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How a humble beginning turned into an ambitious organization

Many people say that the Litvill Lessons story sounds like a fairy tale, calling for a movie. It starts with a poor, stone-polishing Indian boy, who has recently launched his non-profit company to help disadvantaged kids like him around India, to fulfill their potential.

Imran Rautan grew up in a kind of slum. Only a few kids go to school from his community; most of them go straight to work, at a very young age. Though Imran had to do stone polishing after classes, from the tender age of 8, he still managed to finish secondary school.

After schooling he went to work at a small hotel. There was not much for him. His family was poor to pay university fees, though it was always his dream. He always wanted a better life; cars, fancy sunglasses and a long coat. In the hotel he realized that most of the rich people who have cars, sunglasses, and coats speak English. He thought, If he spoke English he could be like them. So, he started to learn English by himself, using English newspapers left behind by the guests. All the hotel guests were his tutors. He used to ask them a lot of questions about words, phrases he picked up.

One day a foreigner lady arrived at the hotel, and he asked her to explain some English phrases, as usual, that were on his plate for the day. The lady was impressed by his method and enthusiasm. Imran asked her if she can help him to learn English. He was lucky, the lady was an expert of learning theories, so, out of curiosity, she agreed.

Imran did 80% of the learning by himself and 20% of the time the foreigner lady guided him online. In less than 6 months he was able to easily communicate with his hotel guests. Seeing his hard work and progress, the lady also offered him financial support to go to a university. First he was hesitating. As a sole breadwinner of a family-of-five, he could not afford to quit his full-time job. However it was a great temptation, or maybe his last opportunity to study further. He accepted her offer, though she was not sure if he could do it besides a full time job. Anyway, she was willing to risk her money for a ‘social experiment’, as she called it.

Imran attended the university from morning till afternoon then he did his full time job until midnight, for three years, including Saturdays and Sundays. It was quite challenging, but still, he was one of the best students at the University of Jaipur. His appetite for learning grew, and he also finished his master’s degree. This year he even got a scholarship from a foreign university to do PhD studies.

By that time he realized that big cars, sunglasses and long coats are meaningless. What makes you really happy is to do something good for others. There might be millions of millions of Indian kids like him, who have no opportunity to study, but have potential. With this aim Imran Rautan and the lady from Europe started to work on an online English platform, and founded a non-profit organization called Litvill Lessons Association to help mainly school-going kids in India to improve their English as well as thinking skills. He believes if he could make it so far, others can also make it with the help of Litvill Lessons.

Litvill Lessons is different from other institutes and platforms, due to its unique features: self-learning with its rich e-modules, and the tutor-mentor system. Teaching is the best way to learn, because you use what you know. When the Litvill learners pass a level, they can give classes on levels below. They improve their communication skills and boost their confidence by giving tutor classes. Litvill lessons pay for the tutor classes, so that the senior students can support their studies. Mentors, who are in fact teachers from Europe, give one-to-one live classes to improve the learners’ speaking and listening skills.

Litvill Lessons is a platform where every student, rich, poor, or with no money at all, has an opportunity to learn English with international teachers.

What Litvill Lessons’ current learners say

Mohit: I was taught that English learning is all about learning tenses. I used to mug up grammar. “Ashok goes to Jaipur, he eats food”, it is called present tense. We hired a teacher, but I only got to memorize the tenses. At Litvill lessons I found a completely different method of learning English. Whatever I learn I use it with fellow learners in one-to-one classes, daily. The definition of learning has changed for me now!

Vinita: I go to an English medium school and also attended English classes with private teachers. However, whatever I learnt was useless because I could not speak at all, neither at school nor at home. With Litvill lessons I have plenty of opportunities to speak. I give tutor classes, they are only 20 minutes a day. Surprisingly, we are awarded a small amount of money for the classes, so our own learning is cheaper. For the first time I feel that whatever I am doing is useful.

Rohit: At Litvill Lessons we are the main players of our learning, not the teachers. Most of the learning is done by ourselves with the help of self-guided e-modules. I also have classes with European mentors, who are teachers. We call them mentors, because they don’t really teach us. We study English by learning about social issues: water crises, healthy lifestyle, environment, money management and we discuss these topics with our European mentors. They want to know our opinions and thoughts about everything. Whatever we learn is useful now because we could use it by teaching the same topic that we learnt to our junior students.

Litvill Lessons is open to collaborate with those who aim to achieve the same goal. They are not looking for any monetary donation, however, it would be great if people can help them to take their message to a wider audience and more English learners can take the advantage of their platform. A little kindness goes a long way!

What do you think?

Ravi Tilekar

Written by Ravi Tilekar

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