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Anand Kumar

Super 30, a coaching centre that Kumar runs, was born out of this desire to help people who could not afford to study. It tutors for free, houses and feeds 30 students (Kumar’s mother Jayanti Devi helps out here). In eight years, 212 students out of 240 have made it into different Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), informs Kumar. In the last three years, all have made it into IITs. “The credit to our success goes to the students who spend up to 14 hours a day studying," he says.

Kumar himself was once an enthusiastic math student who had the opportunity to pursue a postgraduate course in Cambridge. When the letter came in October 1994, he faced two setbacks. His father had died two months earlier, and there was no scholarship.

Ignoring the call, Kumar began helping his mother make and sell papad, to support a large joint family that included a brother, grandmother and others. His father’s pension would take three years to come, and “we couldn’t even get milk or newspapers," Kumar recalls over the phone from Patna.

Earlier, in 1992, while still doing his Bachelor of Arts in math, Kumar had founded the Ramanujan School of Mathematics as a free programme for like-minded people. After the chance encounter with the student two years later, this school evolved into Super 30, a centre to tutor meritorious, but poor students.

Kumar refuses to accept donations or help from anyone, including, he says, from the local and Central governments and top industrialists. “We have thousands of offers for help, but I want to prove a point," says Kumar. “If you have the will, you can move forward." He credits his team of teachers—Amit Kumar, Praven Kumar and Rahul Ranjan, who ignore financial benefits to work with him.

Kumar says the main challenge to his endeavour is the threat from the “coaching mafia". He claims to have been attacked thrice, by people who run other coaching centres, who envy his free education model and cheaper tuitions. Kumar and the others tutor around 400-500 students a day for nominal fees that fund Super 30.

He also now wants to start a school for the underprivileged, to strengthen their basics from an early age, and wants to teach using multimedia and animations.

“You should never lose hope. There is sorrow and happiness in equal measures. Face the hardships with the destination in sight," he says.

Arun Janardhan

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