Two engineers choose to teach kids than draw from high-paying jobs

Till a year ago, Rahul Bhanot, a Computer engineer and an MBA, was drawing around Rs.2 lakh per month working for an information technology major, but he was not happy working for unseen people. Today he is much happier earning a Rs.14,000 per month stipend while teaching at a municipal corporation Primary School in Tughlakabad Extension.

He now commutes 20 km from Faridabad to the school every day. While his business family has not been able to comprehend his decision, they nevertheless respect it.

“I wasn’t really interested in Information Technology. After doing my M.Sc. from Coventry and MBA from Nottingham in England, I worked for companies there as also for TCS and IL&FS Education in India. But there was always something missing in my life,” says 33-year-old Rahul.

Then through a friend he came to know about Teach For India, which has been working with around 700 outstanding college graduates and young professionals towards eliminating educational inequity in India.

“I joined TFI as a fellow and now I teach girls of Class III all the subjects barring the second language. Our teaching style is not rote; it is more of conceptual learning. I hope to open my own school based on these concepts on completing my two year fellowship,” says Rahul.

Another TFI fellow, Mainak Roy, too nurtures similar ambitions. He also joined the second batch in Delhi last year and now teaches girl students at a municipal corporation Primary School in Sangam Vihar. “My father till date cannot understand why I turned down offers from leading companies to take up teaching. In India teaching is considered the last avenue whereas in developed countries like Finland, teachers are paid at par with the best,” notes this B. Tech. in Electronics.

Mainak insists that the teaching they impart is not about marks. “One section out of four in these schools is allocated to us and we teach our students in English. We also tell them things about the outside world from our own experiences.”

For both Mainak and Rahul, who are part of the second batch in Delhi, the going was not always easy. “When we went into the community, there was an element of distrust as we were boys teaching in municipal schools after leaving highly paying jobs. But now the appreciation for our work is there,” avers Rahul.

While the children and their families initially treated the school like a crèche – somewhere they could stay safely while their parents were at work and one which also provided them free uniforms, food and scholarships – the learning process brought about a drastic change in them, they insist.

“One girl recently asked me if she could go with her family for a wedding in the family. I told her it would be better if she did not as the final exams were approaching. She kept coming to school. It was only after about ten days that she disclosed that she had stayed back alone at home and most of the time ate just eggs and bread. It is such dedication of these students which makes our efforts all the more worthwhile. Seeing the children progress before your eyes also gives immense satisfaction.” says Rahul.

Mainak adds that for all the girls schooling is also a passport for a better future. “There is one girl in my class who often turns up with a black eye. When I asked her about the reason, she said her mother was burnt alive before her own eyes and now she lives with her maternal aunt, whose son often beats her up. But despite all of thatshe tries not to miss even a single class.”

Recently, he says, when as part of a critical thinking exercise he gave his class an exercise to write the craziest things they could imagine with a sock – like being able to travel around the world on wearing it – one girl, Shaheen wrote: “I hope that on wearing this all the parents in the world have the money to send their children to school”. The touching words instantly won her the first prize.

The two fellows say the students now feel freer to discuss various issues with them and in the wake of the recent gang-rape case, they even asked them what the incident was all about. “We did not discuss the issue with them but intend to get our female colleagues for a session on such matters. Such interventions are important for their well-being and can look at teaching them things like good and bad touch,” they say.