“Bhaiyya, 21 Fatehpura kahan hai?”
I asked the local subzi wala in the humid afternoon in Udaipur.
“Shikshantar jana hai?”
beamed the septuagenarian pointing towards a lush green piece of land in the midst of an urban landscape. The pride in his voice told me that my pilgrimage to Shikshantar would not be futile.
As a school leader, I make it a point to visit at least a few different schools/institutes of education every year. This keeps me invigorated and humble. There is so much that the world is doing. There is so much more to do. As a part of this, I visited Shikshantar in Udaipur this year.
The gate to Shikshantar held a myriad of diverse signboards. So diverse that it would be a sin to put Shikshantar into one category. It is a library, community space, music class, cooking classes, cafe, makerspace, AV lab, organic farm, etc etc. rolled into one.
With excitement oozing out of my eyes, I entered the space to meet its founder Mr. Manish Jain. He was dressed in a casual green kurta and welcomed us with warmth. He then shared his life’s journey and talked about what is it to be raised an American, who has worked on the Wall Street and with UN, and to move to a small place like Udaipur to set up his life’s mission.
While I can elaborate on the amazing work that Shikshantar does forever, I would like to share what I bring to GGIS from my visit. I learned that-
One of the quotes on the richly annotated walls of Shikshantar read – “You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great.” This sums up much of what we as educators/entrepreneurs believe in but don’t work on. And so at GGIS, we shall not wait for things to be great to start. We shall start and tweak our way to be better. Our Robotics or AI classes may not be great to start but we shall start for sure.
Unlike the popular belief of time is running out, I realized at Shikshantar that we have a “lifetime” of time. Instead of running in a frenzy to achieve the goals someone else has set for us, if we choose to carve our path and be patient, a lot of people do come in to help us. Shikshantar is not just Manish and Vidhi Jain. It is a plethora of people who have contributed (without asking for payments) in different ways to make it possible. All these people existed but it takes Shikshantar to evoke the good in them. At GGIS, we shall invoke our students to be that. To be a changemaker who brings out the good in others.
One of the projects Shikshantar is involved in is Creativity Adda where children in a govt school in Delhi teach their peers through different clubs like cooking or dance or skating. Such clubs have only one common facilitator but the students become the teachers. This helps the students learn deeply in a non-threatening environment. This video here is a great testimony to that. Creativity Adda is something we are surely going to try.
Lastly, I learnt that when you choose to work on the possibilities, they have a tendency to become reality. At GGIS we are constantly working on the possibility of being a great school- one day at a time.