‘Swades revisited’: City youth leaves US job to educate tribalshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/swades-revisited-city-youth-leaves-us-job-to-educate-tribals/

‘Swades revisited’: City youth leaves US job to educate tribals

Project focuses on improving the quality of education in rural India through teaching aids like e-learning.

In many ways,Sohan Mahajan’s story will remind you of Shah Rukh Khan-starrer ‘Swades’ (2004),in which the protagonist Mohan Bhargava,an employee of NASA,returns to his village to give back to his country and its people his experience. After completing his masters in marketing and robotics from the University of Cincinati (USA),Mahajan joined an automation company in Virginia as a sales application engineer,where he worked for three years. “Since my college days,I wanted to do something for the underprivileged people in the field of education. In 2012,I set up Lata Mahajan Foundation (LMF). While I was working in Virginia,my friend started working on project EducationLinked (under LMF) at Ghodegaon village near Manchar. In February,I returned to India to devote myself to the cause,” said Mahajan,29.

At present,his project EducationLinked is operational in 15 tribal villages in Ambegaon Taluka – Tirpad,Amondi,Gangapur,Pimpalgaon,Shinoli,Ghodegaon,Pokhri and Phulawade,among others. The project focuses on improving the quality of education in rural India through teaching aids like e-learning,independent evaluation tests,computer labs,library,sports equipment,clean drinking water,music instruments,separate toilets for girl students and art of living courses.

However,taking a decision to let go a well-paid job and a luxurious life abroad,he said was not easy. “There was a lot of resistance from my close friends and family. They also suggested that if I wanted to work in this field,then I should join an existing organisation. But,I was clear to take this project ahead on my own,” he added.

During his stint in the US,Mahajan worked as a volunteer at various schools. The exposure,he said not only taught him how to deal with children but also introduced him to innovative teaching techniques and infrastructure adopted by schools in the West.

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Talking about the challenges faced during the project,he said,“At Tirpad village in Bhimashankar area,we had to start from scratch. The school neither had electricity,nor proper classrooms. So,after creating the basic infrastructure,we also introduced e-learning,chemistry labs and computer labs.”

To monitor the project,volunteers conduct tests,every three months. The feedback received from the teachers and parents has been overwhelming. “Last week,at Amondi village,we met all our schools’ principal. Most of them said the attention span of students had improved,” he said.

While 25-30 volunteers work at various villages,around 15 volunteers in the US help him raise funds for the project.

To fuel the project financially,Mahajan continues to work as a managing director at his own automation company,Mahajan Automation. “Around 15 days a month are dedicated to EducationLinked,” he added.