Sunderban/Kolkata: Forty-five-year old Biplab Das, an IIM graduate works as a delivery manager with Accenture Kolkata through the week and on weekends, he dons the avatar of an educator on a mission. The mission here is simple – fill in the gaps that exist in the education provided by the government. Das, who had spent his early formative years in Sunderban, as his father was a teacher in one such government run schools.
“I am a student of Padma Shri Tushar Kanjilal. He was the headmaster of our school in Rangabelia area in the Sunderbans. I have seen how my teachers have worked towards making education accessible to remote villages out there. Also, having been a student of a government school, I am very well aware of the gaps that exist. So, I always had this vision of going back to my roots and doing something worthwhile for the education system there,” says Das.
Formative years of Kishalaya
It’s been five years now, since Das along with his California-based friend Sourabh Kumar has been running a number of educational programmes under the aegis of Kishalaya Foundation, an NGO formed by him along with a few colleagues and friends.
Taking a multi-prong approach to tackle educational gaps, Das at present is focusing on Sundarbans, with West Midnapur district, being the next in queue. His NGO works towards creating educational hubs for the kids in their early formative years of the kids, in the island area.
Taking quality education to remote villages
Elaborating on the same Das says, “In these years we have realized that kids of remote Indian villages face language efficiency as a major hurdle. In our hubs we work toward bettering their dictions and spellings and other language related issues in the formative years. We are currently focusing on kids between the ages of 5 to 12. We also offer better sports amenities for the kids in our hubs, which work on weekends for these kids.”
They however, have a preparatory school at their nodal hub in Godkhali, which replicates the play school model, a much sought after module which aims at readying toddlers for school education. “We have a rented area, where we are training 52 toddlers, with the latest educational toys and computer aided teaching style.”
A School Where Folklore Is Kept Alive
Das and his team comprising Kumar, Soumitra Dandapat, Jhilam Nandi and Arnab Adhikari, Asst. Prof, IIM Ranchi, who is also on advisory board, feel that they need to do more to build a new India. They team keeps conceptualising new ways to improvise teaching methodology and make education more appealing to all. Thus, they have introduced a pilot programme in their Godkhali hub, where a middle aged lady has been hired and trained to keep alive folk tales. “We realized that the kids of these areas are the real treasure. They not just need to be educated but also be taught about their roots, which they need to preserve. This made us come up with this unique project, where we have trained a grandma from the sunderban area. They have been trained to conduct storytelling classes, for the kids, so that they also learn the folklores of the sunderbans,” adds Das.
Thinking out of the box
Das and his team come up with unique ideas to fight adversities. For instance to make quality food available to students enrolled with government schools in remote areas, they have tied up with a school in a tribal area to plant saplings of fruit trees. “The idea was to supplement the midday meal provided by government. But our pocket doesn’t allow us to sponsor even a school for a year. We thus thought of planting such trees, which in the coming years will itself provide plenty of fruits to the students of such schools to relish. This is our pilot project, which aims at countering malnutrition,” he adds. The model if successful will be replicated in areas of Bengal that have the most malnourished kids.
The funds, Das reveals is made available to run these hubs by a group of his alumni network from IIM and Jadavpur, from where he has done his electrical engineering. “We don’t have huge budgets. Most of our funds come from individual donations made by friends and acquaintances. We have an annual award, for the most innovative teacher in remote Bengal, sponsored by YepMe. With a shoestring budget, we are a dedicated team working towards the realization of our collective dream – May quality education available to all,” he reveals.