Published: 05th January 2021
Udipi-based Roopa Ballal teaches underprivileged kids for free. Here's why
What Roopa Ballal has been doing for underprivileged kids is incredible. speaks to this Udupi teacher who provides free classes for students
A few years ago, when brothers Manjunath and Basavaraj attended free classes provided by Roopa Ballal in Udupi, they never imagined that they would attend college or even secure a job for themselves. Fast forward to 2020, Manjunath is a civil engineer working for a firm in Bengaluru and Basavaraj is an athlete who has played at the state and national level. He is now studying Commerce at Alva's College in Moodbidri. Like Manjunath and Basavaraj, there are hundreds of underprivileged kids in Udupi who attend free tuitions at Roopa's centre Children With Dreams.
Talking about what led her to start these free tuitions, Roopa explains, "I was born and brought up in Bagalkot and have a special attachment to kids who come from poor families. I always love to help such kids progress in life. So, 14 years ago, when I moved to Udupi with my husband, I decided to start these free tuitions. Initially, I began reading and handwriting classes for them. I still remember only one girl attended my classes. Today, that girl has completed her post graduation in Commerce. The message of free tuition classes slowly spread through word of mouth and a lot of kids started coming. But these kids were not permanent as their parents were migrant labourers."
Roopa recalls how her home would be filled with 100 kids on some days and only 10 to 20 kids on other days. She says, "Gradually, my focus shifted from reading and writing to teaching them English and Kannada. We knew that a lot of these kids were not permanent. But I made it a point to make a list of kids who were doing well in academics, visit their schools and talk to teachers. I decided to take up the responsibility of funding their education. Not just Manjunath and Basavaraj, there were three girls who shifted from Kannada medium to English medium schools. We bore all their expenses until class 10 and today, they are doing well in college." So how many students has she helped so far? Roopa humbly answers, "I have not kept a tab on the number of students. It is the same with the funds. My husband, who is a civil engineer, and I have spent a lot of money on the education of these kids. All that matters to us is that these children are growing into good citizens and they are setting a benchmark for the upcoming generation in their family."
Apart from providing free tuitions, Roopa provides food and also teaches the children about hygiene and cleanliness, etiquette and communication skills. She also entertains them by telling stories and conducting games. "The idea behind doing these activities is to help them discover their talent. For instance, Basavaraj who is a good athlete now, used to tie a tyre to his back and run on the beaches here. That's how the boy grew to be a steeplechase runner. Aside from this, we need to appreciate kids whenever they do something well. That's how you can bring a change in them," says Roopa who is greatly inspired by Sudha Murty's philanthropic works.
When the lockdown was announced, it created a lot of chaos. Children moved back to their native places and she lost contact with most of them. She explains, "I am so attached to these kids that the lockdown period proved to be difficult for me. I would trace their phone numbers through their friends and try to remain in touch with them. While I was lucky to connect with a few, some of their numbers were unavailable. It has been a few days since the kids have rejoined my classes. Now, there are 24 kids and the ones who attend online classes access it through a phone or even laptop. We ensure that they wash their hands and wear a mask before entering the class."