By Shaifila Ladhani:
Abul Hasnat, an MBA student at Jamia Millia Islamia, began his journey of teaching English to underprivileged students by establishing the initiative MiTR- Dr. Kalam’s Wings in October, 2015. With a vision to provide free English classes to those who can’t afford coaching outside, Hasnat and his team of 8 teachers aim to bridge the barrier in society that language creates. They get together four days a week to teach 110 students in Jamia who were selected after a written test and an interview. I talked to Hasnat about his unique initiative and plans for the future:
Q1. You have named your group, Dr Kalam’s wings. Is there any particular reason for the same?
The name of our group is MiTR Foundation and Dr. Kalam’s Wings is one of its initiatives. We have named it the memory of late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. We aspire to keep the spirit and message of his life alive through this initiative.
Q2. A unique aspect of your selection process was taking a test for 200 students and selecting the bottom 110- those who were the weakest. What was a turning point in your life that encouraged you to take up such an initiative in the first place? How does your module work?
The reason for conducting this test was simple- we wanted to teach English to those who needed it more. The turning point in my life came when I used to take tuitions myself and heard from my students that their cousins were not charged fees in their school. It is there when I thought of the idea of teaching English to students for free, because at the back of my head there had always been a concern to provide free English classes to those who couldn’t afford coaching or didn’t had the opportunity to learn it.
At Dr. Kalam’s Wings, we basically focus on communication skills – we have divided our one hour class in which we give the initial 20 minutes to core grammar, and remaining time to different activities to enhance their speaking/writing skills and confidence level. The core team consists of Shabeeh Rahat, Sadia Khan, Sabeena Yousuf and me. We interviewed teachers who were willing to teach in this programme, and selected potential applicants according to their experience and knowledge, while we had also decided that we ourselves will be teaching too.
Q3. Do you feel knowledge of the English language is a bigger impediment as compared to not understanding one’s subject in college? Are you also targetting those students who have been educated in the vernacular?
Secondary knowledge of English becomes a medium that catalizes the understanding of subjects as well. It’s a global language which you possibly cannot do without. Even if you are a vernacular language student where you feel that there might not be any use of English in your life, it is a fallacy. While interviewing the applicants for the programme, we learnt that many of them were schooled in Madrasas and also in the vernacular medium. Currently we have students from varied departments- University Polytechnic, Urdu Department, Islamic Department students, students pursuing their Bachelors in Engineering and Masters in Computer Application. We even have students even from Jamia Senior Secondary school.
Q4. Was the administration helpful towards your cause? Can students from outside Jamia also attend these classes?
Everyone has been very supportive from the outset of the initiative. I would like to acknowledge Dr. Rihan Khan Suri, TPO, University Placement Cell, for his great support in this regard. This support motivated me to a level from where there was no turning back. We have already planned to establish separate batches outside the university campus in nearby location for the students who could not be accommodated in the current batches.
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