Bengaluru-based Gowri Sivaraman is what you would call a triple threat - a mom, a special educator, and an entrepreneur who runs her own education centre. It all started with her being just a mom.
When Sivaraman’s son was diagnosed as a child with special needs, she couldn’t find the right learning support. She took him from place to place, from one therapist to another, and both mom and son often came home exhausted. Something else worried her - none of the educators who worked on her son knew what the other was doing and there was no proper plan to help him.
Sivaraman decided to do a postgraduate degree in special education and ten years later, is now part of the founding team that runs We Nurture Foundation. Her team raised funds to open an integrated special education centre in Bengaluru, which now caters to more than 74 families. “When my child was (young), I didn’t even know that a comprehensive special education model is possible and that’s exactly what we are running now,” she says.
Her inadvertent foray into education has helped her find innovative ways to manage time. “My son is part of my school,” she says. “I do not have to work with him at home. I have now learned to integrate my work with his day-to-day activities.”
Sivaraman believes that being a mom has helped her evolve as an individual and take on bigger challenges everyday. The result? “Petty things don’t bother me at all,” she says. “I feel blessed to have taken up this career and profession because I feel immense satisfaction every day.”
Sivaraman is one of the many moms charting an offbeat course in the education space.
When Mumbai-based Rutu Jumani started tutoring children, she devised MindMyGrades as a platform that would help students preparing for the Cambridge checkpoint exams and the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme to study, practice and get instant solutions. As a parent, Jumani struggled to get good resources and she wanted to fill this gap. “The idea was to create worksheets that could also be revision or homework tools,” she says. “As a mom and an educationist who has been in the field for many years, easy availability of good resources with answers and explanations fed in was a challenge.”
With a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Accounting, Jumani's 20-year experience as a teacher helped her design the perfect product. “As an educationist, I knew that children learn best when they do it at their own pace,” she says. “Their attention spans are limited to 45 minutes at that age and so we have 45-minute timed sessions on the platform.”
When Manan Khurma founded Cuemath in 2013, the idea was to create an army of women tutors. Today, Cuemath has a network of more than 8000 women who are math tutors and have taught math to over 2 lakh learners globally. “I realized that India has a vast pool of talented and educated Indian homemakers who quit their careers because of family or other personal reasons,” says Khurma. "This thought motivated me to create a model that essentially works towards providing an opportunity to maths qualified Indian homemakers who could teach the subject to learners from the convenience of their homes.”
Cuemath first piloted this model in its neighbourhood micro-learning centres in the Delhi-NCR region. It became a success because it helped women make more money than they would in many full-time teaching roles. The number of students also grew organically through this model.
One of Cuemath’s many math moms in India is 41-year-old Lokeshwari, who lives in Chennai and has a B.Sc. in Computer Science and an MBA. She worked as an assistant professor at Guru Nanak College in 2020 when the pandemic completely overthrew her plans. She was forced to look for online teaching assignments and signed up with Cuemath, enrolling in its training program.
From starting as a base program teacher, Lokeshwari is now an international teacher with students in India, New Zealand, Australia, and the USA, and earns a lot more than what a full-time college job would have brought her. It’s not just the money - her professional growth has been tremendous too, thanks to her organic referral network. “My kindergarten student from the USA told me that her school teacher asked her how she was doing great in measurement while others were finding it hard,” she says.
The downside to mobilising moms in the education space, however, is that they are still lowballed and overworked. The upside? Finding rewards in the unlikeliest of places. “Most of my subscribers are from tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India,” marvels Jumani. The prospects are limitless.
Shweta Sharan is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.