The seeds of founding Vidya Poshak were sown in the mind of Prof. Tikote as early as in 1999. What began as a request to help a financially weak student soon translated to a larger need for assistance to deserving poor students who are forced out of the mainstream of education due to financial constraints.
Tikote was joined in this endeavor by his long time friends Vijay and Pramod. Starting with a seed capital of Rs. 2,000 contributed by each of them, Vidya Poshak was registered in 2001. Initially set up in Dharwad with 20 deserving students who were handpicked by the founders, the organization grew rapidly.
Venkatesh, who joined as a volunteer and currently heads the Dharwad center elaborates on their approach, “Need based projects were designed. We realized that although financial support was given which helped, some were facing difficulties with books and half their money was going in purchasing them. Hence, the team sat down to ideate and we came up with the idea of a book bank. We made it possible for students who avail the scholarship to borrow books from our central library located in Hubli.”
A central library is maintained at Hubli, which is about 20 kilometers away from Dharwad, in a five room house made available by the well-known philanthropist Sudha Murthy, who is an active supporter of Vidya Poshak. This well-appointed facility has reading rooms for boys and girls, a career guidance center and a meditation hall, making it much more than a mere library. Further, volunteers are encouraged to borrow books and keep it with them for sub lending to the beneficiaries, thereby saving them the trouble of traveling to Hubli each time they need to access the library. “This is a place where there is no distraction and I scored more since I started visiting this place. I come here mostly during exams and sometimes when I want to study for a longer time I request them to keep it open. They have never disagreed until now,” says Suraj who is currently pursuing his final semester in engineering from Hubli.
The book bank is largely supported by donors and volunteers. “I have been a banker, a general manager at Canara Bank. All my life I earned and helped lot of people in the bank with education. I wanted to continue the same thing- Helping students in need with education. When I came across Vidya Poshak through another volunteer I immediately consented to become a donor. I have a book bank at my place where students can come and borrow books, return them after their semester/year,” says Mrs. Aruna Srikanth.
Surprisingly, the main challenge facing them as per the librarian Mr. Naik is, “It’s the ever changing syllabus and without prior notice, due to which most of the old books are shelved or sold out and sometimes we run out of funds for the new ones.”
Majority of the students are children of marginal farmers or petty laborers. They have no one in their family to turn to for guidance on education and career path. Many have no knowledge of what kind of education opportunities are out there and how to make decisions about their future. Those that try to find employment do not have any idea of where to look, how to appear for an interview, or how to put together a resume. Rarely do they get guidance from their academic institutions.
Vidya Poshak effectively fills this void and empowers their students with the necessary knowledge and acts as a guide for any student seeking advice, regarding educational options and employment opportunities, and offer formal sessions on career guidance and the skills needed for a successful job search.
In the process, Vidya Poshak exposes these students, who so often spend their lives in the same small rural or poor urban community, to an awareness of the ideas and culture of the outside world and prepares them for a larger role in our fast evolving economy.