April 11th, 2017
In the 1990s, Bihar was a notorious place, infamous for its precarious law and order situation and general lack of education. In 1997, a few youngsters from the Don Bosco School in Patna dreamt about changing the education sector of Bihar. They discussed opening a village school in Bihar. Thirteen years later, they got back together to fulfil their dream and opened Diksha Foundation to make education accessible to underprivileged children.
In December 2010, the organisation launched its learning centre, Knowledge Hub for Education and Learning (KHEL) in Patna, Bihar. KHEL Center is a learning space for children from economically disenfranchised communities of the Jagdeo Path area of the city.
Nishant Kumar, an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, is the Co-Founder & Advisory Board Member. He is also an investment banker in the US. He shares, “We wanted to create a space for learning, which we felt was missing for the children from low-income backgrounds.”
Co-Founder Gautam Gauri ,who is MPhil in Education at the University of Cambridge
Says “At Diksha, our focus is on the liberal and civic aims of education. This means our interest is not confined to literacy and numeracy. We take steps to ensure that students learn to appreciate freedom and democracy. We want our students to become responsible participants in the society. We encourage them to make informed choices based on their personal interests.”
Diksha later established two more centres – one in Hilsa block, Nalanda district and another in Kusumpur Pahari, New Delhi. Diksha offers after school supplementary education to 400 children.
Avijit Singh, Advisory Board member of Diksha, is a Management Consultant in London. He is an alumnus of IIT Delhi & London Business School. He shares “Being involved with Diksha makes me feel better about myself. It provides me with a connection with a home that I love but have been away from for very long; and that I sometimes fear I am losing connection with on a personal level.”
Diksha has been undertaking different projects in the education space. They have worked in the area of school improvement. They have also worked with National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad to promote creativity and innovation in schools.
Knowledge Hub for Education and Learning (KHEL)
The KHEL Project identifies dropped out school children and helps them in getting enrolled in government schools. The students are then encouraged to come to Diksha’s learning centre so that they can continue their education.
Shyamlika Krishna, Project Manager of Diksha Foundation, shares, “In our KHEL Project we teach four core subjects Maths, English, Hindi & Computers. A greater focus is on creativity learning using the arts, theatre to share knowledge. We focus on holistic education so that children do not just develop bookish knowledge but also gain knowledge through experiential learning methods. The children thus become equal participants in the learning process.” Shyamlika is a gold medallist in Social Work from Patna University.
The KHEL Project has open house meetings and children’s parliament as two unique processes that support the educational goals of the organisation. Every year in September, the students and teachers elect representatives to lead the center.
This unique platform is designed with the vision to inculcate democratic values in the students. Democratic education is offered through involving children in planning, decision-making, and management of the learning centre. Important announcements like holiday schedules are co-signed by the Head Teacher and Prime Minister of the Bal Sansad (Children’s Parliament). Dharamveer Kumar is the current Prime Minister of Diksha’s Patna Center. He has been coming to Diksha since 2011 and studies in Class 11. The Bal Sansad promotes democratic and secular thinking and activities which form the base of holistic development.
Every month, Bal Sansad members organise an open house meeting where all the children and teachers participate. The Open House Meetings have been modelled on Summer Hill School, a progressive school in the United Kingdom. The student teacher community comes together and discusses the challenges they are facing. There are two boxes one for complaint and another for the suggestion. If children face any problem, they drop their complaint in the complaint box, and if they have any suggestion, then they drop it in the suggestion box. The community together comprehends the problem, makes rational claims and comes up with solutions.
The fearless discussions and debates enable children to be “a part of the solution”.
Dharamveer Kumar shares, “When we started Bal Sansad in our center, we were dependent on our teachers. Now we organise the meetings ourselves, and we take responsibility of the center.”
Another student, Preeti Kumari, is the Speaker of the Bal Sansad, remarks: “In the last session, I was the Plantation Minister, this year I got voted as Speaker. I want to take the Children’s Parliament to my school so that children can devote time to activities like sports, plantation and keeping the environment clean.”
Shyamlika shares: “Regarding innovation, we have our open house meetings and Bal Sansad processes. The monthly open house meetings offer an opportunity for the students to ask questions. The children here have freedom to question the behaviour and actions of the teacher in a public platform. The children have the awareness that if they have a problem then they have to say it and they have a right to know the solution. This leads to trust and ownership. If you see other schools and if I reflect on my schooling, I used to wait for school to get over and go home. Here it is opposite; the children enjoy the space and are often unwilling to go back. It is because we do not force the children to participate in any activity and we give them a chance to choose what they like.”
Diksha reaches out to 400 children and youth through its learning centres on a daily basis. Around 500 youth – mostly women – have learned Computers through Diksha’s Information Technology Training programme. Also, the organisation reaches out to more than 200 government schools every year to organise creativity and innovation workshops as a part of the Ignite Campaign. The education offered by the organisation is free to the learners. It means that there is a constant pressure to raise resources and funds for delivering the projects. The organisation relies on individual donations and has a monthly subscription system through which donors can support the cause.
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