A pristine, white building stands out amid agricultural lands and modest houses in Pilapur, a village near Chengalpattu.
Set up by M. Selvakumar, a student of the 1976 batch of PSBB Senior Secondary School, this new addition to the village’s landscape houses Kalvialaya, a free coaching centre for class X students.
Since 2010, it has helped many students prepare for the board exams. “The coaching centre used to function in a temporary shelter on the terrace of a house. But we realised we needed a permanent structure,” he said.
The newly-built classroom is equipped with a new blackboard, laptop and an LCD projector. The centre also has a kitchen because ‘some teachers come from Chennai, and students tend to spend long hours there ahead of examinations,’ its founder said.
Mr. Selvakumar, who is now in a well-settled job in Bahrain, did not always have it easy. His education in PSBB was funded by the school and his mother worked there as a helper.
He attributes his initiative to the ‘each one teach one’ programme that he was part of when in school. “We were teaching students who studied in municipal schools and lived in poverty. As someone who lived in a slum, I identified with them,” he said. And, when he chose to give back to the cause, he chose his own little village.
About his village, he said, students tend to utilise the free time after school to help their parents in the fields and around the house.
“Students who do not pass SSLC tend to drop out, leading to a vicious cycle,” he said.
Mrs. Y.G. Parthasarathy, dean and director (academic and administration), PSBB Senior Secondary School, and chief patron, Kalvialaya, while inaugurating the centre recalled how Selvakumar, as a student, chose to protect his books over anything else when the roof of his house was leaking during heavy rains.
“He took his raincoat and sheltered his books,” she said. Old teachers from the school, she said, are actively involved in teaching at the centre, either in person or through Skype. The school has donated Rs. 3 lakh to the centre.
The centre now has 20 students, four local teachers, four visiting faculty and a team from Cognizant that teaches spoken English over the weekend, said Mr. Selvakumar.
However, it is Prema Veeraraghavan, Selvakumar’s teacher from school and the head resource person at the centre, who holds it together.
“I come to India 3-4 times a year, but enquire about the centre, from Bahrain, on a daily basis. Prema ma’am oversees its functioning very effectively,” he said.