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A ‘Spark’ of Brilliance: IIT-Mandi Students’ Initiative to Provide Quality Education to Rural Kids

‘Spark’ is an initiative by the students of IIT Mandi (Himachal Pradesh), which focuses on providing academic as well as extra-curricular inputs to four government schools located in the villages of Neri, Kamand, Katindhi, and Kataula through ‘fun learning’!

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are among the most prized academic institutions in India, where some of the country’s brightest minds go to study. Located in different cities across the nation, the IITs produce some of the most intelligent engineers, scientists and researchers in the world. However, IITians aren’t just famous for their brains – they’re now gaining admiration for their compassionate hearts, too.

These days, many IIT students are doing social work of all kinds, be it starting libraries for rural children, setting up digital classrooms in villages, or using solar power to empower women. (provide hyperlink for all of these examples)

One such socially relevant initiative by the students of IIT Mandi in Himachal Pradesh aims to improve the quality of education for children from four villages near their campus.

Spark volunteers with the students of the Government School in Kamand

The program ‘Spark’, which was initiated in June 2015, focuses on providing academic as well as extra-curricular inputs to four government schools located in the villages of Neri, Kamand, Katindhi, and Kataula.

Spark focuses on fun learning for classes 6-9, for about 150 students from all the schools combined.

Speaking of the various activities taken up by the students, Rohit Verma, the coordinator of Spark, says, “There’s no set format. Sometimes we sit down and study from a textbook to clarify doubts, while sometimes we’re on the floor with our laptops showing the children videos or teaching them the basics of computers. Sometimes we are out of the classroom, doing different outdoor activities. It’s a free-flowing structure, nothing is rigid.”

Spark is the brainchild of two IIT students, Anuraj GP and Prateek Gauba, who initiated it last year; their work has been carried forward by their juniors ever since the duo graduated and left the campus. It has received an enthusiastic response from among the student community and now the team has over 50 members.

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Since most of the volunteers have different timetables, finalising a schedule was a tough task, says Rohit. However, the students worked a way around the problem and came up with a fairly efficient system. “The B. Tech students conduct lessons and classes during the semesters. During the semester breaks, when the B. Tech students aren’t there, the initiative is carried on by the PhD and MS Students,” says Rohit.

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Spark volunteers visit all the schools thrice a month – on the first, third and fourth Saturdays – since they are busy with their own classes during the week.

Before the start of the semester, all the volunteers sit down for a meeting to devise their lesson plans for the children. After the brainstorming, ideas are discussed for activities and lessons to be conducted and an action plan chalked out.

For the past two years, Spark has also been conducting sports competitions for the kids in sync with their own college festivals. “We have two college festivals: the technical-cultural fest Exodia and the sports fest Rann-Neeti. With our principal’s permission, we brought all the students to the IIT campus for the day and scheduled different sports matches for them. They were very happy to see our college,” says Rohit.

Students of the Government School, Neri learning computer with Spark volunteers

The IIT students also teach the children how to use PCs. “We observed that many students were afraid to touch computers; they just admired them from a distance. So we started taking our laptops to the schools and taught the children the basics – how to use the internet, email, and so on.”

Although the Spark programme is still in its nascent stage, the IIT students have big plans for the future. They have recently started maintaining a database of the children, under which they have collected each student’s academic record. “We have collected personal information like the age, occupation and contact number of the parents, along with their previous academic records. We intend to keep updating this database, which will help us figure out the best strategies to train the students. It’ll reveal to us trends and patterns in their learning and we’ll also be able to learn if our methods are giving good results,”  concludes Rohit.

You may also like: “School Chalo”: Indian Army Calls out to Kashmiri Children, Promotes Education in Time of Unrest

You can know more about Spark by visiting their Facebook page.

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