Following a career as a dance teacher, then going to Law School and working in the legal field for several years, it was in 2012 when Rupal Ragha (BSc Management, 2008) returned to her passion for educating and founded her tutoring company Big Brains Tuition. At the start of the pandemic, Rupal decided to take her lessons onto Instagram – a platform that all children could access through the click of a button on their parents’ phones. Her commitment to free education in a time of real turmoil for children led to her being recognised by the Prime Minister in the Points of Light Awards.
One of Rupal’s standout memories from her time at the Business School was co-founding the City, University of London Dance Society and spending a significant part of her student life teaching dance classes and attending competitions. During her studies, Rupal also worked part-time at a local school. It was the combined influence of these factors which led her to discover her passion for teaching. She went on to establish her own tutoring company Big Brains Tuition.
In March 2020, with other countries already in various levels of lockdown, Rupal began to realise the impact this would have on children when the UK inevitably followed suit: “as an educator, I could tell straight away what was going to happen to the education industry and children. That was my main concern”. As the pandemic took hold and schools were closed, it became clear that this would have a lasting effect on children’s learning. This was particularly apparent for the estimated 1.1 to 1.8 million children in the UK without access to a laptop or tablet, for whom learning in a virtual world was almost impossible.
“I just thought: ‘what can I do to help?’”
Rupal explains that, at the beginning of the pandemic a few of her clients were no longer able to pay her, “I completely understood that” she says, “I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t upset, I just thought: ‘what can I do to help?’”. Knowing that around 42% of adults in the UK use Instagram, Rupal decided to start filming live lessons on her Instagram page – “I knew that parents could just click one button on their phone and their child would be able to join in the lesson”. In the beginning she says, “it was just me, my phone and my board” but soon Rupal was blown away by the reaction she received.
“The response was huge!”
She started by putting a message out on Instagram explaining what she was going to do and asking parents for suggestions on topics she could help with. “The response was huge” she says, hundreds of parents began sending her messages with lesson requests from fractions to creative writing; children from Brazil to Canada, Portugal to New Zealand and beyond were watching her videos. Rupal’s free lessons soon attracted national press coverage and as a result a retired Primary School teacher from New Zealand reached out to offer his services to teach history and geography lessons on the Big Brains Tuition channel. This kind offer demonstrates the impact and community spirit inspired by Rupal’s selfless dedication to helping children learn during this difficult time.
“I felt so honoured… It’s something I will carry with me forever”
It wasn’t only the media that picked up on Rupal’s actions: she has recently received the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award which recognises outstanding individual volunteers and their impact on their community. Initially she thought the email was fake , and even called the number at the bottom of the email to check it was real! She tells us “I felt so, so honoured. Particularly to be put in a category with such incredible people… it’s something I will carry with me forever”.
“I don’t want to lose sight of why I started this, and I started this because children needed help”
Rupal explains that the most rewarding part has been the responses she has had from the children and parents, “the media attention has been great but I don’t want to lose sight of why I started this, and I started this because children needed help”. Rupal is continuing to share free lessons on her Instagram page to help children and parents with the transition back to school and filling in the gaps that have been missed. It has been an unprecedented time for education and there has been a huge amount of pressure on children and parents. Sharing her advice Rupal says, “parents don’t have all the answers and can’t be expected to have all the answers… stay positive, at the moment it’s just going to be a case of patience, slow progress and routine”. Talking about finding her own path, Rupal explains “there is no one path, I know pharmacists who have become accountant and lawyers who have become art teachers”. She emphasises the importance of exploring your options but ultimately to “go with what you are passionate about, something that excites every part of you and gives you purpose in your work”.
Thank you for talking to us Rupal, and for all the work you are doing.
Visit the Big Brains Tuition Instagram page.