Dr Achyuta Samanta - A True Hero For The Tribal Community Of Odisha
On International Art of Giving Day, TLI has an exclusive interview of the man who ideated Art of Giving
Today is the International Art of Giving Day. ‘’Art of Giving’’ is an idea conceptualized by Dr Achyuta Samanta, the founder of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and Kalinga Institute of of Social Science (KISS). He has been providing free education to over 25,000 tribal students.
Art of Giving is primarily focused on education, where students from every backgrounds, religions and caste are provided education. The Art of Giving day is celebrated over 120 countries across the world, where children are provided free books and copies. We urge every Indian to participate in this event by providing anything to a child. It can be a stationery item like a pencil. Let us celebrate the joy of giving.
The man behind the Art of Giving, Dr Achyuta Samanta has been an ordinary man with an extraordinary visionary, a true hero for the tribal community of Odisha. For the last 23 years he has worked hard relentless to provide a better platform for the deprived sections. Dr. Samanta is working towards a visionary of a world free from hunger, poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. His work has received huge appreciation in India and abroad and he has been bestowed with many national and international awards like Jawaharlal Nehru Award in 2012, Highest Civilian award of the kingdom of Bahrain in 2015 and much more.
In an exclusive interview with The Logical Indian, he share his experiences and perspective on education and society.
You vision is to ensure poverty does not stand in the way of one’s education, how much have succeeded? What are the challenges faced?
I started Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences as a sustainable model to ensure education for the most deprived segment of the population, the tribal. What started modestly in 1992 has grown into a mammoth institute today with 25,000 poorest-of-the-poor tribal receiving fully free holistic education from KG to PG along with free lodging, boarding, clothing and all other necessary amenities for all round development. Besides curricular education they are receiving vocational education and life skills training in order to grow up as fully empowered citizens.
The institute has been successful in spreading economic empowerment and awareness among this community to taking education seriously. KISS has affected the lives of over a million people now. The KISS model is being emulated for other deprived and underprivileged communities too.
The biggest challenge we face today is funding creation of replicas of KISS to touch lives of millions of children still lying outside the realm of education.
Yourself, you have come a long way in your life from humble beginnings, what are the values you embody ? and please give a gist of your journey till present day.
Firstly, I believe that half education is far more dangerous than no education. Half-cooked knowledge really does not empower. Moreover, all are not born with similar talents. So, every child must get an opportunity to know his/her talents and educational institutes must provide opportunities for holistic learning.
KISS uniquely blends vocational training, sports, and other extracurricular learning along with curricular studies. Result is for everybody to see as our children are not only making it to top national institutes for higher professional education on their own merit but also are making it to the World Olympics and other national and International sporting events; they are participating in various social programmes at national and international levels. Recently they have bagged two Guinness World Records too.
At KISS we lay great emphasis on girl child education. At KISS, 60% of the student community comprise of girl children. By educating and economically empowering girl children we are ensuring education for generations thereafter besides ensuring proper healthcare and skills development in their homes.
The third important philosophy is to provide a stimulating academic and enabling vibrant infrastructure so that these first generation learners stay stimulated and inspired towards holistic education, and progressive thinking. Our innovative Earn-while-you-learn has been able to arrest dropout to zero level and has a restrictive effect on the tribal children joining insurgent camps.
What is your assessment of the education system of India, where does it need improvement? Are the marginalized getting equal opportunity to quality education?
India’s education system is one of the world’s oldest and largest and has been successfully contributing to the national and global knowledge pool. However, its impact in the rural areas and less privileged communities is not adequate due to various factors including lack of enabling environment and social, cultural and economic imbalances. We need to address these issues on top priority in order to attain the Sustainable Development Goals
The marginalized communities are deprived of adequate enabling infrastructure. Moreover, most of these children are first generation learner and therefore have a formidable resistance to learning. Most of the times language also becomes a barrier besides fooding, clothing, healthcare support and other amenities for wholesome learning and growth. The government schools are either non-existent or have no proper infrastructure. Moreover, these schools are not within easy reach. Poverty of these communities causes high dropout too. Lack of adequately qualified teachers further worsens the situation repelling children from the school.
How much has the government assisted you in your efforts?
Well, right from the start we have not depended on any government funding. Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences was started as a protege of KIIT which has been majorly funding through its stakeholders. Occasionally private individuals also fund in small doses. We have the most transparent funding system.
What are your lifetime goals with respect to education and poverty eradication?
Holistic education is the only way to alleviate poverty and curbing trans generational progression poverty. Education is the only way to bridge the skills gap and to bring out their inherent talents. They need new skills at par with the mainstream population. My aim is to reach out all deprived and marginalized communities through KISS model replication. We are now on expansion mode. Already one branch of KISS is running successfully in New Delhi. We shall shortly be establishing 20 KISS branches in 20 districts of Odisha and one in each state.
How much is the awareness among the youth and the general populace about the challenges public education faces in India?
Coexistence of KISS and KIIT has been an excellent initiative to bridge the gap between the mainstream population and the underprivileged segments. This has facilitated building awareness of the mainstream youth about educational needs of the poor and the marginalized through mutual interaction between them on day-to-day basis. The social communication barrier has been melting and thereby allowing healthy exchange of ideas and cultural heritage. They have been serving as effective social integration model.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your journey so far?
The most satisfying aspect of my journey is that I have been able to use education as the tool of personal, social, cultural development; economic empowerment; and creation of a large population of change agents for the deprived and marginalized communities. The model has been appreciated by world leaders, policy planners, Nobel Laureates, legal luminaries. KISS has become an eye opener. It is particularly very satisfying when KISS received Special Consultative Status from the United nations Organization.
Do you feel let down when you see the access to education does not occupy the public debate space?
Yes, I feel extremely disappointed to see education not receiving adequate space in public debate forums. However, it is encouraging to note that the world leaders have now come to realize education as an important tool for global development as is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Governments world over, particularly the developing and the less-developed nations, are gearing up to address their education systems and have started laying great emphasis on inclusive and sustainable education and development strategy.