With firsthand experience of poverty and deprivation, Professor Samanta has single-handedly ushered in a revolution to give a new lease of life to millions at the margins.
Bhubaneswar: Educate, Empower and Enable”, has been the “3E” formula that Prof. Achyuta Samanta, Founder of Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), follows to turn tribal alienation, poverty and illiteracy upside down through the tool of Inclusive Education. KISS is considered as the world’s largest intervention for indigenous people wherein 60,000 children from the indigenous communities of Odisha and neighbouring states are empowered with Holistic Education from kindergarten to post -graduation along with boarding facilities, clothing, healthcare, vocational and life skills, all free of cost. KISS has robust alumni of 20,000 empowered people, well-placed and driving change for themselves, their families and communities. KISS is a revolution in the lives of tribal people.
Prof. Achyuta Samanta has single-handedly ushered in a revolution to give a new lease of life to millions at the margins. The scale, scope and speed at which he works and his institutions create change and promote peace have been appreciated and hailed by all accomplished statesmen, diplomats, state heads, country heads, legal luminaries, academicians, researchers, social activists, sociologists, media celebrities, corporates, Nobel Laureates, Magsaysay awardees, and many others, from both within and outside the country who have visited KISS and known about it!
The same person who has received profound appreciation for unique initiatives has lived a life of struggle and miseries. He lost his father at the age of four and grew up with six siblings amidst impoverishment and poverty, sharing the burden of his widowed mother in a remote village in Odisha. He did not have a single hand of solace and consolation to guide, advise and motivate. Despite such helplessness, nothing deterred him from helping his mother in the menial work and augment the family income which anyway did not ever make both the ends meet. He received his primary schooling from the village school by the mercy of the local headmaster. He completed his undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies with dedication and belief that education empowers and has a power to transform his life and others.
After completing his education, he started teaching in a private college to support his family and friends. But his calling was something unusual! It was beyond personal benefits, dedicating life to the cause of removing poverty and annihilating sufferings. The same man whose life is an example of how destitution cripples every hope, thought of alleviating poverty, hunger and suffering from the lives of the most disadvantaged and the underprivileged people of society from his own state, Odisha. He has dedicated his life to empower and transform the lives of tribal people by breaking the veil of ignorance, superstition, illiteracy, malnutrition and violence from the age of 25. He thought of it when there was no adequate awareness about professional Education in Odisha.
Besides, tribal education as an innovative model was never even considered for a thought, leave alone attempting! It was a grey area where every stakeholder failed or did not muster the courage to initiate the first step. His initiatives have become a pride of Odisha, India and the world today.
He has encountered a lot of mental, financial bottlenecks in his mission. Odisha is one of the poorest states in India, constituting almost 25% of the tribal population who live in extreme poverty, misery, ignorance, superstition close to nature for centuries. They live a cycle of birth, life and decay in the forests, alienated from the forces of development.
Prof. Samanta dared to take steps that nobody thought of to bring them out from the clutches of violence and trappings of Naxalism (Left Wing extremism). The would-be cadres hold pens instead of swords and have appreciated the change in their lives and generations thereafter because of education.
The mission he undertook in the form of empowering indigenous population through holistic education has a tremendous risk component to it. The indigenous people in the mineral-rich region are displaced and uprooted from their habitats by mining activities, local encroachers and terrorists indoctrinating to induct them as cadres. Prof Samanta, on the contrary, is persuading people to take the path of restoration of their rights with peace and development and education as instruments.
This binary has created a rift between Prof Samanta and other players, primarily the terrorists in these areas of struggle and mobilization. Prof Samanta himself counsels the indigenous parents to enrol their children at KISS. He has undertaken the task to persuade and has been successful in getting children from families of terrorists as well. There are many case studies which support the change in the minds of children and youth who have left terrorism and joined KISS to pursue education.
Some girl cadres have also escaped from terrorist camps to join KISS for a better future. This leap has created an apparent rift between terrorists and Prof Samanta, and has led to many threats to his life. Indigenous children with congenital and communicable diseases primarily seen in this belt are enrolled. Hence, healthcare is ensured in the best of hospitals along with holistic education at KISS. He not only thought, but also dared to start. Starting was never easy! It had a lot of setbacks. The common man considered him mad while tribals considered him as an intruder who would sell the children. Yet, he continued overcoming all adversities!
The tribal boys and girls studying at Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences are the first generation learners as a part of formal education. They did not have access to education in their hamlets. The tribal population with their own dialects lived a life of illiteracy and ignorance because of the phobia of studying in a foreign language. At KISS, the language barriers overcome through mother tongue based multilingual education at the formative stage. If one child gets empowered and educated, the lives of the people in the entire village change. They act as the change-makers for their communities. The communities get the benefit of education and still remain close to their culture, identity, language and heritage.
Prof Achyuta Samanta had firsthand experience of poverty and deprivation and devised a mechanism of handholding to adulthood with the gift of lifelong skills which finds them meaningful jobs later. This direction has helped them to become part of the mainstream and lead a life of dignity and equality.