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Datta Meshtru is back, this time teaching online classes for locked down students

The 67-year-old former legislator, fondly known as Datta Meshtru (teacher in Kannada), has been teaching mathematics to Class X students on his Facebook page since lockdown began and exams were postponed.

June 18, 2020 6:16:21 pm

BENGALURU: The lockdown and the Pandora’s Box of troubles it has opened up for students, has prompted a former teacher to return to classes after a gap of 25 years. But there is no classroom and this is no ordinary teacher. The classes are via a Facebook Live and the teacher is Y S V Datta, a former legislator and prominent JD(S) leader in Karnataka.

The 67-year-old, fondly known as Datta Meshtru (teacher in Kannada), has been teaching mathematics to Class X students on his Facebook page since lockdown began and exams were postponed. The Karnataka Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) exams, which were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, are now scheduled to be held between June 25 and July 4. The Class 10 exams were initially scheduled to be held from March 27 to April 9.

Datta Meshtru’s first class on arithmetic progression got more than five lakh views. About 28 mathematics classes and a million viewers later, Datta Meshtru has moved on to teaching physics for SSLC students. “After getting requests from students I have decided to teach physics, but due to a very short time for exams, I will be teaching only topics that are very difficult for students.”

Requests for more classes are pouring in. “A few days back a student from a village in Sira taluk in Tumakauru district called and requested me to start class on chemistry, but I have no time since I am also going to my constituency to help people during the pandemic and I can only conduct online classes when I am in Bengaluru.”

Datta has represented Kadur constituency in Chikmagalur district as MLA and MLC. But before entering politics, he taught mathematics to SSLC, PUC, B.Sc and engineering students through his tutorial in Bengaluru’s Rajajinagar.

“I joined social media recently because I want to stay connected to the people and this has become a powerful tool to reach people,” Datta tells indianexpress.com. It was after he met Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar a few weeks ago that he got the idea to conduct online classes for students. “We were discussing the SSLC exams and how students are finding it difficult due to the postponement of the exam amid the COVID-19 lockdown. Suresh said it will be helpful for the students to get revision classes.”

Soon after, Datta started Facebook Live sessions to help students revise their syllabus. “For 40 years I was running private tutorial classes, teaching mathematics and physics. So I am proud to be a teacher always,” he added. Apart from Class 10 students, those going to take the SSLC exam next academic year are also viewers of Datta’s online classes. “I am happy… this will help them start their studies before classes begin.”

But there is lot for Datta Meshtru to learn as well. For one, he is not tech-savvy and is helped by nephew Surya Tej who helps him set up the Facebook Live sessions and handles his other social media accounts. Datta laments that he is not able to be interactive with viewers during the Facebook Live. “I can’t reply to all the questions of the students during the class, but after the Live is done, I go through all the comments and note down important questions and answer them in the next class,” he adds. Though Datta is more comfortable in Kannada, after requests from English medium students he also started online lessons in English.

Datta claims to have taught more than 40,000 students in his long career, including Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president D K Shivakumar, Food & Civil Supplies Minister K Gopalaiah and former minister Goolihatti Shekar. “This is very different from the actual face-to-face classes, here there is a lack of interaction between students and the teacher. But during this time of the pandemic, online teaching is very helpful.”

Datta’s entry into politics during the JP Movement of the 1970s was accidental. But by the mid-1990s he had got so involved that he closed his tutorial to get into active politics. “I came from a village in Kadur, studied in Kannada medium and joined National College, Basavanagudi in 1969 and completed BSc in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. Initially, I started to teach students part-time to earn a living in this city and after completing my BSc started a tutorial,” Datta said.

Even after becoming an MLA, Datta used to coach CET students in his constituency free of cost. “I invited good professors from various parts of Karnataka to my constituency to teach students,” remembered, adding how he charged only Rs 20 from students at his Rajajinagar tutorial. “I was not taking money from the students who can’t afford the tuition.”

Speaking to Indianexpress.com over a phone call, Madesha, an SSLC student from Haveri, said he got to know of the classes on a family WhatsApp group. “When I saw the video I liked it. The way he teaches is very good and he makes difficult topics very easy. Since I am a Kannada medium student, the way he explains Math is easier to understand,” he says, adding his friends have also found the classes useful.

For Prasanna Kumar, a student from Bengaluru, the Facebook classes have been a good way to revise his syllabus during the lockdown. “He should have started the classes sooner and completed the syllabus. But the topics he has covered so far has been very helpful since he also teaches simple techniques to solve difficult problems.”

Also in this series: How you can keep your child engaged in lockdown