It is a pleasure to introduce to you all an innovative educator and mentor – Antara Sarkar. She is a graduate from BITS, Pilani, who runs a Sunday class – a free creative class for the underprivileged kids.
Antara Sarkar has changed the lives of many kids by just believing in their abilities. She managed to convince the kid’s parents to send them to school and support kids in every crisis.
Antara Sarkar is an inspiration to many people who want to pursue their hearts and do what they believe in. Let’s see her journey from the very start.
Beginning Of The Journey: Antara Sarkar
Antara Sarkar started volunteering in her college days. In her words, the feeling of volunteering to causes and helping the people in need came to her naturally. She volunteered for many NGOs’ in her college days.
Her first experience with volunteering: Near her college, there was a construction site where the kids of construction workers would be present. This made her think about teaching the kids as they were not attending the school.
During her summer holidays of college, she volunteered with an NGO in a village. In the village, she taught the older kids of 11th and 12th standard. And she has also volunteered with Doctors by distributing the medicines in the village and setting blood camps and all.
Then, in the last semester of her college, the college itself had organized a program to conduct the classes for non-teaching staff to teach them the basics of everything. She volunteered in this program as well.
Thus, her volunteering journey started from college, and it’s been 15 years, and she is still a person with purpose.
Sunday Class – A Creative Solution
A. Initiation Of Sunday Class
Antara Sarkar as an enthusiastic volunteer, was volunteering at a school. The school was up to standard five only. Therefore the kids had to opt-out and find another school after they completed their fifth standard.
But the chances of underprivileged kids opting for another school is rare. The reason for this is mainly their parents burdening the young shoulders with many responsibilities.
Antara realized that the kids who have completed their fifth standard and opted out were not going to any school further. These kids used to stay out of their houses and indulge themselves in activities like gambling and all.
Therefore, she spoke to them and convinced them to join the school. They made excuses at first but agreed immediately. They just needed someone to stand by them and believe that they can study further and become successful. After a lot of convincing the parents, kids were allowed to continue the education.
As the kids were going to school the whole week, the Sunday class was started as alternative education. The motive of the class was to provide practical knowledge and make learning fun. This entire incident resulted in Sunday class initiation, and it eventually began in the year 2018.
The first session of the Sunday class was taken in the basement of the house.
B. Response to Sunday Class
Sunday Class acts as a glimpse of the outer world for the kids. In the Sunday class, the kids get practical knowledge and develop an analytical outlook on different aspects of the real world.
As the response from the kids, Antara Sarkar added that the kids were very welcoming of the idea and the only obstacle was to convince the parents to send them to Sunday class. She worked hard on convincing the parents with the help from their kids and most of her time and patience went into that. But it was all worth it as parents agreed to send the kids to Sunday class.
When asked about the response of Antara’s Family to her idea of Sunday class, she replied that the views of the relatives and friends were a little contrasting. There were a bunch of family members who wholeheartedly welcomed the idea and supported it. Still, there were also family members who thought she was wasting her time, money, and energy.
Despite these contrasting views, Antara Sarkar was sure about Sunday class as she believed in the idea.
C. Innovative Learning in Sunday class.
Antara Sarkar believes that education should not be only theoretical but practical as well. According to her, learning should always be fun, and when children play and learn, then the concepts taught are more clear to them.
As there are students of different ages attending the Sunday class, it is a big responsibility to choose the topic related to everyone. And this responsibility is greatly achieved by Antara Sarkar.
Antara and Anurup choose a topic that includes many sub-topics, and they call it an umbrella project.
One such example is a movie-making session they conducted.
In that movie-making class, the students are required to make a Lego movie from scratch. The advantage of this exercise is that it brushes over our soft skills like communication, stage-daring, analytical and problem-solving skills.
- The movie-making class starts with writing a script for the movie.
- The second step will be to narrate the story aloud.
- The next step includes team-work, where they write dialogues and prepare for shooting.
- As there is shooting done, the camera is an important part of it, and handling the camera for the shots is a great challenge in itself.
- Lastly, editing the shots taken and turning them into a film using the computer.
- After completing the film-making, it is time for the screening of the film.
- After seeing the film, a poll is conducted to select the best film made by students.
This movie-making process is unique as it covers aspects like writing, public speaking, team-work, decision-making abilities, and handling the computer. Overall this process results in a boost of self-confidence among the kids.
Indeed, a fun process can teach us the most important skills we require in the real world.
D. Pandemic’s Effect on Sunday Class
Sunday class is an interactive classroom where kids speak their minds and learn about different aspects of life.
The classroom was closed in March 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.
But Antara Sarkar believed in the thought ‘where there is a crisis; there is an opportunity to build something from it.’
She took the Sunday class online and opened a Youtube channel named Antara Sarkar. During the lockdown, she posted a video every Sunday and requested kids to get a phone from their relatives so that their studies won’t take a toll due to the ongoing pandemic. She would also conduct offline classes when it was possible, undertaking all precautions.
In this pandemic period, she even distributed requirements like vegetables and fruits to the kids. She started as a teacher, but now the relationship has grown so much that she treats each kid of Sunday class as her own.
Balancing Social life, Personal life, and Work-life.
Antara’s social life took a toll when she started Sunday class, and most of her time went in teaching kids and handling her work.
Antara Sarkar is also an entrepreneur who owns a 3D printing firm known as The Pink Engine, where she prints the scale models of the Indian Railways.
In the words of Antara: “when you do what you love, the work doesn’t feel like work. But there will be times when you feel low and don’t want to continue your work. In those times, taking a break and analyzing why you started and what you have achieved through the lane is essential.”
According to her, some adjustments and some compromises are required to continue to do what you love. You need to prioritize things and indulge in what you love more.
Message to the Youth: Antara Sarkar
Antara Sarkar has a special message for the kids and youth. The first piece of advice is to decide what you love and start doing it. Taking the first step is what we avoid the most. Therefore, take the first step and start living the journey.
And the second piece of advice is when you start doing what you love, try to do it consistently without giving excuses. This will help you develop discipline towards your work.