Even During Pandemic, KISS Keeps 30000 Tribal Students Connected to Studies

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Offline Farhana Haque

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The student community is one of the worst affected groups in the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in India, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), Bhubaneswar has taken a series of measures to keep its students safe and healthy as well as ensuring that they suffer a minimum academic loss due to the prolonged lockdown. KISS is a home for 30,000 poor tribal students from interior districts of Odisha pursuing their studies from Standard-I to PG/Ph.D. level. Founded by eminent educationist and social activist, Prof.Achyuta Samanta, it provides lodging, boarding, education, vocational skills, sports training fully free of cost to enable them to realize their full potential.

Days before the nationwide lockdown was announced, all 30000 students were sent back to their homes in their respective villages. But for KISS students, being away from the campus did not mean academic loss. In a massive logistics operation, Prof. Samanta, who has always put the education of these tribal students above everything else, arranged for the textbooks, study materials and dried food items to be provided at the students' doorsteps at the start of the new academic year. KISS students come from interior villages scattered in all the 30 districts of Odisha. The massive operation took 15 days of planning and 10 days of implementation, engaging as many as 25 buses.

Even During Pandemic, KISS Keeps 30000 Tribal Students Connected to Studies
Before the students left KISS campus on 17th March 2020, they were trained to lead the awareness campaigns to fight the pandemic. Back in their villages, they are actively contributing to the fight against Corona Virus. They are engaged in creating awareness on social distancing, frequent hand washing, proper use of masks and respiratory hygiene, keeping their family and community safe.

KISS was one of the early institutes to begin online classes and has been maintaining the academic schedule perfectly for students of all levels. However, online classes exclusively over a platform like Zoom may not be the best way to reach all students of KISS, as they are from underprivileged background and live in remote regions of the state. Realizing this, KISS launched an e-Learning initiative with support from Kalinga TV, which is telecasting the classes every day. Follow-up instructions and study materials are also provided to the students in WhatsApp groups. Staff members of KISS constantly monitor and mentor the students for their academic and emotional development.

Even During Pandemic, KISS Keeps 30000 Tribal Students Connected to Studies
Despite the best effort to maintain academic schedule over virtual platforms, in the absence of structured campus life, tribal students are particularly vulnerable to drop out. Under social and family pressure, girl students may discontinue studies to get married. KISS has launched a series of initiatives to connect with the students and guardians and keep their morale high during this trying time. Every month dry food items are being sent to them and delivered at their doorsteps. Students are also provided with guide books and workbooks prepared by the teachers of KISS as per the students' academic needs. The monthly materials also contain sanitary napkins for the adolescent girl students.

Even During Pandemic, KISS Keeps 30000 Tribal Students Connected to Studies
Sports are an integral part of campus life at KISS, which has thousands of talented sportspersons who represent the State and country in multiple disciplines. The Sports Department of KISS has been providing regular online coaching to the students, especially in Rugby, Judo and Archery, etc., to help them maintain their fitness level.

Prof. Samanta cares for KISS students as his own children and the students also look up to him as their godfather. He has been sending regular video messages to the students to inspire them and keep their morale high. He is also regularly interacting with the parents and alumni representatives via virtual video conferencing. The initiative is expected to keep students connected to their studies and ensure the return of all students as and when the Government decides to reopen campuses for students.

Farhana Haque
Coordination Officer
Daffodil Institute of Social Sciences-DISS
Daffodil International University
Phone: (EXT: 234)