Hi everyone! I’m Spiffy, your favorite interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making a difference on education. Today I’m going to learn about quality education in Karnataka, India, and how the Project Sitara Foundation is helping students pass their qualifying exams, and improving access to education—online and in the regional language. Join me as I welcome Rohit Prashanth Vasishta, a Trustee for Project Sitara Foundation.
Spiffy: Welcome Rohit! Let’s get right to it! Can you tell us about the challenges you are addressing?
Rohit: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! So, the vision at Project Sitara Foundation is to provide inclusive quality education for students from underserved communities. However, we face a multitude of societal, economic, and social challenges. India is a country that is both dynamic and competitive and has minimum qualification requirements to pass the high school level (Class 10) examinations. This is extremely important because most jobs and roles in our country's societal structure require these. Unfortunately, ensuring this minimum qualification becomes extremely difficult for many families due to in-built social issues rooted in society, or economic issues resulting in the lack of access to quality education.
Spiffy: I see! And what motivated you to join Project Sitara Foundation and work at ensuring students are able to meet these requirements and qualifications?
Rohit: Our team of trustees and volunteers is an extremely motivated body of students seeking to contribute towards change. We are restless individuals motivated to initiate positive developments in society and are motivated every day by our various stakeholders—our advisors, mentors, parents, and most importantly, our students.
Spiffy: How are helping to create a more equitable world through your work?
Rohit: Well, Spiffy, embedded within the issues surrounding education are socio-economic problems that have built up over centuries. Our vision for providing equitable access to education recognizes the need to simultaneously keep in mind these issues. For example, over the past few months, we have been involved in making a YouTube playlist covering Class 10 mathematics for students in Kannada, India. Our motivation grew out of our realization that there was a lack of resources available in Kannada, a language spoken by millions of people in our country, and the pandemic-related requirements for quality online sources of accessible education.
Spiffy: Can you tell me about a recent initiative that Project Sitara has taken up? What kind of impact has it made?
Rohit: Our ongoing project has been to build a YouTube series in Kannada for Class 10 students. This series covers the entirety of Class 10 mathematics and is taught by our student volunteers. We hope that it becomes a reliable resource for children across the state, and plan to promote the series via in-person and online campaigns, so we can reach as many beneficiaries as possible. So far, in the schools we have reached out to, the response has been extremely positive, and the feedback from teachers and students has confirmed that we are on the right track. We hope that, at the bare minimum, it helps students pass their Class 10 examinations.
Spiffy: Can you share about an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn?
Rohit: Well, Spiffy, personally, I have faced a lot of failures and setbacks as a teacher, and really struggled to connect with my students early on. I grew up in a privileged environment, and my education taught me about the importance of holistic development and the need to view education beyond the results of examinations. It was enlightening when I realized that, for most students, these aspects become their greatest challenges. One cannot expect to learn more without qualifying exams, and one can’t qualify when they are not familiar with concepts taught in Class 7. A lot of our work has been to help close this gap and address the more nuanced issues of our education system.
Spiffy: Do you have any other experience you’d like to share with our audience?
Rohit: Yes, Spiffy, one of my most memorable experiences, working as part of Project Sitara Foundation, happened on my last day teaching. I had to leave for university and one of my students, who was very close to me, was devastated to hear that I would be leaving. She became very emotional and ended up walking out of class in tears. One of my colleagues went to console her and later told me that the student was extremely sad about me leaving. She said that I was the brother she never had. This meant a lot to me. At Project Sitara, our relationships with our students is our greatest gift. We do not believe in the uni-directional transfer of knowledge. We learn, we love, and we receive the same equally.
Spiffy: What an inspirational story, Rohit! It’s been a pleasure hearing about your work with Project Sitara Foundation. I wish you all the best. It’s truly been an honor!
Rohit Prashanth Vasishta is a trustee for Project Sitara Foundation and a sophomore at Ashoka University, India, studying mathematics. Rohit’s interests lie in the fields of mathematics, technology, the environment, and politics. He is an active practitioner of yoga and is extremely enthusiastic about learning. (Nominated by the Millennium Campus Network)
© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog