In June this year, Rahul Patil (18) cleared the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test and got admission in MBBS at AIIMS.
Hailing from a Dalit family, with eight siblings and parents who work as construction labourers at JNU, the exam was tough to crack. “I worked very hard, I’m the only person in my family who studied beyond class X… but credit also goes to the bhaiyas and didis at ‘Unnoticed’, who have been teaching me English for the last two years. It’s because of them that I got the confidence to attempt this exam which was in English,” said Patil.
He is among the nearly 40-odd children of construction and mess workers at JNU, who are given free tuition by Unnoticed — a volunteer group of students and ex-students of the university. Founded in 2008, it teaches all subjects to children in nearby government schools as well as extra-curricular activities such as dance and sports.
Every evening from 4-6 pm, students — from Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — gather near the Teflas building on campus, where two rooms were allotted by former vice-chancellor S K Sopory to the group.
“In 2008, there was a lot of construction going on in JNU as new hostels were coming up. We would see these kids playing, and it struck us that we could teach them. Some four-five of us, including foreign students, started teaching them at the construction site. Slowly the work grew and we got more volunteers. In 2011, we decided to call the group ‘Unnoticed’ as these children, despite being part of the JNU campus, were unnoticed,” said Sandeep Gupta, one of the founding members who is currently working at an IT firm in Gurgaon.
Sonu (18), who passed his class XII board exams from a government school at R K Puram in 2017, and is now pursuing Political Science (Hons) from the School of Open Learning, said: “At school, teachers hardly paid attention to each student… I couldn’t understand much. Math classes here really helped, otherwise it would have been difficult to pass.” His father works in a hostel mess and his younger brother Monu, studying in class XI, has also started taking classes with Unnoticed.
“Besides classes, we make sure we also teach them art and craft, and dance. Whenever there’s a hostel night, children from Unnoticed always perform. Funds have been raised by collecting old newspapers from hostels and selling them to the kabaadiwala or by selling table calenders made by these children on campus,” said Ranjeet Kumar Ranjan, a volunteer.
Despite having cracked his MBBS exam, Patil makes sure he comes to JNU to spend time with all the friends he’s made at Unnoticed. “I don’t need the classes anymore, but I still come because I like it here. I also hope that when younger students see me, they will feel that they too can have a bright future,” he said.