What an inspiring cover story (‘Ingenious tribal child-ren development model’ EW April)! It defies belief that Dr. Achyuta Samanta has been able to establish the world’s largest residential free school for neglected tribal children in the backward state of Odisha.
I was especially struck by your observation that none of the children in KISS is tall because of early childhood malnutrition. Yet a KISS team won the Under-13 world rugby championship last year! This shows what poor Indians are capable of given opportunity. What a school and what an extraordinary visionary!
Rajneesh R. on e-mail
Thank you for your inspiring and heart touching cover story on Dr. Achyuta Samanta and his efforts to build the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), a one-of-its-kind education ecosystem reportedly in the entire world (EW April). Has anyone in India before Dr. Samanta ever thought that even while in school, children from poor tribal regions can earn and become self-reliant? But this seemingly impossible task is a reality in KISS. Government and big corporates should come forward to support this excellent initiative.
I was also surprised to read about KISS tribal children winning inter-national championships. It shows that they are talented, hard working and dedicated. With a little support in terms of guidance and infrastructure, they can do wonders.
Your special report ‘Union Budget 2012-13: Middle class India’s public education blindspot’ (EW April) has hit the nail on the head by exposing middle class apathy towards public education. Summiya Yasmeen has made the conn-ection between inadequate provision for public education in the Union budget and middle class indifference. In so-called socialist India, the middle class has created an entire parallel private school education system for their children and hence is unconcerned about the fate of India’s 1.25 million government schools.
Your special report feature is a timely rem-inder to the educated middle class about the dangerous consequ-ences of ignoring the steadily deteriorating quality of education dispensed in govern-ment schools. Public education cannot be a low-priority issue for the middle class or the Union government, because the Indian economy is experiencing a severe shortage of educated and skilled personnel. In its own interest the middle class — which funds government schools — must demand strict account-ability and good learning outcomes. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
Balanced learning call
I read with interest the Sports Education column titled ‘Building communities through sports’ authored by Dr. George Selleck (EW April). I fully agree with Dr. Selleck that sports participation is essential for building students’ character, enhancing academic performance, teaching life skills, improving family life and developing healthy and happy communities. All schools must revise their curriculums and draw up time-tables which allow students to play sports and games, particularly swimming and yoga which must be made compulsory.
Together with school principals, parents must create balanced progra-mmes in which academics and sports are both given time. Marks should be allocated for sports achievement. The overall results of such wholesome education will be amazingly positive, meaningful and joyful for children.
Barefoot College lesson
Though two months late, I am glad I did not miss the February issue of EducationWorld which featured a very important cover story on one of India’s most admirable social and educational projects — Barefoot College, Tilonia. Education and development must be focused on village India if we are serious about transforming our country. Reading your cover story, I gratefully remembered how my own approach to education was influenced by SWRC (Social Work & Research Centre), founded and directed by Bunker Roy.
In 1983, the Indian Public School Conference (IPSC) decided that all member schools should incorporate social sensitisation into the curriculum. Accordingly, Shomie Das, then head-master of Lawrence School, Sanawar organised a village development progra-mme for member schools of IPSC. I was then a house master at Lawrence School, Lovedale and was sent to a camp with two senior students. The entire programme was directed by SWRC at Kasauli, Shimla where all of us — teachers and students — had to live in a village, without any urban comforts.
The ten-day camp taught us many lasting lessons. The village was transformed into ‘a smokeless village’, thanks to the efforts of SWRC. Almost 90 percent of the women folk in the village were suffering from eye diseases due to constant exposure to smoky, dingy kitchens. A closed chula with a tin pipe that took away the smoke through a natural suction process, solved the problem permanently — at a cost of a mere Rs.50 per household!
When I returned to Lawrence School, we tried to transform a neighbouring rural habitation into a similar smokeless village. Although our first attempt failed on account of some miscalculations in measurements, the process taught us great lessons in life. Frequent exposure to village India stimulated sentiments of empathy and compassion within students and faculty who lived in an otherwise insulated island cut off from ground realities.
I sincerely hope all public school managements, including those of mushrooming international schools and colleges learn from the great Tilonia experiment that education is incomplete without the development of their neighbouring environments.
Thank you for publishing this cover feature.
Former chairman, Gulf Council of CBSE Schools, Delhi