The importance of education in shaping the personality of a child cannot be stated. There is an old Tibetan saying, “A child without education is like a bird without wings.”
While around 472 million children under the age of 18 live in India, due to poor education in rural areas of India, only a small portion of this population is able to access quality education.
According to the Annual Status of Education Annual Report (ASER), more than 50 percent of 5th grade students in schools in remote areas could neither read a Class 2 textbook nor solve basic mathematical problems.
When 48-year-old Biplab Das came to know about the declining learning outcomes of children in the islands of Sunderbans, he decided to take steps to improve it. He accompanied his two friends Soumitra Dandapat and Jhilam Nandi in 2013 Kishale Foundation Established.
As Biplab wanted to focus on laying the foundation of the young mind, he started with interventions and programs at the elementary school level. In fact, he quit his job to devote all his time to building independent learning centers for children between the ages of three and eight.
Speaking to Yorstory, Biplab Das said, “There are very few schools in my birthplace in the Sundarbans. Even those who work have sufficient infrastructural facilities. Lack of teaching staff and outdated teaching techniques are some of the other issues that are coming in the way of students’ progress. I wanted to do something about it, give back to our society and bring a positive change. “
Gosaba has a delta island in the Sundarbans, situated between the sparkling blue waters and the mango green. After spending a part of his childhood here, Biplab moved to a nearby village Rangabalia to complete his schooling.
He drew a lot of inspiration from the late Tushar Kanjilal, being awarded the Padma Shri Award, as well as a noted social worker, and environmentalist, who was also the headmaster of the school.
Biplab says, “The Tushars were working very hard for the upliftment of the underprivileged. He had a deep sense of satisfaction in helping the needy. His efforts have always inspired me to support social causes and contribute to creating a better world. ”
An alumnus of Jadavpur University, Biplab earned his MBA degree from IIM-Bangalore, after which he started working with several reputed companies, including Bharat Heavy Electricals, Accenture and Tech Mahindra.
Despite having a good salary and a successful career, Biplab was not completely satisfied with it. He wanted to fill a void in his life. Biplab wanted to work in the field of social development.
After a few conversations with his friends, Biplab understood the dire situation of education in his hometown. After doing some research, he understood the gaps at the primary school level in the Sunderbans.
Biplab explains, “The literacy rate in the region was just 25.7 percent compared to the national average of 77.7 percent. Therefore, we have come up with a plan to improve it by introducing interventions for cognitive and social development of children. My friends and I raised our personal savings in 2013 to form the NGO Kishalay Foundation. “
Empower the youth of tomorrow
Biplab spent a lot of time going to many government schools to visit many government schools and to find out the barriers in the learning curve of the students.
Biplab says “I initially visited more than 30 different schools in different islands. I came to know about the lack of resources and therefore, decided to start with addressing them. ”
The 48-year-old man collected money from donors to purchase stationery, sports equipment, as well as computer systems and distributed the same to schools. He worked over the weekend to identify schools that lacked resources, and also found donors to sponsor the material.
He says, “It was quite a rollercoaster ever since I was working all seven days a week. Biplub claims that when I saw the kids smiling, I felt it all.”
In 2015, to create an early elementary education ecosystem Kishale Foundation Started building its learning center in Sunderbans. Biplub employs unemployed graduates from local areas to learn arithmetic and English for children using experiential learning methods, games and storytelling.
Prior to taking the teaching role, all graduates were given the necessary training in planning lessons, handling children, and keeping them busy.
Biplab resigned from his job in 2018, intending to devote all his time to NGO operations. In the same year, he also started nutrition programs, where he provided nutritious foods like fruits, sattu, jaggery, banana, papaya, and others for children.
Says Biplab, “The parents of many children lost their livelihoods during the epidemic, and the area was flooded after the Amfan cyclone in May. So we distributed ration kits of Rs 250 to each person here We raised funds to do this. Additionally, we set up a community kitchen in Jharkhali village with the help of some young volunteers. “
To run your learning race Kishale Foundation Has received funding from corporates such as Pepe Jeans and Tata. It has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on solder. Students are charged a nominal fee of Rs 50 per month to maintain its activities and pay teachers.
In the past seven years, Biplub and his team of 70 members have established 24 learning hubs across 10 islands in the Sunderbans. Through this NGO, more than 700 children have been living.
“I have seen tremendous improvement in school attendance of students over the years. And not only that, they can read and write complete sentences in English and can easily do basic mathematical calculations. This is proof that we are going in the right direction. I am currently planning to open more learning centers in other islands of the Sundarbans, ”said Biplab.