Pratham Mysore’s Rural Student Mentoring Programme
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Pratham Mysore’s Rural Student Mentoring Programme

April 16, 2022

Opening a window to the world outside

By Ashvini Ranjan, Founder-Trustee, Pratham Mysore

The term mentor refers to a person who is a knowledgeable, trusted, experienced and willing to guide a less experienced person. While parents are the most ideal persons to mentor their young,  a child may hesitate to discuss freely with the parent either out of shyness or out of fear.  Hence the advantage of an unbiased third person to play the role of a mentor.

 It is natural to have a number of doubts and questions during adolescence. A timely advice or guidance will be of immense value than putting off a doubt for one reason or the other.   While it is ideal for every young individual to have a mentor to handhold and guide, the benefits are manifold more to a rural child who faces far more challenges than an urban counterpart. More so in the recent past when schools closed on account of the pandemic and leaving the students with little or no learning and confused.  With limited access to advice or guidance either from an outside source or from the parent on account of their limited learning, rural youths are at a great disadvantage.

However ideal and desirable it may be to have a mentor to every young person, finding one to every child in a large country like India with a large child population can be a daunting task.  But if a beginning is made with the help of a well-thought strategy, the number of mentors can be built up gradually. Thanks to technology, even a basic smart phone can provide  connect between the mentor and the mentee, irrespective of geographical locations and distances.

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Besides a reasonably educated and intelligent adult who with some basic training could function as a mentor, there are many other options to develop mentors.  For instance, students studying to become teachers could be trained to be mentors by making mentoring a part of the curriculum. With such exposure to mentoring at the time of training, they will make better teachers when they become fully qualified. 

The current experiment by Pratham Mysore has nearly half of the mentors being teacher trainees.  The other half is mix of retired teachers, Government officials, educated home-makers,  MSW students etc.  Students of IITs, IIMs, IIITs, schools of planning and architecture etc., could be a catchment area for mentors. Large corporates too with young workforce can undertake mentoring as a part of their CSR activity. At the time of writing this article, Service Organisations like the Rotary, Lions, Round Table etc., have expressed their interest to adopt mentoring as a part of their service programme.  

Pratham Mysore has been conducting a pilot programme in four villages in T. Narasipur Taluk in Karnataka for the rural students of class six to nine.  The choice of this grade of students was made to ensure that the student is old enough to handle a mobile devise and secondly mature enough to communicate with the mentor.  The experiment with seventy-five mentors and mentees has been a source of rich learning.  The readiness to volunteer to be a mentor is most encouraging.  However willing people may be to participate, some ground rules and training are required for the mentors to interact,  more so with rural students. 

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The pilot programme currently underway for the rural students, mandates that there will be no physical contact between the mentor and the mentee.  All interaction will be on mobile phones only.  Further, there is to be no financial transactions.  The scope of interaction will be confined to non-formal subjects only and not subjects prescribed in the school curriculum.  This is to ensure that the children are not confused in the way lessons are taught in the school and that of the mentor. 

India being a leading software developer to the world, it can help to scale with appropriate tech platforms.  The State on its part should consider investing to make available specially developed digital devices for mentoring programme and improving internet connectivity in rural India.  This should be given the highest priority.

Time and again it has been said and proven that a big portion of the knowledge capital of the country is in rural youth.  They have as much talent and skills that is comparable with the students of any elite private schools. It is waiting to be unlocked and channelised.  Student Mentoring by Pratham Mysore is one such programme aimed to harness the potential of the rural youths. Pratham Mysore will be happy to share its learnings with the Government or any other to make its vision of fostering education amongst the citizens of India a reality.

11 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Pratham Mysore’s Rural Student Mentoring Programme”

  1. Govind Pai says:

    A lovely initiative. I unfortunately, cannot speak a word of Kannada (basically dumb!) but my daughter, a doctor in Pune, I think would love to get involved. Will ask her.
    I remember in the US there was a similar program called Big Brother/Big Sister. My host family, a senior VP in Dupont, used to mentor a lot of mostly black kids from impoverished neighbourhoods. He turned around a lot of kids who might otherwise have been lost to despair or drugs or crime into productive, caring, self respecting folks.

