What is 'Bharat calling' and the key concerns you address through this model?
Our key concerns can be identified from the mission and vision of the organization- Our Mission being to create a platform for easy transition to higher education in all rural government school for the marginalized students & our Vision is to ensure that no one in the society is denied right to higher education owing to poor socio–economic condition.Our objective is to provide a platform for students, and we do that by providing them correct and up-to-date information about various colleges, application procedures,motivating them, helping them to prepare for entrance exams, sorting logistical hurdles, generating scholarships to finally linking them to colleges according to their needs. We also ensure no student drops out of courses, by monitoring their progress post-enrolment.
Bharat Calling, makes all this possible this with the support of Government infrastructure, human resource and schemes. It is an official knowledge partner to the tribal block 'Kesla' of M.P. for effective implementation of the schemes aimed at providing quality higher education to the marginalized students. Through the field reports and acting as bridge between government and stake holders our organization has ensured efficient reach of the government schemes to the targeted group. It is aimed at bringing sustainable solution by reinventing existing government schemes. It is done by creating a marriage between public and private sectors.It focuses on the root cause and transformational leadership. Working with the government system helps us in many ways, right from acting as a buffer in delivering public welfare schemes in education to minimal brick and mortar investment.
Thus, the organization works frugally. The number of students who have benefited in past 3 years is as high as 4,500; this bears testimony to our efforts and we hope to replicate such initiatives across India. As a business proposition, Bharat Calling can be viewed as a solution-delivery model in the democratized education space.
What have been the benefits that students have reaped since Bharat Calling started in 2009?
Before I inform about the benefits, I would like to draw your attention to the profile of students, Most of them come into category (Marginalized groups). Many of them study under kerosene lamps. Most of the alumni students of organization now placed in prestigious universities of India are the first from the villages to have made it that far. Incredibly the tribal girls are the first one from the community to pursue higher education after the completion of 18 years of age. In terms of benefits, all the students we coached have cracked the entrance examinations and opted for several unconventional fields like Bachelor of social work, Physical education, geology, anthropology, forensic science etc. so far this initiative has reached and enlightened students in 21 villages specifically in higher education. Some of them have even topped the universities. This year we have full support of the government and we are reaching to entire block, i.e. spanning across 150 villages and touching 4500 students.
I'm sure you have faced a great deal of challenges while working, how did you address them?
Yes, I faced problems at several levels personal, social and economic. On personal level, I faced criticism from relatives who were of the view that my project is nothing but a worthless endeavor; however if there's anything that has kept me going, then it has to be the undying support of my parents and their satisfaction with my work. From my experience, the attitude of the society can be summed up in this wise phrase- 'Jhasiki rani sabko chahiyian lekin padosi ke ghar main'. At social level what I learnt is, while working in a community one has to be patient and modest otherwise you cannot survive. One has to be extra careful about how he interacts otherwise one wrong signal can spoil, stall or stop the work. Importantly when one is involved in non-profit domain, be prepared to face a number of problems but you have to be focused throughout to emerge successfully out of it.Also, when one work's in interior area there is some sort of disconnect with the larger world, so upgrading yourself can become a daunting task.
Majority of your financial needs are either self-financed or donated (Plus trust including). How long can you sustain like this? Do you plan to raise funds?
In my opinion as long as you are inspiring & motivating you will be assured of good support. To work in this condition, is not easy but neither is it difficult; once you are committed every task is achievable. If you have the zeal to do something for others, you will find ways. Moreover God is also there to help you.
How do you tackle with inertia of students, teachers and parents?
The question here is of enrollment.We remain open ended with students maintaining that we are here to guide, support and coach them; the final decision will be theirs. We do weigh our risks accordingly and then move forward. We have to consider the culture and tradition of the villages and we make a point to work within its limit. Above all the crucial aspect is acknowledgement of teachers work. They are the ones, who actually play a crucial role on ground. We owe our success to them since we merely assist them.
What are the critical areas that you train students on?
We train them on psychological perspective.We cultivate optimism and resilience which in turn builds their confidence. We embolden their spirit by preaching them that, 'They are the universe' and 'Sky is the limit.' They may or may not have resources but with the strength of their sheer will power they can become achievers. Thus gradually we start coaching them for their entrance and assure them that our team and teachers will support them at every step.
Do you focus on making students employable?
No. We are of the belief that education is 'knowledge'. It empowers an individual to lead one's own life with confidence and some degree of decision making power. The enrolment in higher education cannot be weighed in terms of employability since we do not want to confine the interest, potential and fun of education to employability. Once, these students get into their desired colleges, with good support and exposure they are independent. We focus on the leaving an indelible mark on the students whom we work and interact with.
What are the future plans for Bharat Calling?
Our plan is to expand. We have expanded to the whole block and plan to work for three more years until we successfully transform this project as a 'model block'. We are getting offers from other areas as well and hope to work with them in near future. We intend to become the voice of the rural areas we wish to procure more from the policy makers and education system.
How did your education in TISS contribute towards the venture?
This venture would not have been a reality had it not been for the M.A in Social Entrepreneurship course in TISS and the field work.The learning experience at TISS is outstanding and there is continuous intellectual stimulation when one is among the bright, enthusiastic group of students who want to do something for society. This experience armed our team emotionally, psychologically and professionally which later enable us to sustain on field and in case of adversity. When one undertakes a new venture, the individual is bound to face resistance; it is difficult to get people on board but the exposure and the skills at TISS kept us moving.
What would be your advice to budding social entrepreneurs?
'Start small but think big.' Take small steps towards your goal, could be small pilot or internships at college level; it is this experience that will be play a crucial role later.Everyone is made for doing something, listen to your true calling and act on it, soon you would be exhilarated to know the difference you are capable of bringing. Do not fret over monetary benefits, follow your calling and fortune will come along.