Meet Pranjal Dubey, a 40-year-old techie who gave up everything to educate the youth of his village. He left his job as a programme manager in Bengaluru, Karnataka and sold his house. With that money, Dubey started a college named Sant Singaji Institute of Science and Management (SSISM) in a village in Madhya Pradesh (MP).
“I sold my house to bring up a building, which was very much necessary. I wanted to educate the youth of my village so that they could get better skills, job opportunities and places in their lives,” said Pranjal Dubey in a conversaton with The Logical Indian.
Until 2010, Dubey worked at a German multinational software corporation in Bengaluru as a Program Manager for about 13 years. Having an ancestral home at Sandalpur, MP, he visited it annually to conduct the ritualistic religious ceremonies that were the responsibility of the village priest or “Mahant” (a hereditary post handed down over the generations).
On being asked whether selling his only house and leaving his job was an easy decision, he said, “I feel one should have to take some decisions in his/her life which are at times very difficult for us. Both the decisions were very difficult to take altogether.”
The beginning of action
The actual process started in July 2010 with the very first batch of Sant Singaji Institute of Science and Management. The techie took the group of 50 students to Bengaluru and many other cities across India hoping that the students would dream of something big in their life. He said that getting connected with the rural youth was “not an easy job for me as my background and upbringing was quite different from these kids. So to kindle their dreams, I decided to take them to multinationals like Infosys, Biocon, SAP and many other firms where they could see the bigger picture.”
Pranjal Dubey had been the Mahant of the Sant Singaji Temple at Sandalpur for several years and had now decided to do something significant to economically and socially uplift the surrounding areas by providing a good quality college education at the degree level. The name of the institute was also inspired by the teachings of the Guru Sant Singaji.
Dubey said that the activity was initially started with 100 students and 15 teachers in a local Dharamshala. “Later, we visited PG colleges and hired fresh graduates and then trained them accordingly. Now there are more than 30 teachers active.”
The incident that changed a life
Pranjal Dubey belongs to a family that has traditionally provided the head priest for the Sant Singaji Temple. So once in a year, he had to go back to his ancestral village to perform annual rituals. Each of these visits served as a stark reminder to him of the huge disparity between his achievements and of those of his village but these pangs of conscience were silenced once he re-joined work and got engrossed in the regular hustle-bustle of metropolitan and corporate life.
It was the year 2006 when a parent along with his son approached Dubey and told him, “Please, Mahantji, you have to help my son find a job. I heard the company you work for is very big. Can you please get him a small job there?”.
Pranjal reflected that after realising that the boy in question had only completed his basic schooling; he advised him to get a degree, without which it would be difficult to get a job. Two years later, during Dubey’s next visit to Sandalpur, he was confronted by both father and son.
The parent pleaded, “We have got him a degree. We sold our land and bought this degree. Now you will get him a job like yours.”
The enormity of the consequences of his casually dispensed advice hit Dubey like a bullet. The ‘degree’ the boy and his father had bought was not worth the paper it was printed on. However, the only source of livelihood that the family subsisted on was now dependent on this worthless paper.
This single event became the genesis of transformation, both for Pranjal, as well as for Sandalpur, which saw a ray of hope through the initiatives of the techie and his team of educationists. Thus was conceived the Sant Singaji Institute of Science and Management (SSISM) college with more than 1,000 students on its rolls.
Education as a medium of change
SSISM was incorporated to facilitate the starting of the educational institution with the aim to provide practical education to rural students so that they develop into good and confident citizens, to help them achieve their dreams and also contribute to the socio-economic environment.
The founders of SSISM hoped that multiple initiatives such as industry exposure through training and internships leading to job opportunities, career counseling, entrepreneurial assistance and guidance, providing financial assistance, and scholarships to students from lower economic strata and a special focus on girl education through parent counseling, would help in the overall socio-economic development of the region.
“We have 1000 students from around 200 villages, and among them, 50-60% are girls, while many of the students have also been placed in MNC’s, etc.,” says Dubey while talking to The Logical Indian.
So, with this focus, the college offered a degree (B.Sc.) and undergraduate degree-level courses in Computer Science, Microbiology, Business Administration, Commerce (B.Com.), and Arts (B.A.).
In the short span of time, SSISM has achieved stellar results, where 14 students (all girls) have obtained university ranks, putting Sandalpur on the education map of Madhya Pradesh. Some of its graduates work in software hubs of Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Pune, in companies like Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., Infosys Ltd, and SAP. And more than 100 of its graduates are teachers now.
Vandana Joshi is a daughter of a small shop owner, her dream was to do something for her family. After completing her BCA from SSISM college, she has now joined Cognizant Technology.
Navin Saran, a son of a farmer, has been a very good cricketer, he was in a local company where his energy and potential was being misguided because of lack of awareness and proper guidance. He has finally started focusing on making his career and joined SAP Labs Bangalore as a Scholar.
There are much more students who have got very good jobs and are earning good due to their enthusiasm and hard work. Dubey discerned, “When I see these kids working hard and achieving success in their lives, it makes me realise that I have done something for them.”
“There are two software companies running in the campus. One is a London based company called ‘Cloudiate,’ and another is named as Singaji Software Solutions (SSS), and we hire the students from the college for these companies,” said Dubey.
With the support of his family, Pranjal Dubey has been able to achieve his dreams. “I was pretty much settled and successful in my job, so this was really not an easy job for my family and me, But they agreed to my decision,” he said.
When he was asked about the future plans he said that by 2025, Sant Singaji Educational Society would be imparting holistic education to 15000 students at a given point of time. The area will be known by “Singaji Educational Village”. It will be able to have positive social impact on society leading towards the socio-economic transformation of rural India.
He also wants to expand the organic farming in his village and get more students involved in the process.
Quite a legacy for a man who only seven years ago was unable to get someone a job. And he is just getting started.
With #MySocialResponsibility, we aim to bring you more inspiring stories of individuals and organisations across the globe. If you also know about any changemakers, share their story at [email protected] and we'll spread the word.