From Anitha’s ashes rose Phoenix coaching centre

By Bhavani Prabhakar Published on Jun 09, 2018 02:12 PM IST

Chennai: Medical aspirant Anitha’s suicide - for failing to make the cut in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) in 2017 - was not in vain. Something rose from it for the good of underprivileged students.

"It was the death of Anitha in 2017 that saw our team coming together and start helping the students who cannot afford to enrol in private coaching centres. Anitha’s brother had appealed to us about donation of books for the library in his district and requested for a free coaching centre," recalls Dr Madan, an Assistant Surgeon at Kilpauk Medical College and chief coordinator of Phoenix NEET Academy.

To help the downtrodden clear the exam in Tamilnadu, Dr Gunasekaran, along with his team, founded Phoenix NEET Academy. In the 2018 entrance test, 370 students out of 396 cleared, making it 96 per cent pass percentage.

Founded in early 2017, Phoenix NEET Academy is a not-for-profit organisation that trains medical aspirants in 11 branches in the State, including Tiruchi, Vriddhachalam, Neyveli, Tenkasi, Madurai and three centres in Chennai.

Though the idea was conceived one-and-a-half years ago, the team took around eight months to prepare their course material. The academy offers foundation course for class 11 students, regular course for class 12 students and advanced course for students who have already attempted the test and failed to clear it.

"My team, comprising around 30 members, includes doctors, lecturers and research scholars from renowned institutions. Of the 11 centres, the ones in Perambalur and Tiruchi offer residential facility to students and the rest, regular courses," says the 59-year-old founder, dean of Tagore Medical College, Dr Gunasekaran.

Restricting the admission to about 30-50 students per class in each of the three batches, the academy has devised its own teaching methodology to help the students understand concepts better.

"In line with the CBSE syllabus, we prepare the required study material, particularly in Tamil. Since we envision students from interior regions to become doctors, I’d say we are the only institute that has prepared course books in Tamil. In addition, well-experienced doctors and scholars teach the subjects," says Dr Madan.

In addition to offering coaching to the needy - they also dip into their pockets to run the academy - the institute also trains students who can afford to pay.

The private institutions in Chennai charge more than Rs 1 lakh for a year, whereas Phoenix NEET Academy charges around Rs 38,000 per student - from among those who can afford to pay the fees.

"Our motive is not to mint money but to help the aspirants reach their goal," says Dr Gunasekaran who has trained over 3,000 doctors thus far.

Along with NEET, the academy also trains students for IIT-JEE exams. But currently, JEE coaching is limited to Perambalur.

"JEE exams are tougher than NEET. Unlike NEET, students find it difficult to comprehend the concepts. Even then two of our students from Perambalur government school have cleared the entrance test. This is the first time in history that two government students in our State have made it to IIT," points out Dr Madan.

The team is all set to start ‘Super 30’ where 30 students from all over the State will be screened and given intense residential training for a year. The academy has also started conducting Science workshops and plans spoken English course alongside NEET coaching.

"We envisage having our centre in every district in the coming years and take the education system to the grassroots-level," promises Dr Gunasekaran.