Today happens to be Mandela Day. Gandhi- Mandela dream comes to life in one corner of India, state of Odisha, in KIIT and KISS. Their philosophy and thought is practised in KIIT and KISS. To begin with, both Gandhi and Mandela sacrificed, endured and suffered a lot for their movement for noble causes. They led their respective nations to the heights of glory through their humanitarian principles and philosophy. They were subjected to imprisonment during the course of their political career. They faced struggles. But they moved on till the goal was attained. “I never lose. I either win or learn.” quoting Mandela, both led a nation, changed lives, and inspired countless people along the way. Mandela owed his achievements to the influence of Gandhi’s ideals and principles on his movement, career, and life. In a message, he said, India is the Mahatma’s country of birth; South Africa is his country of adoption.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” said Nelson Mandela. “By education, I mean an all-round drawing of the best in child and man in body, mind and spirit. Education should be so revolutionised as to answer the wants of the poorest villagers, instead of answering those of an imperial exploiter.” said Gandhiji. Both emphasised and stressed on Education for achieving freedom and peace and if I am here and talking to you, is because of this string of Education. Mandela was the first in his family to receive a formal education. He believed that true power lies in knowledge and so once he became president of the ANC (African National Congress), he managed to introduce universal free education to improve the living standards of the country’s black population. Mandela, like Gandhi before him, was an ardent believer in the equal rights and potential of people of all origins and backgrounds. KISS is an example of Inclusion, Equity and Excellence.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” said Mandela. My life is an example of this. Lost father at the age of 4, brought in utter poverty with seven siblings, without a roof on head or assurance of a meal to setting up two educational institutes KIIT and KISS with just Rs.5000 in 1992-93 is journey of rising after every fall. Today, KIIT is one of the most promising private universities for professional education with 30,000 students from all over India and 53 countries from all over the world. The stakeholder of KIIT finances the world’s largest tribal educational institution, KISS. Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) located at the intersection of Education, Food and Holistic Development is a home to 60,000 tribal poorest of the poor children. The sheer magnitude and scale of upliftment through KISS is both awe-inspiring and a story worth emulation. This wave of change through educating generations, creating changemakers and building a New India has created a revolution in tribal communities in India. It has been hailed by policymakers, statesman, academicians, Nobel laureates, jurists, intellectuals and all who visit the slice of heaven on Earth.
Many of them have called KISS the realisation of Gandhian dream and Mandelian aspiration. It’s been rightly appreciated as it is based on basic tenets of Gandhian and Mandela’s thought followed in letter and spirit. Located in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, capital city of Odisha, it is a serene world where the boys and girls of tribal communities live and grow with unity. They are socialised to adhere to the quality of truth and peace. Education is their gateway to progress and peace. The ones who were once attracted or forced into Naxalism are now motivated to pursue education. Peace is the way of life, means and end at KISS. Gandhiji envisioned a society where the disadvantaged had the confidence of being counted in and reached out to. “What unites us as human beings is more fundamental than what divides us. The world needs to focus on basic fundamental unity with respect for differences.” KISS houses 62 tribes and 13 PVTGs and all live in harmony. Mandela believed in the importance of mother tongue and we follow Mother tongue based multilingual education. Education for the uplift of the deprived was the key to progress according to Gandhiji. Even Mandela made education free for the black. This is the basic core, mission and vision behind KISS.
The respect for mother nature, necessitating an economic system based upon the preservation rather than destruction of the natural environment was the aspiration of Gandhi and Mandela and KISS green with it’s solar based green technology in daily uses and plantation keeps the philosophy alive. The whole Gandhian thought and Mandela comes alive and runs in the blood of KISS. It’s a reflection of their dreams and the children at KISS live by these principles. It’s incredibly a modern day Ram Rajya that embraces technology and modernisation yet stays rooted to the culture and heritage. It is the norm and KISS acts as a shining template of bridging the Gap between Gandhism and Gandhigiri. In the world which is lost to consumerism, individual pursuits and materialism, such attempts at keeping the values strong will keep Gandhi and Mandela alive in our thoughts and action forever, and why not for the greater good of Humanity.