  2. jalandhara says:

    @Govind Pai
    I suggest that you learn Kannada asap, with a name such as yours reminding of a famous Kannada poet. This toy should do, before the Greater Mysore becomes operational, thus widening the city perimeters by tens of miles; thanks to MPs like Simha, his plan of linking Hassan to Kerala through Kodagu tby a multiple lane highway, and the possible Wayanad-Mysore highway kicking in, which will bring in a massive influx of Keralites. You may then have to polish Malayalam!
    Coming back to the concept of host family, before the decades Indians en masse invaded the US, the US universities in Ohio, operated ‘a host family’ scheme. When I arrived to do graduate studies in one of those universities in late 1960s to 1970s, the American families in that area were interested to host foreign students like me. The area had not seen that many Indians then-there were 4 Indian doctors in 4 large hospitals, and about 70 Indian students in 3 universities in that area ( now there are 600 Indian doctors, 5000 Indians mostly engineers and IT techies, 6 large Indian grocery supermarkets, and a massive numbers of Indian students. .I learn that the Americans there do not want to know about Indians anymore!)
    An American family, among a few won to host me. I understood, there was 6 of them interested! The reasons: I was from an an obscure Royal city called Mysore. I was an EE engineer, who after graduation in Mysore worked in Bangalore -another city not well known then, and my boss was a German engineer who was a former Luftwaffe fighter pilot. My main interest in a language called Sanskrit, and my hobby of research into WWII history in Europe, finally clinched it. I found out that in all those 6American families, the elderly persons served as soldiers in General Pattton’s army!
    The American family who won me as host had a bank professional who was working as the systems software professional , with a young wife and a kid, but with a father in-law who took part in the Normandy landing on the D-day as part of the 101st airborne division’s young air force Lt parachuting near Normandy! This elderly person, who later worked in the GE, conversed for hours reminiscing about his fighting through Caen and arriving to liberate Paris. He corresponded with my former German boss above, (getting the address from me) who returned to Stuttgart by then.
    I was swell looked after by them -they remained vegetarians when I lived with them during week ends, long week ends like the thanks giving week ends, forgoing their Turkey and cranberry sauce dinners. They made my life comfortable. They later became vegetarians. I am grateful to them. Having moved to Europe, I still correspond with the host family wife, the husband has alzeimer’s, with the son who has an Apple store now, and with a daughter who was not born then, but now, a scientist in Argonne National Lab!
    About Mysore hosting: There are a number of young kids of primary age coming from poor families in nearby towns and villages, who a few Mysore families can host, helping them by contribute to their education in many ways. @Govind Pai, you could start an initiative of that nature now!

  3. Howdy, Modi! says:

    Hello Govind Pai
    Do you live in Mysore? If so, when did you arrive to settle ? Why have you not learned Kannada?
    If you settled in Chennai for example or in any of the Tamil Nadu cities, you cannot get away from ‘Thambis’ without speaking their ‘sundara tamil!
    You ‘Big Brother/Big Sister. ..” schemes do not work now. The hosts/mentors have to go through checks of all kinds, and the kids could sue them in a country in love with litigations and lawyers! Kamala Harris and her brigade of ‘progressives’ who assert their credentials being African-American, blacks emancipators, but married to White folks, have to contend with these days.
    May be the MGP and Shenoy, who seeks attention by posting his resume as a letter to PM Modi in the SOM, could do useful work like this mentoring and you could join him? His eco-howls are just posturing! You could persuade him?
    Finally, are you happy with the 10-lane highway, the car culture, the private healthcare sector etc.. that Mysore / India imported from the US?

  4. Govind Pai says:

    Jalandhara, nice to hear from you again! Interesting and fascinating memories. Continue on memory lane if you will. My memories are somewhat similar, though at a later date, but the influx of Indian students and computer guys also hadn’t begun yet (There were strict foreign exchange curbs and no current account or capital account convertibility or whatever it is called and only students with assistantships or scholarships could go). Learnt a lot about the best of the US from my host family, as well as got sick of the consumer culture and the desert of shopping malls (though universities there are like their abbeys of old, where a small creative minority keep the flame alive). Here, as I told you, I live a bit like the rishis of old. No vehicle, minimal needs, travel by foot or bus. I have a really difficult time learning Kannada. Or rather retaining my learning. I had learnt to read and write Kannada three times quite well and promptly forgot it three times! Guess it’s time for the fourth attempt! I must be like RK Narayan’s ” The Bachelor of Arts”! Honour is in the attempts and not the success!
    Yes I encouraged my daughter to help with the education of some poor children in Anantpur and Bellary (my mother spent her childhood there and developed a love for Telugu studying in the schools there, so there is a sentimental reason for choosing those places). She plans to visit and see those children personally. She takes after my mother, a generous heart and an empathy for the underdog. And, unlike me, picks up languages very quickly. Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and of course our mother tongue Konkani as well as Hindi, English and a bit of Sanskrit. Other than my name, I have nothing in common with M. Govind Pai. My father-in-law knew him. I believe he was a marvelous raconteur and a polyglot who knew some 14 languages fluently! Alas, this Pai finds languages incommensurable and incomprehensible!

