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KISS - A boon for Orissa's tribal kids

September 04, 2007 15:36 IST

With more than 5000 tribal children from districts of Orissa staying and undergoing formal and vocational education the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences in Bhubaneswar, it is now poised to enter the record books as the Asia's largest residential tribal school.

"My dream is to eventually have a complete tribal university so that tribals who till now have been a neglected lot both socially and politically can come forward to be part of the resurgent India," says philanthropist Achyuta Samanta.

The school's academic record can be gauged from the fact that 90 per cent of its students clear Class 12 and one even topped last year's National Children's Science Congress.

The school offers free education from kindergarten to post graduation along with all the facilities that most of the students had not heard of or dreamt about. From well-stocked library to hostel and computer centre and vocational training centres to complete medical care, tribal children from most of the 52 tribes in Orissa are a happy lot here.

"Back in the village, there was hardly any facility. This school gives us everything that we wanted," says Sunita Hasta, class XI, who was selected as a young reporter and represented India at a conference in Belgium last year.

Hailing from Kuraput district in Orissa which has a literacy level of under 37 per cent, she adds, "Studying along with other students itself is a very learning experience."

KISS, which was started by Samanta with just 100 children in 1993 now offers post graduate courses. Its degrees are recognised by Utkal University, Samanta says.

The students, who have been visited by various national and international dignitaries, including former President APJ Abdul Kalam, dream of becoming doctors and scientists.

"Since, we all stay and study together here, we are very closely knit. When we go back to our village, we are treated like stars," says Ravenshao Anto, who joined KISS after he had to leave his higher education from one of the oldest college in Orissa for lack of financial help.

For Khushal Majhi, class XII science student asking a question to Kalam on his visit to the school and seeing him was like a dream come true.

"I want to be a scientist and he is my role model. I am still mesmerised by the encounter."

On being asked whether he would like to work abroad like many Indian scientists, he says in fluent English, "No, I would like to work here only and help my people."

"For the once-deprived tribal children, the school has laid out the road for a bright future," says a senior cabinet minister of the state.

Besides the education, the school also provides sports facilities like football, cricket and other games. Later this month, 12 children from the school would leave for London to represent India at an international under-14 rugby tournament.      

"A good proportion of the state population is tribal yet they are the most backward. Even though the government has own programmes, we as citizens also should do our bit," says Samanta who in spite of looking after his Rs 800 crore education empire does not have a office of his own and is usually found working from a table under a tree within the KISS campus.

Snehesh Alex Philip in Bhubaneswar