Mr. Ashish Shrivastava is our local host in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh. He belongs to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and was brought up Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh. After completing his engineering in Bhopal, he worked at Infosys in Pune for four years. After working for 8 long years, he quit the corporate world and started travelling across India. The life he had in Pune and all the other places he worked at didn’t bring him joy. While other youths would be weekending or enjoying the nightlife of the city, Ashish Dada would spend time with the lower communities of that area. His friends gave him the idea of channelizing this energy in a proper manner, which gave birth to "Prarambh," where they would teach and the kids in slums of Pune During this time, he got to know about the "Teach for India opportunity", which was a 2-year programme that would train him to be a better teacher.
After TFI fellowship he had to leave Pune and move to Delhi. Sitting in the four walls of the cubicles, he gathered the courage to quit the corporate world and travel to the rural areas across India. The rush of youthful blood made him quit his corporate world after working for 8 long years. While traveling, he landed up in Dantewada and has been living in this region for 9+ years now.
As an individual, the challenges he faced were lifestyle changes, living in a province with hardly any communication with parents, or any individual for that matter, knowing the difference between needs and wants, how to be efficient with fewer resources, and health care issues.
He started Shiksharth in 2015. It’s a non-profit educational organisation where they try to provide a safe space and contextual learning opportunities for conflict-affected children and those belonging to tribal communities.
The fate of children born in this part of the country has been written before they are even born. They have to live with the violence arising from naxal extremism and fight with the same emotions of sorrow, fear, and pain every day. The first aim of Shiksharth’s is to create a safe, healthy space where the child feels compassion and empathy. Second, to provide contextual learning opportunities, that is, how we can apply what we learned in the classroom to our own familiar contexts.
Over the years, the tribal people there have come to realise that power lies in the hands that hold a pen, not guns. This made the children aspire to an education. Children often give a helping hand during the sowing and harvesting seasons, which affects the overall number of students in schools.
Shiksharth is a child centric organisation working in 120+ schools directly and 50000 children indirectly. They intend to base their efforts on two philosophies: universal concepts and local context, and to guide each child on a journey from the unknown to the known. They want to not only be inclusive, but also to make the young minds their own teachers. Making them co-creators through the process facilitates learning. The students’ creations are filtered, processed, and aggregated into a material that would help them recollect the concepts better.
Gyan Setu played a major role in covering the science-related concepts of education. The fascinating aspects of Gyan Setu workshops are that they are hands-on, low-cost, and experiential learning. The people in those region do not tend to open up to strangers easily, but the relationship that was built between the volunteers and the children is commendable.
Everyone has their own limitations (which may be their strengths, resources, etc.), so why not work together and succeed together? That is what he believes in Shiksharth's limitation is the shortage of skilled experimental teaching models, whereas Gyan Setu’s is the lack of places to take the models to, so why not come together and be providers for each other?
While thinking long term, consistency is key and Gyan Setu’s frequent visits could help children gain small experiences and have a major impact on the future or what the children choose for their future.
Mr Ashish Shrivastava
(If interested to work with Shiksharth , drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(You can also contribute for their cause at http://bit.ly/safe_childhood)