Saathi Volunteers helped visually impaired aspirants prepare for Civil Services Examination by recording a huge amount of study material for them and conducting study sessions, solving mock tests, holding discussions on important topics with them, consistently, throughout a time span of seven months, starting from May 2020 to November 2020. During the infamous months of lockdown when stepping out of the houses had become a risky business, Saathi continued to extend its reach virtually.
Pooja, an aspirant from Beed, Maharashtra, whose examination was initially scheduled for May 2020, had approached a Saathi Volunteer towards the end of 2019. Soon after the Civil Services Examination got postponed due to the pandemic, Pooja dedicated all those extra months for her preparation, this time, with the volunteers. While solving the mock tests, volunteers would read out questions and jot down answers over a phone call in a time-bound manner. The answers would be cross-checked from the answer key, the score counted and at a later point, a detailed explanation to all questions from the mock test papers, issued by different IAS tutoring institutes, would be recorded in audio under the Let’s Record Initiative. More than 50 such mock tests of 200 marks each were solved through three-hour sessions for the preparation of UPSC prelims, collectively by Saathi volunteers: Gauri Kochale, Dipti Pawar, Rutuja Ahire, Deepali Vaidya, Bhavesh Zanje, and Ria Chandorkar.
For an in-depth study of subjects like Current Affairs, Economics, Political Science, and Geography, Pooja and the volunteers began engaging in special study sessions. Gauri Kochale, a volunteer and a student of Economics, recorded voluminous, highly recommended books for Economics, Environmental Studies along with revision audios for Current Affairs, apart from mock tests. A truly challenging subject for visually impaired students is Geography, of which the theory part can be learned but studying the map requires a lot of imagination on their part to understand the location and stretch of different regions in the absence of a concrete aid to learn it. Mayur Koli, a post-graduation student from H. V. Desai College, Pune, volunteered to teach the world map and the map of India through the method of visualization. Before appearing for her prelims, Pooja could clearly picture the maps in her mind. Mayur, also, creatively designed a basic tool using objects available at home through which visually impaired individuals can trace maps. For the Mains, extensive study sessions would be held, including doubt solving, discussions, writing papers, scanning and uploading of solved papers and reading of the feedback. Political Science was an optional subject for which preparation of notes, paper writing, reading of notes followed by discussion and cumulative revisions were dedicatedly carried out by Chaitanya Deshpande, our volunteer, who himself is a third-year student specializing in the subject. Mansi Kukade and Parikshit Bhuskute helped Pooja with gathering important links and web pages. Pooja is now looking forward to her interview!
Manoj, a visually impaired aspirant, joined Saathi’s Let’s Record Initiative and suggested a lot of study material which, if recorded, could prove helpful for disabled UPSC aspirants. Accordingly, volunteers undertook the task of recording those books, texts, notes, magazines, and booklets, and built a collection of study material for competitive exams which are now available on Vargshikshak.
“Volunteers became my friends who were there to support me and boost my spirits; be it throughout the exam preparation or just hours before my exam, they were always ready to help. The most enthralling part is that I have met none of them personally as we were all in different cities during the lockdown. I cannot express my gratitude enough!” – Message from Pooja
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