Yet another example wherein effort is being made by a set of individuals to bring about a transformation for the better
It was 2017. In my capacity as Secretary, School Education, Government of India, I was travelling to various parts of the country to ascertain the ground reality of school education. As a part of this learning process, I also travelled to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I had flown to Srinagar from Delhi but preferred to travel by car from Srinagar to Leh, choosing not to take the national highway during my journey. It was an exhausting two-day journey even though I had halted on the way. Despite this exhaustion, I was persuaded by the local staff to attend a programme organised in a school. It was here that I met with Sheeba Nair, a committed and passionate head of Oasis. What I witnessed in the evening was truly amazing. The enthusiasm and the energy amongst the students, teachers and principals who had assembled from all parts of this remote region were truly exemplary. And, all this was on account of the effort put in by this wonderful team of Oasis that had been engaging with these participants for the past few days. In 2018, I also had the occasion to visit Oasis Valleys, the headquarters of this NGO that is an hour drive from Vadodara. The idyllic surroundings provided the ideal environment for a "recharge".
Oasis is driven by a philosophy that there wouldn't be any problem in the world if good human-beings existed, be they common people or people in high places. Can any country ever be great or grow if its average citizen doesn't demonstrate a higher sense of responsibility? Can any society have a bright future where children are not given an ideal environment to flourish? Inspired by such thoughts, in mid-1989, some unconventional youths started weekly self-development sessions, coupled with an array of social welfare activities. Today, it still stands as a crazy dream. However, it has now emerged as a well-articulated philosophy with unique Projects. As a growing movement, Oasis is perhaps the only kind in the whole world offering proven transformative processes for everybody.
It has been a great evolving journey for Oasis over the last three decades. It started with camps for youth but later developed many other programmes in the process of realising needs of the society. Today, it has campaigns for the prevention of suicides among young students, camps to boost their confidence, workshops on parenting, and profound self-development courses for teenagers, teachers as well as professionals. To complement its activities, it also has a wing that has published a large number of books and these books are now being presently translated into half a dozen Indian languages.
With a strong foothold in Gujarat, Oasis also has set its footprints in Karnataka, Mumbai, Jammu & Kashmir and is now expanding to Kerala, Delhi and other regions. The NGO has associated itself with over 800 schools and colleges, partnered with 200 organisations and has had 56 movement partners. Today, it has more than 2.5 million programme beneficiaries and has to its credit over 1.5 million publications. Having impacted thousands of youth and teenagers, Oasis has now become an aspiring nation-wide movement.
It would be extremely difficult to measure the impact of self-development programmes but a recent sample survey of 600 beneficiaries displayed an average growth of 71 per cent in self-confidence, 63 per cent in idealism, 54 per cent in happiness quotient as also 66 per cent increase in their grit, 53 per cent in their trustworthiness, 50 per cent of internal growth as loving and compassionate humans and so on. The organisation has endless testimonies of transformation stories that keep pouring in.
All this has happened through "Oasis Valleys" – a world-class, award-winning institute near Vadodara (Gujarat). It is the nerve-centre of Oasis Movement and perhaps Asia's first institution of its kind for Character Building and Scientific Self-Development Courses. A model Institution, in the midst of a beautiful, lush green campus, it boasts of some best practices in wasteland utilisation, construction, energy conservation, waste management, organic farming to healthy living.
Oasis has also created new pathways by way of public-private partnerships. In January 2017, Oasis signed a pilot partnership project with the Government of J&K for its "Jyotirdhar" programme. Under this, Oasis conducted Living-Loving-Learning workshops for around 150 chosen HoDs & principals from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Subsequently, a series of intensive child-centred camps on self-development, value-orientation, democratic citizenry were introduced covering 800 plus students of J&K. Oasis Valleys hosted workshops for 100 principals in 2018. I was witness to its review-cum-vision retreat along with officials of the state Education Department, where everyone who attended was full of praise about the transforming impact of the sessions,
Romana Qazi, an extremely competent senior govt school head from Srinagar expressed it all in her comment, "Whenever great changes have occurred in history it is because of the courage, willingness and finally the deep conviction of a leader. Education in Kashmir is not only a service delivery but means of social-building and self-reliance through transmission of knowledge, values, attitudes across generations. Oasis in Kashmir made these changes possible and helped us create leaders of integrity shouldering this responsibility."
In September 2019, Oasis signed MoU with the Government of Gujarat to benefit students as well as teachers, school heads across the entire state. The programme couldn't take off on account of Covid but has a promising potential.
Oasis has succeeded in creating a culture where parents, teachers, principals and educational institutes have started coming forward to learn how to function on this premise. The echoes of such a change are resonating across all sections of society. Oasis is a unique experiment that is already scaling through public-private partnership. It is yet another example of Nexus of Good wherein effort is being made by a set of individuals to bring about a transformation for the better. These motivated groups of people are demonstrating that this laudable approach can not only work in stray cases but can also be scaled. This Oasis is indeed growing, growing to challenge the desert.
Views expressed are personal