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Millennium Post

Role Model for fighting poverty

When the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) was started in 1993 with 125 tribal children in a village just outside Bhubaneswar, no one would have imagined that in less than 20 years it would make a mark not only in the state of Odisha but internationally. The total number of pupils today has crossed 16,000 tribal students representing 62 tribes including some primitive ones. Interestingly 40 per cent of the students are girls. KISS is now the largest residential institute for tribal children not only in Asia but internationally. This has been testified by the ISO 9001 certification KISS received in 2010.

In the initial years of KISS, every academic year was a struggle. It was difficult to encourage tribal children to join a residential school, away from their habitat. Equally difficult was to get them interested in different activities and new way of life. There were many drop outs. Students had to be screened for typical medical problems they brought from remote areas. But Achyuta Samanta, an indefatigable social worker, untiringly removed all roadblocks.

KISS is a case study on how to develop skill among the most deprived inhabitants. The institution looks after schooling of tribal children from kindergarten to post graduation. In addition to normal academics the school provides opportunities for the students in the field of sports, cultural events and vocational studies so that the students are capable of earning their livelihood independently.

Rugby is a major sport here. The under-14 team of KISS won international tournaments. In 2007 they won the world rugby tournament in London beating South Africa. In 2011 also its team won another major international tournament. Four of its girls were selected in the National Senior Women Rugby Team for Asian games. Bhagyalaxmi Barik, represented India in the 16th Asian Games at Guangzhou, China in 2010. The under-14 teams of boys and girls played matches with teams in London and Australia. The students of the institute participated in the National School Games in kho-kho, kabaddi and archery.

Sports apart the tribal students achieved commendable record in academics. For the last nine years the school achieved 100 per cent result in the Odisha Board of Secondary Examination and 100 per cent record in Arts, Science and Commerce streams at plus 2 level in Odisha. Evidently the school has met the commitment to bring the students from remote tribal areas to the mainstream of modern India. It has indeed delivered what the society expected it to deliver.

How could KISS manage to handle small children who came to the hostel far away from their familiar surroundings and parents and groom them for the challenges of modern life? The most important issue was to curb drop outs and make the children comfortable and happy in the new environment. The unique method adopted should serve as a case study of sorts. Small children particularly new comers of a specific tribe are looked after by designated mentors from middle school belonging to the same tribe. Thus a class eight student gets charge of standard one students hailing from the same tribe. The primary section thus becomes a melting pot of tribal assimilation where small tribal children are groomed for the modern times.

KISS is a unique experiment where school staff also comes from various tribes. The house masters, hostel wardens and others who look after the welfare of the students are largely tribals. Young students feel comfortable while tribals find a meaningful role in contributing to the upliftment of their communities. No wonder the model has proved to be successful.

The school is affiliated to the Directorate of Elementary and Secondary Education, Government of Odisha. The medium of instruction is Odia with English as a compulsory subject from standard four onwards. KISS also provides undergraduate and postgraduate courses through its sister concern KIIT University. The institute also offers special guidance for those who take up competitive examinations for the state and national level administrative services.

In addition there is vocational training. Each student is trained in a vocational trade of her/his interest. Vocational courses run parallel to the standard education from standard six to standard ten. Products made by students go partly for in house need of the institutes and KIIT University. Part of the proceeds goes to the students as incentives so that they earn when they learn. KISS also offers vocational training from the poorer sections of the society who drop out from studies due to economic compulsion.

KISS is a unique showcase. Former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam described the school as a wonder. Nobel Laureate Prof. Richard Ernst was all praise for the role of Samanta. Among others who visited KISS and recorded their appreciations are former US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer, former Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria, Magsaysay award winner and writer Mahasweta Devi. Senior cabinet minister of Social Development of South Africa Ms Bomo Edna Molewa was so impressed that she suggested adoption of KISS model internationally.

When one individual like Dr Samanta can contribute so much for the society if replicated with sincerity and dedication the same can work wonders.

Saugata Mitra is the Chief People Officer and the member of the apex management team of Mother Dairy. This is an edited excerpt from his latest book Brand Odisha: Investing in the Future.
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