Updated: Feb 21
How do we move from the identity of being unemployed to employed to the identity of purposelessness to self purpose?
My reflections from the first cycle of iDiscover Fellowship. The journey has led me to a few answers and more questions.
How do we build demand when supply quality is substandard and not relevant?
This is the question we have been grappling with in the context of Education in government schools, more so in the areas which are on the margins (read economically). Our experience of working with rural and tribal community provides enough evidence to believe rural communities value education a lot and in its absence they develop a feeling or a question of whether they are getting any value from that, and as a result they drop out their children( read walkout).
So the pertinent question remains how do you build demand for a supply that's overwhelming, irrelevant and not very purposeful?
The input in education has grown with each passing day- be it teacher training, curriculum changes, workshops for children, building parent's literacy. We have been thinking on the lines of simultaneously co-designing a learning experience which is not only in alignment with the current needs of the community, but also builds skills to deal with ambiguity and design their future.
Co- partnering with community on this journey might slowly but steadily build a massive bottom up demand for education which might seem more relevant to them. Now this might seem an uphill task (if we visualise all this at one go). Slowly bringing the community's participation in the governance of the school, education and the learning process could lead a collective ownership of the education their children receive.
Well the biggest question that lay in front of us - How do we do this? How do we bring a transformation which is both internal and also tied very closely to the external world and structures?
We looked around the community and found a lot of young people who have been made to build a singular identity of being unemployed, 12th grade pass, B.ed or a drop out.
How would it feel for an individual when it is a reduction of an entire human being to some grade specific identity? It shrinks an individual's potential and possibilities that exist.
Learning always has been so evolutionary and tied to the collective awareness of the communities and our own growth. How do we cultivate this back? All these questions and more lead us to the need of working with such youth in the community, involve them in the process of bringing back the love for learning; Working with them to demonstrate what learning could look like for them and for children. Once they experience themselves they would be better placed to help experience others.
This led to the inception of a 2 year fellowship for youth of multiple communities irrespective of their academic identity. We also felt the need of mixing the local group with youth from cities to build a diverse community. We started this fellowship in 2017. Recently our first batch completed their two years and almost 50 percent stayed back to continue with their 3rd year while the rest have moved forward on their journey of finding purpose and meaning.
During the two years the focus had been to involve the community in the governance of the school thus building higher level of transparency, accountability and interest. This reflects in the choices fellows have made post fellowship.
All these stories inspire us to believe scale is not about reaching more but demonstrating the tension between what's possible and what's happening. This critical tension will possibly lead to impact beyond anyone's imagination. The focus on working with local youth stems from the need to build a moral, authentic and indigenous leadership at the last mile from the community for the community. This gives us hope, love and peace.
About the writer
Vivek Kumar is Co-Founder and CEO of Kshamtalaya Foundation, an organisation supporting communities to revive the spirit of learning in and outside of schools. Core to the organisation’s program is a curriculum that provides space for self-directed learning, systems thinking, and mindfulness. Its learning manifesto and learning festivals aim to make education a community agenda. He is an Engineer, a graduate of TISS and alumnus of the Gandhi Fellowship program and TFIx Incubation program.
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