Dropouts still an aching sore: Why education is the only way to defeat social injustice

The first is first and always special and so is the first convocation of KISS Deemed-to-be University to be on June 27, 2021. The ceremony will be held in a hybrid mode — both physical and virtual
KISS | (Pic: KISS)
KISS | (Pic: KISS)

It is indeed a pleasurable throwback when I recall the days I was conceiving the idea about stepping into the field of social service with a signature nature, that is, reaching out to the unreachable.

And today, I feel extremely grateful to the Almighty and humbled and overjoyed when I recall the day I had started the Kalinga Institute of Social Science (KISS). It all started as a garden and it didn’t take much for the flowers to smile. KISS was kickstarted as a small sapling and within years, it grew into a gigantic tree providing a shadow to many and with an extraordinary outreach, huge and canopy-like, offering protection to millions today.   

It's the story of a dream-come-true that took off with 125 students on board in 1992-93 and rose like a phoenix, an inspiring tale of transformation really beyond my imagination. As a common man, when I laid the foundation of KISS, I simply had the confidence but not in the wildest of my imagination I had thought that its growth would be so exponential and impact so considerable that it would revolutionise the pattern of education for tribal boys and girls, never detaching from its core belief — education empowers. 

Focusing on its formula of the 3Es — Enable, Educate and Empower — KISS is a residential educational institution providing free education, accommodation, medical care, vocational, athletic and artistic training to 60,000 indigenous children.

The students come from 62 different tribal communities within the region, of which 13 are Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). Of these, 30,000 students study at the main campus in Bhubaneswar.

A milestone now
It has a strong alumni base of 30,000 empowered boys and girls and soon over 10,000 students will study at ten satellite centers of KISS across Odisha. KISS has indirectly impacted over a million tribal children and youth.

This is in itself a milestone in the history of tribal children who have a chance to wriggle out of the years old backwardness and here they are. 

An instrument of empowerment
While dropouts still remain an aching sore in our educational system, KISS in its course of existence, for over 30 years, has substantially checked dropouts, child marriage, gender-based harassment, left-wing extremism, proselytisation, ignorance and superstition on a massive scale with its passive intervention through education and empowerment.

It has stimulated awareness on the importance of education, girl child empowerment, upskilling and vocational empowerment, entrepreneurship, and in collaboration with the tribal communities, KISS made them the real caretakers of the ecosystem, nature and who help out in fulfilling SDGs.

Scaling new global highs
For its unimpeachable record, KISS became the first exclusive tribal Deemed-to-be University in 2017 — a status given by the Ministry of erstwhile Human Resource Development, Government of India. With its growth, I always aspired for university status for KISS to elevate its credibility as an institution committed to research for tribal studies by tribal scholars.

KISS scaled new heights when in 2015, it received international recognition and support. Since 2015, it has been accorded Special Consultative Status by UN-ECOSOC. On a record spree of climbing up, it found itself among the comity of topmost organisations. It has worked in collaboration with many UN agencies and bodies like UNFPA, UNEP, UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women, US Consulate and so on various capacity-building projects and its implementation.

Knowledge destination
Achievement speaks for itself and soon profound appreciation poured in from Nobel Laureates, legal luminaries, academicians, policymakers, statesman, writers and celebrities who visited KISS for an immersive experience. KISS has also institutionalised the KISS Humanitarian Award for awarding men and women of distinction for their service to humanity.

Dr Achyuta Samanta

Soon, KISS became a destination and its giant leaps helped it scale new heights. It's an achievement for KISS that it grew to be a phenomenal point of attraction and a very distinguished panel has joined KISS Deemed-to-be-University at the helm.

Satya S Tripathi has joined as the Chancellor. He was the former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Other distinguished members in the panel of leadership are Dr Upendra Tripathy, IAS (Retd), as Pro-Chancellor, Dr Deepak Behera as Vice-Chancellor, Dr Pitabasa Sahoo as Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dr Kanhu Charan Mahali as Director-General. In their tenure, KISS Deemed-to-be University will certainly scale new heights in terms of student achievements, research, collaboration and academic excellence. 

The first is first and always special and so is the first convocation of KISS Deemed-to-be University to be on June 27, 2021. The ceremony will be held in a hybrid mode — both physical and virtual —  taking into consideration the COVID-19 protocols. As many as 143 students will get degrees for completing their Masters and MPhil courses successfully. The brightest and the most promising graduates will be conferred with Founder's Gold Medal, Chancellor's Gold and Vice-Chancellor's Silver medal at the ceremony. 

The virtual ceremony will be graced by Governor of Odisha, most affable and erudite, Prof Ganeshi Lal, who will be conferred with Honoris Causa, Doctor of Letters at the first convocation of KISS Deemed-to-be University.

The other Honoris Causa degree recipients, Odia men of high standing, achievements and accolades, are Girish Chandra Murmu, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, pride of tribals, Odisha and India; Swarup Ranjan Mishra, Member of Parliament for Kesses Constituency, Kenya and Founding Chairman, Mediheal Group of Hospitals, Kenya and Bibhu Mohapatra, fashion designer and costume designer, New York.

On this historic occasion, I express my heartfelt gratitude to all the stakeholders of KIIT for their unflinching support. I would like to express my thanks to all the well-wishers of KISS for their love, affection and belief in our cause. I owe a debt of gratitude to the staff and students of KIIT and KISS for their untiring efforts to help KISS reach the level it is at today.

KISS, which started as an idea turned into a revolution calling for the creation of more prototypes, has always vouched to provide a local solution to a global problem. We envisage KISS Deemed-to-be University to stand as a think tank for tribal-related issues of importance, to academic debate, discuss and critically analyse the tribal policies, laws, culture and importance and offer solutions to KISS for its continuous improvement in course of evolution, in particular, and to the wider society, in general.

And as Earnest Hemingway puts it, 'There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self', KISS Deemed-to-be University will always move forward and get better with all humility in its endeavour towards excellence.

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