“There was a girl child, whose parents forced her into child labour. We told the family, that we would provide monthly grocery support. We charged 20, 30, 50 rupees from the families who could afford and give it back to the ones who couldn’t afford it. In this way, we saved many kids from child labour under this scheme.”
“Recently, we were introduced to the most naughty child. Most government schools had rejected this noisy and unruly boy. They asked the parents to keep him at home, because he was creating disturbances, biting others and was a nuisance. When he came into our centre, we gave him some toys to play with. Initially, he would punch the teachers and helpers. But one of the helpers was very patient and tolerant with that child. Today, after 5-6 months, he is completely transformed, it is unbelievable.”
Why rural education?
“Rural education is lagging dismally at a primary level,” says Biplab, “Being from a rural background, I found primary level rural education needs lot of development.”
“Because we need to start somewhere.”
Biplab Das is from a rural background; his father was a primary school teacher.
After an electrical engineering degree from Jadavpur University, he pursued an MBA from IIM Bangalore for two years and worked with top tech companies like Tech Mahindra and Accenture.
In 2013, on a trip to the rural Sundarbans in West Bengal, he noticed he dismal condition of education in the state he called home. Taking a leap of faith, he quit his high paying job, and, in the same year, Biplab along with his two friends started Kishalay Foundation.
With an initial investment of Rs 1 lakh, Biplab and his friends purchased sports kits. His ex-colleagues helped a bit with this idea initially. They could also source computers for 20 rural schools.
But, not all schools were welcoming of this idea.
As schools did not respond favourably to his teaching methods, Biplab and his team built their own learning centres, like a hub kind of approach model.
“The moment we opened the learning centres, students started coming.”
The language was so poor; the kids would make such silly mistakes. They were not able to write their own name either. The foundation conducted several education drives with the children and the parents as well.
The foundation also hired a sports coordinator, who visited every week to conduct a sports camp with the goods they had sourced earlier.
Since 2015, they have opened 24 hubs in 10 islands with 700+ kids in all these centres.
The COVID-19 pandemic has halted their expansion, but in 2021 there are plans to expand Kishalay Foundation.
“Technology is the future, and being from a technology background, we implemented methodologies of learning rhymes through video format,” says Biplab. “The foundation also hired a “grandma” who was trained to tell stories to the kids (see above). Learning through storytelling has proved beneficial for long term memory in young children.
Kishalay Foundation’s objective is to achieve 100% literacy. Even today, many SSC students still can’t answer simple science questions. That needs to change.
And we are working toward that change.
To know more about Kishalay Foundation and Biplab Das’ labour of love, go to their website at: www.kishalayfoundation.org