How student-mentors connect with their sitaras

Manisha Jha Mumbai | Updated on September 05, 2013


B-school students get to work with underprivileged children

Thirteen-year-old Pranitha Shanigarapu would have ended up being just another statistic in the list of Mumbai’s school dropouts after her father committed suicide and her family returned to her hometown in Andhra Pradesh.

Fortunately for her, she had help at hand in the form of “Abhyudaya”, a unique character building programme offered by the Mumbai-based S.P. Jain Institute of Management Research (SPJIMR).

Abhyudaya denotes “development and prosperity for all” in Sanskrit. The experimental educational programme requires all first year students of SPJIMR’s two-year MBA course to ‘adopt’ underprivileged children from classes VII to X, termed sitaras, and mentor them by working on their strengths and honing their talents – be it academics, sports or creative pursuits.

Pranitha, too, was one such sitara, who was urged to compete with the society’s best by her mentor, 25-year-old student Lalitha Stoorthy.Unlike other B-schools which offer similar programmes on a voluntary basis for its students through tie-ups with non-government organisations, SPJIMR has included the programme as part of its academic curriculum.

Students are accordingly evaluated and awarded credits. Given the perception of modern-day managers being relatively disconnected from the grim ground realities of poverty faced by a majority of the Indian population, SPJIMR believes it is doing its bid to plug the divide through this programme. The programme started with 42 sitaras in 2009, and has now grown to 229 sitaras. The brainchild of SPJIMR honorary Dean M. L. Shrikant, students have to undertake 24 visits to their respective sitara’s homes, to mentor them over a year, according to a mentoring plan that they have to draft and implement.

Professor Rukaiya Joshi of SPJIMR, who has been instrumental in the development of the programme, said: “The students get a first-hand experience of mentoring rather than through books. Moreover, they also get to understand the dynamics of deprivation, which is an intrinsic part of societ.”

“While most MBA programmes focus on imparting knowledge and skills, not much is done towards developing managers with the right attitude and character. Abhudaya is an attempt to plug that gap,” says Joshi.

Lalita, who took charge of Pranitha, says, “The biggest high point for me was when Pranitha’s results were declared. She called me excitedly to tell me that she has scored 90 per cent in class VII, compared to 81 per cent in class VI.”

A bond develops between the children and the students over their year-long interaction and several of them continue to stay in touch with their sitaras even after the course.

Published on September 05, 2013

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