Super 30
How free Indian schooling by two men helps Bihar's best brains emerge from poverty.
Last Modified: 13 Aug 2009 14:00 GMT

Filmmaker: Chris Mitchell

In a series of programmes, Witness follows the journey of 30 young hopefuls from India's poorest state Bihar as they take part in an intensive educational programme to gain entry into the country's top universities.

Many of Bihar's 90 million inhabitants come from low-caste backgrounds and are unable to even sign their own name.

Consequently if you are born in the northeastern Indian state - the country's poorest - you are unlikely to ever be studying in the Indian Institutes of Technology, among the most sought-after universities in the world.  

However Anand Kumar, a brilliant mathematician, and Abhayanand, the local deputy police chief, decided to increase that likelihood for the young hopefuls of Bihar.

They founded the Ramanujan Academy upon the premise that poverty, caste and religion should be no barrier to opportunity.

Each year they select 30 young students from over 3,000 applicants and with intense tutoring train them to pass the entry exams for the institutes - for free.

They select the Super 30 not just for their exceptional academic abilities, but also because these children have the vision and self-belief to sustain them through seven months of intensive coaching that culminate in uniquely difficult exams.

If they succeed, which many of them do, they will be more or less guaranteed a place in India's emerging technological elite.

Due to the fact he is offering free, tuition Anand has been receiving death threats from rival commercial colleges. He now has to have an armed escort everywhere he goes.

Director Chris Mitchell filmed life in the academy over a period of 18 months and managed to get unique access to the life of these extraordinary people. The result is the series, Super 30.

"It really is a story of how people from the lowest caste in India can actually become millionaires and work in the global economy. I hope that people will see how a real effort, commitment, and hard work in extremely difficult circumstances, brings out amazing results," Mitchell says.

Part 1 - The First Step


Witness follows young hopefuls from Bihar as they take the first step on the ladder. Ramanujan Academy selects just 30 young students from over 3,000 applicants. They will be the Super 30. They are sitting the first round of an exam which could change the entire course of their lives.

Watch part two

Part 2 - Hard Lessons


The class faces some hard lessons on the way to becoming one of the Super 30. Three of the boys have already made it through the final selection process, but one girl is still waiting to find out if she has passed this hurdle.

Watch part two

Part 3 - A Sting in the Tail


After seven month living in the city, some of the Super 30 are losing touch with their rural background. Instead of helping at home they have had an intensive training. It is IIT exam day in India and the Super 30 are waiting for the perfect results. Anand is proud of them, but suddenly he has to deal with betrayal.

Watch part two

Super 30: a Witness Special


Bihari hot shots emerge from poverty to compete for top jobs. Witness follows the journey of the gifted hopefuls becoming the Super 30. It is a film about crime and violence being the reality of everyday life even at schools; about hope, disappointment -and passing the IIT exam. 

Click here to watch part two, part three, part four

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