Sridhar Vembu, the founding father of Zoho Corporation is now ready to require this “lockdown experiment” to subsequent level: “a rural school start-up” which will provide free education and food, a model that doesn’t believe marks or degrees or conventional affiliations for certificates, or “credentials” as he calls it. Sridhar Vembu, Zoho Corporation, Zoho corporation Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley star, Tamil Nadu teacher, Sridhar Vembu at Mathalamparai village near Tenkasi where he found out a replacement office and residential in 2019.
FOR the remainder of the planet, Sridhar Vembu is that the founding father of Zoho Corporation, a Silicon Valley star valued by Forbes at nearly $2.5 billion who decided to require the weird step of moving to a little village in Tenkasi in southern Tamil Nadu last year. But the person himself says he’s more of an educator lately, wearing the normal veshti and traveling on a bicycle in Mathalamparai.
What started six months ago as home tuition for 3 children that took up “about two-three hours” of his spare time, Vembu says he now has four teachers and 52 students within the fold, mostly children of farm laborers from the village.
The 53-year-old is now ready to require this “lockdown experiment” to subsequent level: “a rural school start-up” which will provide free education and food, a model that doesn’t believe marks or degrees or conventional affiliations for certificates, or “credentials” as he calls it.
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“This has become a significant project. I’m also doing part-time teaching. We try to place it together as a model now…busy preparing papers, getting necessary approvals,” says Vembu. he’s clear though that his “start-up” won’t seek affiliation with the CBSE or the other conventional educational board, as reported by The Indian Express
It’s not a replacement template for Vembu. Over the last decade, his Zoho University, a neighborhood of Zoho Corporation, has successfully managed the concept of helping Class 10, 11, and 12 dropouts to become IT professionals and team leaders in his own firm et al.
within the village, Vembu says, classifying children supported what they know is best than segregating by age. (Source: Shibu Alexis Francis, Zoho Corporation)
But the challenge within the village, he says, was different after the COVID curbs came into force. “Practically, it had been impossible for them to attend classes (online after the lockdown)…some parents had smartphones but cheap models. I had enough time, and that we did some physical experiments, I taught them a touch Science, Mathematics and English,” he says.
On September 13, Vembu, who is a lively Twitter user, posted: “Within few days, my social distanced outdoors class swelled from three kids to 25 and youngsters got unruly and that I was struggling (smiley) and realized how hard it’s to be an educator .”
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“On the bottom, what I see is poverty…I noticed that youngsters coming to our tuition center are literally hungry. How are you able to learn anything once you are hungry? That has got to be sorted. I appreciate the noon-meal scheme but that’s not enough,” he says, adding that his “school” provides two meals each day, and snacks around 4.30 pm before children are sent home.
According to Vembu, policies made in Chennai or Delhi with good intentions get diluted once they reach villages. “There isn’t enough ground talent to try to to the implementation,” he says.
“There are different categories of scholars among the agricultural poor. Some who actually need to urge credentials, and lots of others who are literally getting to drop out at one point, after Class 8 or 10,” he says. Retaining the dropouts, he says, is that the challenge.
In the village, Vembu says, classifying children supported what they know is best than segregating by age. “It may be a real start-up challenge,” he says, pointing to children in school 7 who don’t know the English alphabet.
“Another challenge is that teachers don’t sleep in the village. they are available and go from a town about 30-40 km away… When people that can afford to send kids to non-public schools even in rural villages and when teachers of rural schools refuse to send their children there, it’s the youngsters from the poorest families alone who find yourself within the government schools. Their parents could also be having a precarious income, they’ll have jobs just for a couple of days… Alcoholism is another problem. If a father is drinking heavily, he won’t be bringing the income home and therefore the kid will get neglected, they’re going to go hungry. I see it here,” he says.
Vembu insists that the basis of most problems within the education system is “credentialism”. “Even the brilliant students focus only on grades, not the knowledge they acquire. There are many non-traditional learners. they’re among us, in our families. we all know them, they’re brilliant but the exam results won’t show that. The system should accommodate non-traditional learners too, those that fail in exams but still do the simplest in jobs,” he says.
Before the varsity, Zoho, which clocked an operating revenue of Rs 3,300 crore in the fiscal year 2018-19 with quite 50 million clients, opened over a dozen rural offices in Tamil Nadu during the lockdown to require software engineers back to their villages.
“My only demand was to line up offices in rural areas. They decided on the locations. we’ll open 10 more offices in three months, opening more in Tamil Nadu also as Kerala and Andhra, each with a capaciousness of up to 100 people,” he says.
In Mathalamparai, Vembu says, he has made many friends over the last year visiting tea shops and playing cricket with children. “They were very warm. They were curious but still very friendly to a stranger,” he says.
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