Vivek Kumar and Alokesh Sharma started the Kshamtalaya Foundation – The school of potential – in the dejected village of Kotra, Rajasthan, to not only nurture the potential of children but to also help the children in identifying their potentials on their own.
The small village of Kotra lies smudged in the back pocket of Rajasthan and has been chained in the shackles of poverty and backwardness since eternity. Referred as the “Kala Paani’ in the local dialect, the village has often been equated to a worthless spot on the face of the earth. Adding to the sadness of this remote tribal village is the dismal literacy rate of 19%, which is the lowest in the country. Although, the government has intervened with judicious efforts, they stayed limited to just primary education. But what happens beyond this? What happens beyond the course of mandatory schooling?
The appalling, yet the true answer is that 80% of the children drop out. Kshamtalaya Foundation, a not-for-profit based there, is working to rectify this situation. With Vivek Kumar and Alokesh Sharma at its core, the six member team is vying to revolutionize various aspects of the present education system. Vivek, an engineer by education and teacher by passion realized his calling towards education under the Gandhi fellowship program. Alokesh realized numerous gaping holes in our education system while working on a college project. “The focus is mostly on rote-learning and no one even encourages students towards critical thinking”, Alokesh informed to the TOC. The need to make a change showed him the path for the Teach for India fellowship and later led him to travel to Uganda to work with the teachers on the behest of the Ugandan government. This is where he met Vivek, also working on the same project. A meeting over coffee exposed their shared concerns about education in the rural pockets of our nation and gave birth to the idea of Kshamtalaya. “Kshamtalaya Foundation corresponds to THE SCHOOL OF POTENTIAL, which works not only to nurture the potential of children but also helps them identify it”, said Vivek.
Schools in Kotra just have one teacher for all the students from 8th to 12th standard and they mostly study under a tree. “A child is at the centre of the education system but how much does this system actually caters to his or her needs?” questioned Vivek. “We are never really taught to be attentive and interactive, rather just to cram and learn,” he added. The biggest challenge in front of the team in a place like Kotra, where education held no value, was to show these kids what they stood to gain. It was to show them “why” they needed to learn and to attend these workshops. This uphill battle was won slowly and steadily, by intervening in the regular school week three times and conducting 90-minute sessions. The focus was students of class 8th as after this most students chose to do-away with education. These sessions entailed a lot of interactive exercises, play-acting and making the process of leaning math and language as interesting as possible. Pooja, a Mass Communication graduate, was giving a demo on Dance-movement and Vivek found it immensely impactful. Pooja came on-board immediately after that. “It’s important to know math and language but it’s even more important to know who you are”, believes Pooja.
Now, Kshamtalaya has opened a first-of-its-kind Mindfulness and Resource centre in Kotra. This centre helps children to learn about themselves, what they want from education and why is it important for them. Kshamtalaya believes in working from “within” and therefore also has on-site mentors to help the students as well as guide the teachers. Talking about the impact of their work, Vivek and Alokesh resonate that “For us it is much more important to feel a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. Satisfaction in the fact that how these children from remote, disconnected hamlets are understanding the importance of education on their own. Even kids from an urban setup, lack this luxury.” Their work can be aptly summarized with the words of Benjamin Franklin-Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn.
To know more about the work of Kshamtalaya Foundation or to contribute for their cause, you can contact tthem at +91-8290747084
This story has been published in collaboration with MASH Project.
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