. After moving back to Kashmir, Malik decided to give it one more try and joined RISE. A resident of Meemandar Shopian in South Kashmir, his family runs an apple business.
Arif is a resident of Dawar, Gurez, which is located along the Line of Control with Pakistan. His father is a government school teacher and once he obtains his degree, he will be the first ever IITian from Gurez. “I wasn’t able to prepare for IIT in my class 11 and 12 as adequate guidance for the same wasn’t available in Bandipora. After class 12, I moved to Srinagar and started preparing for the IIT exam. I am yet to decide on my branch choice, but I have a slight inclination towards pursuing Aerospace Engineering from IIT Kharagpur,” he said.
“One challenge we face here is the occurrence of frequent strikes and bandhs. It is impossible to conduct classes during those times. As a result, students lose focus and go off track with respect to their preparations. To overcome this problem, we developed a new product called RISE edu-tablet, through which students get regular assignments on the tablets provided to them. Given the low internet penetration here, we had to develop an app that requires minimal internet connectivity. The app enables students to practise tests at home and send reports to faculty members, thereby ensuring that we are able to keep a track of all the students even if they are not able to visit the institute,” says Imbesat, who comes from Bihar and was a student of Super 30, an institute that coaches students from underprivileged backgrounds for admission to IITs. He was inspired by the teaching model there as well.
The team consists of five members as of now, including Saifi Karim from DTU, New Delhi, and Md. Neyaz Ahmad from IIT Delhi. Teaching is a passion for these young men, and they are taking education deeper into the valley – one day at a time. This year, RISE plans to enrol 100 students for preparations.
“It is both a source of pride and worry when we look back at how much we’ve done in three years, and how little it looks when compared to the mountains ahead. We want to continue with our work of improving the state of education in Kashmir. Our goal is to establish mechanisms and institutionalize processes that help and benefit the student community on the other side of the information divide. Once this is achieved, we aim to replicate the model in regions where education is a luxury,” concludes Imbesat.