Navendu started Shikshalay in 2012 in Seoni – a tribal dominated area in Madhya Pradesh with poor access to higher education opportunities. Shikshalay provides supplementary education to rural youth and creates a space to help young people stand up for their rights and realize their aspirations.
As a child, Navendu had to struggle to support his family and simultaneously complete his education. He did various odd jobs and provided coaching classes to earn an income and finance not only his education but also that of his siblings. He was fortunate to meet Rajesh Bhide who coached him and other young people like him so that they could get good grades in their exams. Although Navendu got admission into an engineering college, he could not enroll for the course as he needed to earn a livelihood. His job with an NGO took him to villages where he was moved by the poor living conditions of the villagers. Inspired by his coach, Mr. Bhide, Navendu decided to start Shikshalay. Between 30 – 50 students from grades 9 – 12 attend Shikshalay every day. These students come from families that have small farms and migrate to cities where they work as daily wage laborers to supplement their farm income.
The Change Looms journey has taught Navendu the importance of having a vision for the organization that will bring focus and clarity to his work. His classes have improved: instead of a series of random activities, he has started developing lesson plans and also thinks of creative ways of awakening and holding the students’ interest. He has noticed the students gaining a desire to learn and self-confidence.
One of the challenges is that Seoni is remote and attracts few volunteers. However, Shikshalay has managed to attract four ex-students who have returned as volunteers to help manage the centre and teach other children.
Having spent most of his life in a small town, Navendu did not have the opportunity to meet with other young social activists from different parts of the country. Change Looms not only gave him this opportunity, it ensured that all the participants “felt secure enough to talk openly about their life’s journey, experiences and struggles” resulting in strong bonds of friendship.
[To Be Continued Tomorrow…]