Anand Kumar, math wizard and founder of Super 30, a free, inhouse educational institute for underprivileged students who are pursuing their dream to become engineers say, “Today education in India is the only weapon that is bringing change.”
Based in Patna, Bihar India, Kumar selects only 30 meritorious underprivileged students. Over 90 percent of the students compete in JEE exams which are required to enter India’s premier engineering institutes like the India Institute of Technology and the National Institutes of Technology (NITs).
The story of Kumar’s institute was so inspiring that he was covered by major news outlets like Discovery, BBC and the New York Times. Newsweek Magazine has listed his institute as one of the four most innovative schools in the world.
Just last week, his biopic movie, directed by Vikas Bahl, starting Bollywood megastar Hrithik Roshan was released. The film was made tax free by the Bihar state government said, “I try to stay silent and maintain low publicity but automatic publicity happens.”
Kumar, who was in California last year to receive an award from Indians for Collective Action (ICA) a non-profit organization, told indica, on the changing attitude towards education in Bihar, “30 years ago, a driver wanted his son to become a driver, but things are changing, even a driver (will) sell his last piece of property and want his son to study.”
“Education has become a priority,” Kumar said.
He is seeing a change in people’s career goals. Before, people’s goal was to just get a job, but now awareness is growing within the society to become an engineer or a doctor, or work for UPSC(Union Public Service Commission).
So, it works hand in hand. If people are aware of and demand more education, the government is forced to provide resources. People are hungry for better education and it’s been growing in recent years.
Kumar, 46, started his “Super 30” coaching in 2002, teaching 30 meritorious underprivileged students for free at his non-profit coaching center every year. The institute also provides food and accommodation to the students.
“We get over 1000 application to be part of the best 30,” he said. We offer placements to students from government schools who are underprivileged. Private schools are growing and look like five-star hotels but government schools are the opposite. Poor people have to go to a government school.
He told indica he wants to start online classes to reach larger masses in villages. Like California based Khan Academy. “I am trying how to reach a student in far villages through technology and not just for IIT but for basic Math and English,” he said.
“Technology is the catalyst,” he said, “Twenty years ago (people did not know) where MIT( Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts) is, but today a science student knows where (the location of) MIT.”
Talking about his institute, he said he does not take donations, in 2002, The New York Times covered his story, and many people wanted to support, but he politely refused.
“We run an evening school, three girls stay in our home, and the boys stay in the nearby home,” said Kumar, who runs a coaching institute within Super 30 under the banner “Ramanujan School of Mathematics.”
The Ramanujan school also offers a similar course for anyone interested in the engineering profession. It’s an evening class held every day, taught by the Super 30 students.
When asked how he feels about being known for running a successful coaching center, he said that it gives him a sense of satisfaction, “But I would say the education system should be strong at the government level.”
Kumar recalling how he even after gaining an admission was not able to attend Cambridge because of lack of money said that now, with Super 30, students can go.
Kumar, knowing his popularity fears taking any help from the government. “I don’t want to be inclined to any party. I would like to get support from non-government organizations.”
He proudly says that people know Super 30 more than any other college in Bihar. He said that in the past 15 years a lot of colleges has developed but Super 30 is still iconic.
But all this success did not come easily to Kumar, sharing the challenges he had to go through, he said, “To create an atmosphere itself is challenging. First, to create confidence in bringing kids in, the second was money and the third was local politics.”
“My coaching center was attacked and bombed and one of the non-teaching staff, Munna Prasad was stabbed and I was beaten. He tried to save me so he got stabbed.”
The doctor had to operate and Kumar thought that he would have to close down Super 30, but the 30 students came forward to donate their blood to save Prasad.
“It was a turning point and I am ongoing since,” he said.
He told indica that people have accused him of wanting to get the documentary made because he wanted to get into politics.
“I never wanted to come to politics and there are people who try to defame me,” he said.
“I didn’t want to get into a dispute and waste time.”
“(There are) challenges of running Super 30,” he said, “Many people don’t like the work he offers.”
“Our guru said, whenever you take one step, the enemy will pull you down so just focus on work,” said Kumar.
When asked how he selects his students, he said that the program is focused on IIT and the underprivileged with no resources. Super 30 offers food, education, and housing.
“I believe in enrolling capable students and do not force students, like many parents force,” he said with a laugh. Also, people allege only schedule caste students are selected but it’s not the truth. There are many upper-caste students there.
“I do not believe in caste, only that the student should be talented and parents have no resources,” Kumar stated.