Demolishing financial barriers. Building new careers.
In an ideal world, Anand Kumar would be found sitting comfortably with his feet up in either Darjeeling or Varanasi listening to the soothing sounds of Indian classical music. If he ever felt hungry, a wonderful spread of the most-sumptuous food would magically appear before him – all including his favourite platter of paneer kebabs! Ah, but what would make Mr.Anand Kumar happiest? The answer is mathematics.
Yes, Anand Kumar loves solving all kinds of intriguing and mystifying mathematical problems.
“I always wanted to become a mathematician”, smiles Anand Kumar, the man who formed a Mathematics Club, ‘Ramanujan School of Mathematics’ during his graduation. “My teachers encouraged me a lot and under the guidance of my mentor and guru, Devi Prasad Verma, (then the Head, Department of Mathematics, Patna Science College), I started a training programme for mathematics lovers. It was a free programme, which anybody with interest in Mathematics could join.” As time rolled by, Anand contributed several problems and papers on Mathematics to various national and international journals, magazines, and newspapers.
Then in 1994, opportunity came knocking at the door in the form of the prestigious Cambridge University. Unfortunately, financial hardship ended that dream even before it had begun. “I felt the pangs of poverty”, sighed Anand, “I decided to do something for the poor students, who invariably fade away without getting right opportunities.”
This led to the birth of the new and improved ‘Ramanujan School of Mathematics’. “Here we trained a small group of students for various competitive examinations at a very nominal fee.” However, many of his students were extremely poor and were in no position to pay even that small amount. But Anand Kumar was about to change the rules and his first rule was to shatter financial constraints for such students.
“They just did not have to pay anything”, declared Anand, “After some time, I decided to shape this programme seriously to cater to the poor, but meritorious students more significantly.” His brother, Pranav Kumar, a talented violinist from Mumbai, agreed to join his team and that lead to the formation of the innovative Super 30 programme.
Super 30 is a highly ambitious and innovative educational program running under the banner of the “Ramanujan School of Mathematics”. It hunts for 30 meritorious talents from among the economically backward sections of the society and shapes them for India’s most prestigious institution – the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). In the last six years, it has produced hundreds IITians from extremely poor background. During this program students are provided absolutely free coaching, lodging and food. Children of brick kiln worker, rickshaw puller, landless farmer, roadside vendors have all gone on to become top technocrats much to the joy and amazement of their parents.
Talent knows no boundaries. It all around us – even in the most unlikely places. All that is needed is for one to spot that talent and nurture it till it blossoms. Super 30 is doing just that over the past six years and the results have been encouraging. The talented students have been given quality teaching and an open atmosphere to perform to the best of their potential without any financial constraints. If they have it in them, Super 30 is there to guide them to where they belong even if that means providing this service for free.
But where was the money going to come from? Surely a Mathematics(Hons.) graduate could rack up the numbers? “Initially, making all arrangements for 30 students, was not so easy”, he admitted, “but I generated funds by tutoring students of other schools, while my mother, Jayanti Devi, cooked food for the students.” For the students, however, there was only one goal – to study hard. The results came as a big surprise in the very first year as 18 of 30 students cracked the IIT entrance. This spurred on Mr.Kumar and his team of dedicated teachers to strive for even better results. In total, 152 out of 180 have made to the different IITs of the country since the program began. However, the ‘magic moment’ came in 2008, when an astonishing 30 of 30 students made the grade! “It was ‘a dream come true’ for me and my team”, beamed our entrepreneur, “What is more, the extended batch of Super 30, comprising another 70 students, also fared brilliantly with 39 of them cracking the IIT-JEE.” This was a new batch started in 2007, with the effort of his committed group of teachers following an overwhelming demand.
The primary objective for the programme is to help more and more students from economically poor sections reach the IITs. “We want students from all across India”, urged Anand, “It is for the government to change the face of Bihar so that we get more students from the other states.”
The programme aims to change the selection criteria from the current Plus-Two level to a much younger set of children. “If talented students are spotted at the school-level it can work wonders”, states Anand. In the coming 5-6 years, they want to increase the class count to 500 students and subsequently set up more schools for poor children. Innovative teaching techniques will be used to develop an interest in Mathematics and Science subjects at an early age. It would shape them for different Olympiads and prepare them for other competitions. The thrust would be on developing inquisitiveness – a quality that is all important for science and math education.
To end his YourStory interview, Anand Kumar imparted a few wise words of advice to the young entrepreneurs of our country:
“Start the business with whatever amount of money you have and try to avoid taking help from people. Even I have never taken any monetary help from anybody I was getting offers from not just the government of Bihar but big business tycoons. While I am grateful to all those who approached me with help I am happy the way I am – pursuing my love for mathematics.”