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The Art of Being a Changemaker

Mr. Amar Pol

Hailing from a small town in Maharashtra, Mr. Amar Pol currently works as the Indian Languages Head of Department at Avasara Academy, a day and residential secondary school from 6th-12th grades. He is a cooking enthusiast who also places immense value on interacting with new faces.


Beyond his exceptional work at Avasara, he runs an NGO called Bal Shikshan Manch (BSM). BSM is a platform focused on providing free academic and skill development classes to children. Most of these children are from the slum areas in the marketyard region of Pune. After school, Mr. Amar spends 2-3 hours of his evenings at BSM daily, while dedicating the rest of the time to his family.


In addition, BSM also organizes a summer camp each year. This takes students to a small village where they spend ten days away from devices and closer to people. It includes numerous activities such as interacting with villagers, visiting old age homes, conducting clean-up drives, etc. It also offers insightful sessions on sex education, growing up, trekking, nature, and much more, allowing students to experience rural life, build meaningful connections, spend time at the riverbank, and watch a sky that is indeed full of stars. 


Here’s a glimpse of his journey towards becoming a changemaker.


What inspired you to choose education as the medium for making a difference in society?

As a child, in the slum area we lived in, my mother would work at other people's houses to support my education. It was her wish that I get educated, learn to paddle my own canoe, and bring my family out of these difficulties. I believe she is my inspiration. I thought about the only power in my hand to proceed in life and that was education. From then to now, through this entire journey education has been my constant. It is what transformed me and through it, I hope to empower the children I work with. 


What is the vision of Bal Shikshan Manch?

There are quite a few things we work towards. Our children live in conditions where they lack access to academic guidance and the situations at their homes are often not the kind to encourage them towards learning. 

We hope to make BSM a space for them to seek academic support and more direction towards their learning. We want to ensure that they at least complete their grade 10. Even getting here is a difficult journey given their circumstances. Thus, we want to see to it that they don’t drop out during this phase. We also hope for this space to empower more girls towards learning. And finally, in a time where English medium schools are so prominent, we don’t want our children to feel that they are any less because they study in Marathi medium schools. So the aim is also to build their confidence. 


Students at a BSM camp. Source: Mr. Amar Pol
The summer camps you organize are very unique. So what was the ideology behind taking children out in the village during summers? 

Communication has reduced these days, not only between children but also between children and other groups of people. So we designed these summer camps to become a medium for children to connect with new people. The aim is for them to learn new perspectives and better understand if the circumstances they come from are the same for all, or if they are different. This cannot be taught through a lecture and would be best experienced through actually going out there.

Also, May is the month when most children especially in slum areas are unsupervised since their parents are working and schools are closed. With no access to learn something new during this period, the possibility of them indulging in bad habits is high. Therefore, we designed these ten days where we take them into a village instead and enable them to learn new skills and grow. 


What were some of the challenges you came across when starting BSM? And how did you overcome these?

Initially, there was no place to conduct the classes. We spoke with many political representatives and officials in the locality and then got permission to do it in a school. 

Then Covid hit and schools were shut. We struggled during that phase. However, we improvised. Our team used this phase to support children on their core academic difficulties in terms of reading and writing. We did this through the medium of games and it would happen in small groups of 5-10 at different places from our own homes to the terraces of our facilitators. Post-pandemic, we eventually found this Municipal corporation’s garden where we’ve been conducting classes in the small sheds for the past three years now. 


What is one thing that you believe resembles the success of BSM?

All the students who come have countless, like lots and lots of reasons, to not be able to make it to the classes. And if despite that, they choose to willingly show up every day then that I believe is a success. 


What is your hope for BSM in the long term?

I believe the work we do at the center, in the long term should stop. Our work screams the fact that corporation is not doing their work right. That’s the reason we do what we do. Our work would no longer be needed at a time when the educational system is improved enough to equip all students with quality learning, regardless of their background. 


Mr. Amar’s work through BSM acknowledges the harsh ground realities that many children in slum areas across India face. It underscores the pressing need for a better educational system where access to quality learning is not a privilege but rather a right. Furthermore, BSM is also a source of hope for building a resilient society that empowers its youth. It is a vivid example of what bringing about a positive change at the ground level looks like. Most importantly, it shows that change-making can start anywhere and in any way, even if it means doing something to brighten your corner. 


Written by Ankita Kumavat

Ankita wrote this article as a participant of the Media-Makers Fellowship's April'24 cohort.

This article was adjudged the 'Best Profile' created in Week 1 of the program.

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