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By Way2k Way2k
Way2k 10 Aug 2012
IIT grads turn mentors to help underprivileged

Akshay Saxena and Krishna Ramkumar passed out from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai with plum job offers at a multinational management consultancy firm in the US. But in 2010, they quit their jobs to turn mentors to underprivileged students and give them a fighting chance to crack the competitive IIT Joint Entrance Exam (IIT- JEE).

IIT grads turn mentors to help underprivileged
Today, six more IIT graduates from all over India, along with Saxena and Ramkumar are acting as personal mentors to as many 250 students in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kanpur, Roorkee and Dehradun as part of the Avanti Fellows programme. The mentoring team also includes over 150 IIT students, who volunteer for a few hours every week. The programme provide two years of free after-school training for students who cannot afford to attend expensive training institutes to prepare for the test. It is currently training students from IIT, VJTI (Mumbai), Maulana Azad Medical College (Delhi) and Anna University (Chennai). In Mumbai itself, 34 students are attending the programme.

"Each year over 500,000 students take the entrance exam for IIT's. Only 2 per cent succeed, "explains Ramkumar, CEO and Co-founder of Avanti Fellows."What we are trying to provide is a high-impact after school service that will help these students get a fair chance, "he added.
In April 2011, Ramkumar and his team of mentors approached 150 government-aided schools in the city to admit students after an aptitude test. Students coming from families with incomes amounting to less than Rs. 2.5 lakh are applicable for the fellowship. More than 330 students are applied. 24 students were admitted. The first office of Avanti Fellows was then set up in Powai.

Ajunkya Teli and Mukesh Ahire, standard XII students from Maharashtra Vidyalaya in Thane were two of the lucky few who made the first batch, which is scheduled to take the IIT-JEE in March. For the last two years, they have been attending a local coaching class called 'IIT PACE' free of cost. Every fortnight, they also visit the Powai office for a one-on-one session with their mentors.

"Studying with students who have already managed to crack the JEE is the best part. After I complete my computer engineering degree, I plan to give my IAS exams, "said Teli.
"When we conducted the awareness programmes at schools for students of standard IX, most of them had never heard about the IIT-JEE. They often get to know about it only after they pass out from school, but by then it's too late to prepare. This shouldn't stop lesser privileged students from making it to the best engineering colleges in the country, "says Abbas Dadla, Program Manager, Mumbai.

The Long-Distance Classroom:

This year, the Avanti team has also floated a pilot programme to reach out to 150 students from rural schools via video conferencing. At Jawahar Navodaya Vidhyalaya, Pondicherry, 40 students sit for video lectures after school hours. The mentor based in a studio in Delhi communicates with students through a video conference at a computer centre.
The students from Pondicherry have shown a 40 to 60 per cent rise in their academic performance. The founders plan to replicate the model of video classrooms for underprivileged students in five more centers in the metros by May 2013.

Courtesy: Times of India

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