Kasi M: A beacon for empowerment

Kasi M was not born with a silver spoon. The son of a street vendor, he knows how important education is. He does not want to see any child from the slums lag behind children from other areas in academics. He has also convinced more than 10 teachers to give free tuitions to children from economically weaker sections. Y Maheswara Reddy spoke to him to understand his motivation and method.

Pavithra M is one among 600 slum children at Srirampura in Bengaluru who want to support their parents, most of them manual labour, by pursuing higher studies. Being a student of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) High School, Pavithra, like majority her classmates, could not comprehend core subjects such as mathematics, science and Hindi. Now, Pavithra is pursuing B.Com at Government Ramnarayan Chellaram College of Commerce and Management, thanks to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Free Tuition.

“I want to help my parents who have been spending their hard-earned money for my education. I want to realize my long-cherished dream of working with a nationalized bank after completing B.Com. I want to thank Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Free Tuition for helping me to comprehend mathematics,’’ says Pavithra.

It all began in August 1989, when Kasi M, a PU student, decided to empower slum children. Kasi contacted more than 10 children and explained about the importance of education and the need to score good marks in examinations but only two students – Rajesh and Umesh – agreed to attend the tuition classes.

“I lost my father whilst still a child. It was very tough for my mother, a street vendor, to pay my school fee. I used to help my mother to sell vegetables after school hours. Knowing how tough it was, I wanted all the slum children to empower themselves by pursuing higher studies. I started giving free tuition to these children,’’ recalls Kasi.

He started conducting tuitions for the slum children in a 10x15 room with two students and later the number of students increased to 10 in a few weeks and to 24 within a few months and 120 by 1991.

“With the number of students increasing, I had to organize the tuition in two batches – 5 pm to 7 pm and 7 pm to 8.30 pm. It was tough to accommodate all of them in the small room. Some of them used to sit on the road,’’ says Kasi. He then shifted the tuition classes to the nearby building owned by Dr B.R. Ambedkar Association. “K. Devaraj of Pari Steels and Vinodkumar Sabariwal of Fun World have provided financial assistance to construct a new building. The number of teachers has increased to 11 now. They teach here without any remuneration or honorarium,’’ he says.

In order to pursue his empowerment goals, he met with BBMP Deputy Commissioner Anjan Kumar in 1996 to seek permission to start free tuitions at BBMP schools. “The Deputy Commissioner allowed me to start tuitions at seven BBMP schools. Our volunteers conduct classes for these children from 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm on Saturdays,’’ he says.

Impressed by Kasi’s social service to the children of downtrodden families, Ganapathi M K, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, has been donating Rs 20,000 worth of books and uniform to these children. “A Good Samaritan introduced Kasi to me. I visited the tuition centre and realized the yeoman service rendered by Kasi and his friends. I am helping him by providing free books and uniform for the students,’’ says Ganapathi.

Nagarajaiah, a retired Police Sub Inspector, has agreed to donate half an acre of land at 8th Mile on NICE Road to the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Free Tuition. “I am very grateful to Nagarajaiah sir for his philanthropy. He will be handing over the land to us shortly,’’ Kasi says with gratitude.

The Karnataka Slum Development Board has also given its nod to Kasi for conducting free tuitions at 67 of its community halls. “I will organize free tuitions at the community halls spread across the state. There will be no shortage for volunteers (teachers) to work for the empowerment of slum children through education,’’ signs off Kasi with lot of hopes and dreams.

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