Taking science into the lives of students is what the ILM Science Academy, set up in Narayanguda in October 2016, has been doing.
A brainchild of former Merchant Navy officer Mohammad Abdul Lateef Atear, the idea of such an academy came up after Lateef went around many government schools in Hyderabad in 2009-2010, and found that several schools did not show, or had no means to show, practical science experiments to their students. Identifying 700 such schools, Lateef joined hands with his friend Rattan Toorkey and set up this ‘Mobile Science Laboratory’.
The mobile science lab was taken to schools that did not have labs of their own. With the Sahayata Trust and Indian Muslim Relief Charity (IMRC), a body of Hyderabad-based Indian doctors in America, agreeing to fund a van for the initiative, the idea soon began to spread its wings.
“Once the mobile lab got ready, we went to very small schools. I used to show chemistry experiments and Lateef showed the physics experiments. When we went for the first time, most of the schools were happy. But, when it came to finances, many school people were not so keen to pay for even the diesel. In the second year, just when we thought it wouldn’t work, Tech Mahindra came in as a blessing,” says Rattan.
With help from Tech Mahindra, the academy also began training teachers. “Along with students, we are also training teachers who have an experience of 20-30 years so that they can perform the experiments in the syllabus. We also supply experimental kits worth Rs 5,000 to chemistry, biology and physics teachers,” says Sravanthi Ponnekanti, project head, Science Academy.
The Science Academy selects 18 schools in a year and visits them every month to show experiments in physics, chemistry and biology for students of classes VIII, IX and X.
“Earlier, we used to take the equipment with us and conduct the demonstrations in the van. Now, with the number of students increasing, we are taking the equipment to the classroom and showing them,” says Rattan, who adds that over 50,000 students and 200 teachers have benefitted from the initiative so far.
“The idea is not just love for the subject; the idea is about approaching science as a way of life; anything that is around us, definitely there is science involved in it,” says Sravanthi.
The Academy has 15 faculty members from all departments and the physics department is headed by retired scientific officer Satyanand from UoH. The Academy also conducts workshops for school children on a regular basis.