Prafulla Shashikant
Image by VOPA

Prafulla Shashikant from Maharashtra has worked hard to ensure that children from the country's backward and marginalised factions are able to complete their education.

We get to know that it was his own experience to endeavour for that. Read on, to know more about this soulful personality.

Born in a lower-middle-class family in Maharashtra, he had to face challenges from the very beginning and managed to get over all of them. The organisation called Vowels of People's Association (VOPA) that came into force in 2018 works to ensure the right to quality education for children belonging to low-income groups in the state. He developed a free online platform and an application in collaboration with this organisation that provides students the medium for resource-based learning. He says that a similar model can be replicated in the other states as well. Thousands of teachers and students have found an easy way to dispense and acquire learning. The system allows for overall inclusive growth in the system.

Prafulla regards that this idea to bring about a revolution was something which ran in her veins already.

After passing the intermediate examinations, he went ahead to pursue mechanical engineering. Inspired by the Gandhian and the Ambedkar values, he opened up a social activism camp called Janeev along with his batchmates.

He says that while he was pursuing mechanical engineering, he realised that his task for the world was way beyond engineering and he must address social issues as well. Hence, he planned to join the civil services. Subsequently, he qualified for the preliminary levels crossing the Mains examination but then he had to leave his studies midway for his mother to get infected with cancer. Later, his mother passed away in 2010. Having lost his mother, he also lost the meaning of life. In order to deal with that uncertainty, he thought to contribute to the larger cause. The search for opportunity landed him in the Gadchiroli district where he joined a program in tandem with youth contributing to social change. Motivated by their work culture, he decided to join various educational projects which focused on the social sensitisation and value education of school children.

Meanwhile, Prafulla also pursued the Post Graduate Programme in Development Management to deepen his understanding of the social sector. After six months of soul searching and brainstorming with friends and mentors alike, he opened VOPA. The significance of Vowels in the VOPA as enumerated by Prafulla is - Agitate, Educate, Ignite, Organise, and Usher to help marginalised communities grow. Each of these words starts with a vowel, hence, that's where the idea came from.

VOPA engages in building an ecosystem that would democratise the education pattern and develop the standardisation in learning.

Education is the most effective way to solve social issues. The drives for sustainable change are geared toward education. Presently, VOPA works to eradicate social taboos too. It constantly aims to improve the learning experience of students.

It was during the pandemic that schools shut down. Online education was to be made available but couldn't be afforded by all.

The VOPA worked to find solutions to this tough situation. Although, it was a difficult time for both the students and teachers to navigate the right content.

A lesson plan was introduced to make learning-friendly for both students and teachers. The website for this was designed in such a way that it could load on any phone with internet access, even if the bandwidth was low. Digital learning content was simultaneously developed. The lessons were built to enhance the curiosity level in students. All lesson plans were in Marathi, including subjects like English, Science, and Maths to suit the needs of teachers in rural areas. The results of the activity were spell-bounding. Although the plan was implemented in a short duration of time, still it attended positive impacts on children. The system benefits students from all the economically poor sections of society. The students fared well in the examinations.

VOPA has been designed in such a way that it caters to the best needs of people. Instructions of it's scholastic pattern are also very simple which can be accessed by anyone. The system has been built as accessible, cost-effective, and user-friendly. The image of social workers as 'jhola workers' needs to change. They believe that the social sector has to imbibe a lot from corporates. Despite the struggles entangled, they continue to sacrifice their lives for societal cause. The use of the app has also ensured that female education lessens the drop-outs number. The system has been made instrumental in such a manner that it is within the reach of everybody.

This philanthropy platform aims to catalyse the process of social change. By expanding the system, the attempt is to deliver an accessible, free and qualitative education.

'Where there's a will, there's a way.' - Anonymous.

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