“It all started back in 2002 when a district social welfare officer visited our engineering college as a guest for our Independence Day celebrations. Through her, we got in touch with an old age home. We started visiting the home every week. The old age home used to relocate from one rented place to another when the owners demanded them to move out. The founder of the home requested us to raise funds for the rent,” said Gunashekaran.
Gunashekaran was then engineering designing second year in Erode government engineering college. With the assistance of hostlers, young ladies students and alumni of the college Guna and gathering raised Rs. 50,000 with which the maturity home organizer purchased a land in Erode edges. Next, the team collaborated with another designing college in Tumkur and raised Rs 1,00,000+ for the development of a working for the home through a charity appear in Erode.
One year from now, i.e. in 2003, they approached his college principal with a proposal to help another organization, Gunashekaran recalls, “The principal strongly rejected the proposal saying ours is a government college and many students are struggling to pay the college fee.”
That year Gunashekaran and team formed a gathering and named it as “Students Welfare Foundation” with a tagline “for the students, to the students, by the students”. They gathered Rs 75,000 that year and paid the expenses of the penniless students in the school. In the final year of his building, the welfare foundation raised Rs 1 lakh which was matched by the school.
After his graduation, Guna and a team of about 100 alumni from the school established Smile Welfare Foundation in 2004, with an aim to help more students. All the individuals from the organization were all day working professionals. The organization is running five tasks under Smile Welfare Foundation from last 13 years effectively.
How did Sabarmathi Gurukulam start?
‘Punnagai Paalam’ is one of the programs under Smile Welfare Foundation. It means ‘A Bridge of SMILES’. As part of the task, volunteers, who are exceptionally effective and capable professionals ,offer extra coaching for the students from govt orphanages.
It became challenging to make a rapport with the new warden each time when the old warden got transfered. “What I have observed is that if the warden of the home is good, everything is good, if the warden is bad everything is bad. I have seen the power of a government official. So in 2010, I decided to try for civil services as I felt I can do more for these students and left my job and prepared for IAS but failed. I began teaching aptitude in a famous IAS academy in Coimbatore and later joined another coaching institute in Erode which gives free coaching in competitive exams to needy students.”
He resigned from the institute and started Sabarmathi Gurukulam with an aim to prepare students for competitive exams and also make them employable if not chose for any job.
What is the requirement for Sabarmathi Gurukulam?
In his experience, Guna found that there is always a high demand for government jobs and because of the current decrease in IT jobs and increased joblessness rates there is a massive competition for government jobs. This demand made preparing for these exams expensive. For poor aspirants, this became a weight. Students from government schools and universities fail miserably in competitive exams.
- Approximately just 2% students who prepare for competitive exams land chose for positions and rest of them battle for years and fail.
- Needing cash, they end doing meager jobs because of lack employability skills.
- Because of difficulties in farming many farmers are abandoning agriculture and doing different jobs in the city which can give them a regular income.
To address all the above points, Guna started the Sabarmathi Gurukulam. The gurukulam is 30 KM from Kanjipuram in a village called Velianallore, Tamil Nadu, situated in the middle of farmlands.
“Sabarmathi Gurukulam addresses brain drain, agricultural decline, unemployment and growing financial burden,” he said.
Started in April 2017, it centers around skill and employability training. The gurukul is built amidst farmlands with varied flora and fauna. The structures have mud walls and a thatched roof. Also, it has a very much equipped library which cost Rs 1.5 lakh to build. Here, the students are trained for various exams (IAS, IPS, Bank, State PSC) and recruitments (including NEET).
Does Sabarmathi Gurukulam train students for free?
No, Sabarmathi doesn’t teach students for free. But it takes after no set standards for charge payment. Since the gurukulam is far away from the city and the land is cheap in the village, the overall cost per understudy comes to Rs 2000/month with sustenance and accommodation. Whereas in the city, students pay anywhere between Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh for the course.
How do students pay for the coaching?
Considering that education ought not be a weight on the students, they are given three options to pay the coaching charge. Sabarmathi takes after ancient gurukulam arrangement of teaching. Nearly 45 inn students and 30-day scholars from surrounding villages come to Sabarmathi for their preparations.
As an avid devotee of “Messiah of organic revolution” – Dr G. Nammalvar, Guna has a distinct fascination in organic farming. Along with my brother, I learnt organic farming through Nammalvar
For inn and accommodation charges, students are given three options to pay.
Farming: At show 25 students are doing organic farming along with their studies. Nearly 5 acres of infertile land is transformed into a fertile area with the assistance of these students. The income generated from these farming activities is compensated for the understudy’s sustenance and accommodation cost. In future, for each five students, an acre of unused land is taken as lease and is allocated for them to cultivate. Students relish, appreciate and find it more interesting doing and learning farming activities. This also promises an alternate carrier for those students if they are not able to land any position they dream.
Tuition: Students visit nearby villages and give tuitions to government school students. As school curriculum forms the syllabus for a majority of the competitive exams, this helps the kids as well as the gurukulam students in acing the ideas. Smile foundation covers the lodging accommodation for them. Through this framework, gurukulam students will come to know the basic economic, financial and literacy standards of villages, which in turn makes them a responsible citizen.
Paid framework: This is the least favored option among the gurukulam students. They pay Rs 2000 every month for their nourishment and accommodation.
Students who stay at Sabarmathi are trained to live a simple life. It involves various activities, like cleaning the surroundings, farming, encourages the staff and students to donate blood at regular intervals, newspaper reading and also aims at looking at the issues a typical man faces directly rather than reading articles about it.
Students are also learning and involved in various activities like organic soap production, and leaf plate making which is yielding a good month to month profit. At the point when a person experiences the immense pleasures of simple living and by being in constant touch with social activities and issues, he/she will have the capacity to give their best when in a responsible position.