  5. Jalandhara says:

    @G Pai
    I am not sure when you arrived in Mysore to settle. By 1980s, one could not see any functioning foot path at all.
    I used to walk end-to-end in my native city Mysore, where I was born, brought up and worked for some years, and produced a wonderful galaxy of students, in (Mysore until 1960s), , later in USA and Europe. I do not want to name them for obvious reasons.
    My last visit was in 1990s, and I did not like the developments of the city at all. I never belonged there. the people were mean -minded rude and most institutions were corrupt. Walking was not an option, as foot paths either disappeared or occupied by vendor stalls. Cycling was dangerous, The car culture was in full swing. Private hospitals and clinics galore – I never imagined that the city would have ‘progressed’ to have so many ‘hrudayalays, and so many suffering from chest infections! I could not believe that I needed a hefty wad of 100 Rupee bills to go to a street market in Nanjumalige, where I used to struggle to spend 10 Rupees for fruits and vegetables.
    Mysore city where you live today, is not for rishis! That was in 1950. !0-lane highways, car culture, private hospitals, people caring only for money-that is Mysore of today I hear, not my Mysore at all. Posters rejoicing Mysore airport expansion ( Kerala government, I was told by one of the visiting central ministers, who was an old student. and who wanted to see me here wanted Mysore airport as the 5th airport to their 4s already in existence!)

  6. Jalandhara says:

    @G Pai
    Since, you mentioned R K Narayan, though a Mysorean raised and studied in Mysore, he spoke poor Kannada. I could converse him fluently in Tamil, as it was also my mother tongue. He hardly knew Sanskrit which people of his father’s generation who like my father migrated to Mysore in K R Wadiyar’s time. I did not like his books , as I thought they were light weight. There was 2 R K Narayans-R K Narayan of Malgudi stories and RK Narayan of the Guide. The former walked on the 100feet Road ( Chamaraja Double Road) footpath, from his home in KM Puram, with unfurled umbrella, where as the latter moving to Yadavagiri, whizzed though the same road seated in a silver Mercedes driven by an unformed driver! That finally made me to ignore him.
    The only person who never changed was Lata Mangeshkar, from personal knowledge. A real Indian icon. I could say the same with MS Subbulakshmi, a graceful lady, another icon, again with personal knowledge.

  7. Govind Pai says:

    Lovely memories, Jalandhara. You have had plenty of interesting experiences and seem to have met some amazing people! I agree with you in your assessment of RK Narayan as a writer. He evokes a certain nostalgia about a particular community in a particular place and time, but his writing is dull, predictable, plodding and uninspired and he never, as great writers do, manages to give his characters any kind of universality. He certainly made full use of Graham Greene’s good words about his writing!
    I take your point about Mysore no longer being the idyll it once may have been. But then, it is more about an attitude of the mind than anything else, I feel . Was reading this wonderful insight from this medieval European theologian (amazing how one gets insights from people of all ages and religions and cultures if one keeps one’s mind open):
    “It is, therefore, a great source of virtue for the practiced mind to learn, bit by bit, first to change about in visible and transitory things, so that afterwards it may be possible to leave them behind altogether. The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his. From boyhood I have dwelt on foreign soil and I know with what grief sometimes the mind takes leave of the narrow hearth of a peasant’s hut, and I know too how frankly it afterwards disdains marble firesides and panelled halls.”
    Hugh of Saint Victor, The Didascalicon of Hugh of Saint Victor: A Medieval Guide to the Arts

  8. koppal boregowda says:

    Hello Govind Pai
    Your observation: “I take your point about Mysore no longer being the idyll it once may have been. But then, it is more about an attitude of the mind than anything else, I feel”, says more about you , I guess ,as a new settler to Mysore. The city in recent decades has not been an idyll ( my parents had lived in the Idyllic city of Mysore-that was nearly 6 decades ago, which they used to say was marching towards Bangalore situation; fortunately they are not alive to see the current decadent state of Mysore ) but a city ,which caught the Bangalore disease, inexorably expanding and sucking in more non-Mysoreans, who considered this city ,’more tolerable ‘than elsewhere.. Even they, who arrived 2/3 decades ago, cannot stand the change for the worse-the rate of expansion, the numbers of new arrivals, the massively congested roads with petrol vehicles of all descriptions,, the pollution, the cost of owning a home, and the sight of tall building housing the nests of people, like one used to see in Mumbai-which Mysore never had etc.. I wondered then how people could live in a nest feeling the ground at al! Given, all the above, It is certainly not an attitude of mind, for me-who lived in a better Mysore in my middle school days 1980s, which was then well into a development frenzy; but may be for some one like you who obviously is a anew comer escaping from somewhere much worse, perhaps.
    In a decade, you find yourself lucky having arrived early, as the expected new massive influx of people from the neighbouring states-particularly from Kerala struggled to establish their homesteads.

