Published: 09th March 2018
Students from Centurion University went back to the community to solve their problems
At Centurion University, the focus is being brought back to the communities, their problems and students are being engaged to solve them
Home is where the heart is. But it doesn't just include our family and the roof over our head; home is also the community we live in. The people we greet on the streets and the children we play with near our homes are all part of our community, lying beyond the four walls of our home. But sometimes, as we move forward in life, or move away for the sake of education, job or otherwise, we tend to forget our beloved community. Their problems aren't our problems anymore or we're so wrapped up in our own problems that we tend to neglect the problems of the community.
To wake the current generation up to the problems of their community before they grow numb to them and to bring back the essential question — Ask not what the community can do for you, ask what you can do for the community — Dr Amiya Singh, the Dean of the School of Vocational Education and Training, Centurion University of Technology and Management, Bhubaneswar, made one simple plan — the Community Action Learning or CAL.
I believe that community consciousness, problem-solving skills and life skills are essential for a student to do well in life
Dr Amiya Singh, dean, School of Vocational Education and Training, Centurion University
Shut it down!
Dr Singh is of the opinion that, "education is an outcome of the community, but the education system is doing nothing for the community." Thanks to this realisation, a bunch of 17 to 18-year-old students of the university found their classrooms locked one fine October morning, last year. All they were told was to go back to the roots; go back to their community and find solutions to their problems.
Of course, the students were mentored all through their task by Dr Singh and their faculty, but mind you, only mentored. For example, a group of students wanted to carry out an awareness campaign regarding traffic safety and the perils of drug addiction, for which they needed the permission of the police. "I knew the concerned authority personally, yet encouraged students to go about it on their own," informs Dr Singh.
Photo op: Dr Singh along with the faculty of the university
Thus, 25 groups of eight to nine Diploma (engineering) students each helmed 25 projects that aimed to solve the problems of the community. Everything from financial education at schools to making furniture out of waste wood to conducting a workshop to make senior citizens net savvy — the students served the whole community during the seven days of field work they were given through major, mini, micro and nano projects, beginning from October 28, 2017. Though the CAL programme concluded on November 4, 2017, the students are still building the community in their spare time.
The objective of the CAL programme was to institutionalise this community-driven approach. "Though there are many college clubs that carry out such activities, when we talk about sustainable change, they are not viable enough unless they become a part of the curriculum," opines Dr Singh, who was one of the teachers recognised last year at Edex’s 40 under 40 event, where 40 young exceptional teachers were given their due.
Confidence, commitment, communication and community are the 4 Cs Dr Amiya Singh focused on to drive home the message of the 3Es — empowerment, engagement and environment
Dr Singh is now drafting a proposal towards the alumni fund of the programme to institutionalise CAL and take it to other colleges and universities. And what a wonderful idea because... what is the world if not one big community?
Dr Singh introduces us to some local community projects that were taken up by students and are still being followed by the community
Sports as a powerful tool to social change
Play it right: Students used sports to blur the lines between the well-off and the poor
Who is not familiar with the divide between the rich and the poor in communities? And what better tool than sports to eliminate this divide? A few students, who live in hostels outside the college campus, picked an empty plot that once served as a dumping ground for garbage and cleared it to set up a badminton court. Kids from the surrounding areas were trained in badminton for three days and on the next three days, a doubles tournament ensued, wherein they were paired with a city kid. Even today, they still come and play together and the divide is forgotten.
Exhibition and workshop on advanced technologies
Tech savvy: Students shared their passion of tech with others
A perennial problem that government schools face is educating children about the latest technology. Now, these groups of students are interested in high-end technology. So, they decided to share their passion by conducting a workshop for government high school students. Not only did they talk about Virtual Reality (VR) and the like, they also demonstrated how drones will be a major game changer when it comes to delivery, marketing and more.
They also highlighted the benefits of a solar oven, demonstrated how it works and even sold two units.
Workshop on recycling waste paper
R for recycle: Students demonstrating how paper is recycled
Wastage of paper is a problem every institute faces. Centurion University has its own paper recycling and making unit on campus and a few students decided to use it for the community. They conducted primary and mid-level workshops, spreading awareness for the environment, and demonstrated how paper is recycled. The outcome of this has been that some of the school headmasters have made a deal with Centurion University to regularly recycle their waste paper too.
A skill walk to fix rejected appliances
Fixing it: Students with dismantled appliances
There are several appliances we throw out because we choose not to fix them. To avoid this waste, this group surveyed around 100 houses around the locality and repaired their appliances for free. At first they were chased away, but they persevered persistently and slowly, people started opening their doors (quite literally!). What started as fixing grinders, went on to become fixing ACs as well. The students repaired 20-30 such appliances and now, they have bagged the contract for the wiring of a new building, which they are currently pursuing with the help of their juniors.
Awareness drive for employment opportunities
On display: Students with the leaflets they distributed during the session
Job opportunities are few and far in between for the ones who dropout. Students realised this problem in the community and offered these dropouts an opportunity to hone their skills for free through Gram Tarang, which is a skill-building and employability development initiative that has been running at the university for over 10 years along with the Government of India. About 40 members from the community opted for various training courses.
To find out more about the university visit cutm.ac.in/