A message from Shri Ashok Jhunjhunwala
There is a serious dearth of good and affordable educational institutions in the country for a common, middle class aspirant. The anarchic growth of engineering, medical and IT colleges and ‘universities’ in towns and big metropolitan cities doesn’t instil confidence because they are seen more as brazen money making endeavours with weak infrastructure, high fees, unbelievable donation demands and a not so qualified faculty. Over and above, there are reservations based on the castes and other considerations which add to the woes of ‘unreserved’ segments. But what if we can design an educational system that can caters to the aspirations and ambitions of all sections of the population in a justifiable manner and at the same time help the weaker sections to forge forth on the path of progress without taking recourse to crutches of any sort and instilling in them a sense of pride and self confidence in their own abilities?
We have been experimenting in this direction with modest success and can claim that this model is quite replicable in other segments too. And the beauty of its success lies in a significant fact that stalwarts of both the major political streams – Congress and BJP – Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shri N. D. Tiwari came together to help the cause without a fuss. Fortunately Shri F.C.Kohli, a legend by himself and a former vice president of Tata Consultancy Services, joined the effort as its patron.
The experiment I have alluded to is a school, affiliated with the CBSE, and has as its curricular focus a novel integration of basic ICT skills, entrepreneurship training, responsible attitudes to societal development and quest for academic and other forms of excellence. The school has given us confidence that if right steps are taken in the educational sector without getting into sloganeering, much can be achieved.
Based in Dehradun and with an impressive name, the school - Information Technology Institute for the Tribes of India, is a charitable institution offering free of cost residential accommodation, formal education from classes VI-X based on the scheme of studies of the Central Board of Secondary Education, together with training in Information Technology. By offering quality education and supplementing it with a tailor made computers and Information Technology training, the Institute hopes to, at the end of the formal senior secondary level, to put students on the path of either IT entrepreneurship or the pursuit of higher academic excellence by way of enrolment in professional courses. The intervention is designed to motivate them to contribute constructively to the development of their tribal areas either directly or indirectly. The school houses about 150 students – all tribals drawn from as far off places as Tawang in Arunachal to Chushul in Ladakh and Gunji, Garbyang in Uttarakhand to Rajasthan’s Bhils (from this year). The aim is to empower the most disadvantaged sections of our society to join the so-called national mainstream of achievers and providers. Many of them saw the train for the first time in their lives, just to reach this school and their parents had moist eyes sending them to such a distanced area. But they too have dreams, big dreams for their wards.
Setting up the challenge and empowering students to live up to it is the goal of any progressive education system. To this end, the Institute caters to a variety of student aspirations, abilities, and preparation, making available appropriate content and means to satisfy their diverse needs.
India has had in its traditional education system the right and proper mechanism for enabling students to create their own future and control their destinies. Integrating the best of a ‘gurukula system’ system of nurturing values and modern technologies as a vehicle for empowerment is therefore an outstanding feature of this initiative. Socio-cultural education aimed at developing a healthy concern for their brethren in the tribal societies, a healthy attitude towards the world of work, building character and self-esteem is the central theme of this integration. While life-long learning skills are essential in all fields, it is all the more important in the field of IT, which keeps changing at a mind-boggling pace. The full programme of the Institute emphasises this aspect and strives to get students tuned to ‘learning to learn’ very early in their educational career. Another unique feature of the programme is the ‘Earn while you Learn’ scheme, to instill a sense of productivity, independence and self-esteem which are essential traits of an entrepreneur.
The Institute has already met with successes on many fronts. The first batch of students fared very well in the Class X Board examination and did their Institute proud by bringing a cent percent result. Sports, is another area in which students have shown promise and have been declared as the district champion in football. Besides they have endeared themselves to the people of Dehradun, who generally would not miss any opportunity to be with them either on routine school days or during celebrations.