  9. Govind Pai says:

    Point taken Koppal boregowda! Yes, I think all reasonable people feel anguish at the way this once beautiful and pristine city is going, as are most other places. My intent was not to turn a blind eye to these problems by living in some fool’s paradise! I am a fairly recent entrant to the city, but do have connections with fairly close family that go back at least a century. I was not looking for a Shangri La, but for a smaller place, where I could live simply, disrupting as little as I could, while at the same time contributing to the local economy (I buy local from small shops, kirana stores and vendors), and honestly paying local taxes. And, hopefully contributing in other ways to arrest the decline of the city while contributing to its sustenance. My daughter grew up in this city and though in Mumbai and Pune now and married to a Maharashtrian, considers Mysore an idyll, and through these mentorship and other programs wants to contribute her mite to this city that has given her such wonderful memories.

  10. koppal boregowda says:

    Hello Govind Pai
    Thanks for your honest reply.
    Mysore is not a small place. You would have been better off settling in a small town that forms a satellite of Mysore city. A small house plus a small garden was achievable, Walks and bicycle rides until the developments hits. High rise buildings with nests of apartments were sold through aggressive sales pitches, and people who grabbed them are regretting now.
    JLook how far the city has spread, touching Sritrangapatna in one direction and Nanjangud in the other. The car culture means, these distances do not matter any more.
    I knew, a relative who worked all his life in New York returned choosing Nanjangud, a relatively calmer place then-just 3 decades ago, bought a half-acre of land adjoining a small house, for vegetables’ cultivation, rode a bicycle in that town for a couple of years ,thinking that he chose an idyllic place, seeking also his religious roots. Within that time, to his horror, that Nanjangud town saw influx of thousands of new comers, some escaping from Mysore, and others migrating in considerable numbers from Wayanad border in Kerala. .Then arrived the Mysore-Nanjangud highway. Soon Nanjangud was choking with cars and people. This person’s bicycle ride became life-threatening as he was knocked twice by a marauding 4-wheeler He sold his holdings, and tried a small village near Nagpur. Same story. He finally determined to the US, this time chose semi-rural Wyoming, At least he said, the developments there was slow . The last wrote to me a year ago, he said ,he likes the cool air of the forest there; the on-line presence means, he could order Indian groceries and get delivered to him! His small house, has a small garden enough to plant root vegetables and greens. Yes, he has a small car, but he seldom uses it. He can take his bicycle ride as it is a semi-rural area. He says Mysore like other places in India has copied the worst excesses of the US, and this most Mysoreans consider as progress!
    Reading my name, you would understand that I hailed from a Koppal-meaning a backward and supposedly uncivilised area-there were many such Koppals in the outer ring of Mysore for decades. The people there like my parents had a sense of strong local belonging. They were unfazed by the developments taking place in Mysore for a time. But this Koppal could not escape the fierce force of developments , and in the end, this has become an extension of Mysore city!
    The multi-lane highways, will make Mysore city sttetch further towards Bangalore and towards the Kerala border as more and more newcomers come and settle. The twin city of Bangalore-Mysore is not a dream. Local and local shops-that was what my close relative thought when they built a house in Hanumanth Nagar adjoining Basavangudi in Bangalore or a friend building a house in Kengeri near Bangalore!

  11. Mann Ki Baat, Bisi Bele Baat! says:

    Years ago and even now, the companies with investments in building high rise pigeon holes called apartments, have been heavily advertising to lure NRIs and others into buying these apartments. The myth of living in Royal Mysore, they had heard is busted once the hapless buyers arrive to find the congested roads, the pollution, the noise, the filth and not to speak of petrol vehicles of all sizes, chasing them even on footpaths-some places footpaths do not exist etc., the perils they have to confront every day of their lives. These are retirees, and would not accept their follies. Not knowing the language of the city is a massive negative factor.
    I wonder why they picked a fast expanding city like Mysore, to live a peaceful retired life. Any distant suburb, even miles away from the city would have been better with a proper house.
    I recollect, a Times of India journalist retired to Coonoor, near Ooty. It was an idyllic place indeed. He got bored, despite the Internet and his logging habits, was lured to a high rise pigeon hole in Mysore; started a blog . He was argumentative, rude and could not stand any poster who disagreed with him. He could not speak a word of Kannada. He said, it was not necessary! When some one questioned him about his move from Coonoor, he simply exploded! The only one he was easy with was Barmy Shenoy, who like him defended his move to Mysore city coming with a massive influx of non-Mysoreans, a few decades ago. Strange for some one like him claiming to be an oil expert settling in a city which has no connection with oil business-except the cooking oil type! Now, he is batting for cooking gas piped through to homes!
    The above retired journalists’ blog was collapsing and he handed it over to a Malayalee- nice one from a non-Mysorean to another., it disappeared in a way. He moved to Chennai. Meanwhile Barmy Shenoy’s MGP has remained mostly obscure and ignored. Now, its members are into arm-chair eco battle!

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