Facing off-and-on internet bans, curfews and inaccessibility to books in Jammu and Kashmir, a bunch of IIT graduates have got together to help students and engineering aspirants realise their dreams.
Through their RISE organisation, Mubeen Masudi (IIT-Bombay), Imbesat Ahmad (IIT- Kharagpur), Salman Shahid (Chemical Engineering, IIT-Kharagpur) and Saifi from the Delhi Technical University are "bridging the gap between opportunities and the students in Kashmir".
"Here in Kashmir, no matter which stream students belong to or what career they aspire for, they lack proper information and counselling. They lack guidance. Information has not flown here as it has in other cities.
"We provide the right information at the right time to help students prepare for entrance exams, give their ideas shape and facilitate them with best educational tools," RISE co-founder Ahmad, M.S., Physics, IIT-Kharagpur, told IANS from Srinagar.
Since starting out in 2012 with four students, they currently have 200 under their wing. Last year, RISE sent four students to IITs and this year, 40 have qualified for NITs.
"We could have had a far better result but last year's curfew came in the way. Currently, we are targeting engineering institutes like IITs and NITs. Last year, one student got selected by Princeton University and one by the University of Washington. Net ban, curfews, strikes, etc., make things difficult. Book shops are shut and ecommerce sites do not work here," Ahmad said.
"For exams like Scholastic Aptitude Test for admission to US colleges, you need the internet," he pointed out.
They even survived the ravages of the 2014 floods.
"We had set up a library here with our books. We lost around 4,000 books. For over a month, our activities were crippled. What happens is students lose their morale because they already feel that a student in any other city has a head start over them and when classes are cancelled, it kills precious time.
"Once a student feels he or she is lagging, it is important to encourage them to persevere and that is where our role becomes important," said Ahmad, who hails from Patna.
It all began for Ahmad when he visited Kashmir for an education workshop and realised the education scenario in India's northernmost state was in dire straits. He came in touch with Masudi who hails from the state and they decided to join hands to reverse the situation.
"Last year we had 110 students and for 40, our services were totally free. For the rest, the cost varies from Rs 10,000 to Rs 35,000 for a coaching period ranging from four months to two years. The charges depend on how much they are ready to pay, what their financial capacity is. Money is not an issue here. Parents are ready to pay. There are people who can pay 10 times this but even at this price you can't get someone from IIT or NIT to come and teach here. Money is there but resources aren't," he said.
"There are around 30 per cent girls among our students. The ratio is pretty good here. There is aspiration among the students and we are trying to give them a boost," Ahmad added.
(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at email@example.com)
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