When Pranjal Dubey announced that he was giving up his IT job to move to Sandalpur, Madhya Pradesh to teach rural youth in 2010, his friends and family were shocked. His wife- Amita Dubey and brother- Sankalp Dubey, were his main sources of support, one holding down the fort at home and the other helping him set up the institute. Today, people’s feelings are markedly different. It’s not surprising – the Sant Singaji Institute of Science and Management that Pranjal founded is flourishing. Affiliated with Vikram University, Ujjain, the institute aims to close the gap between rural education and the mainstream job market. Pranjal’s dream is now a reality.
But how did it all begin?
The Man Who Sold His House To Start A College
After a visit to the village that his ancestors called home, Pranjal began to perceive the challenges that rural youth face thanks to the sub-standard education they receive during their primary and secondary school years.
Pranjal’s interest in the subject kickstarted when he was approached by a young man who wanted help to find a job. Pranjal told the young man that to find a job he needed a degree. Pranjal laughs disbelievingly when he says, “So he went out and bought a degree!” Despite his ‘qualifications’, the aspiring job seeker fell short when it came down to actual skill. He may have failed, but his story was the motivation Pranjal needed to start an educational revolution that has changed hundreds of lives in small town Madhya Pradesh.
Breaking It Down
Once Pranjal Dubey began spending time in the village, he began to pinpoint the larger issues at play. Though many of the local high schools passed their students, it didn’t necessarily mean that they were held to the same educational standards as urban kids. Unemployment was rampant and there were no viable higher education opportunities available nearby for many of the village children. Additionally, Pranjal found that gender biases were still pervasive and many families didn’t want to allow their daughters to leave the area to study further or work.
Logic Doesn’t Work Here
Used to logical thinking and problem solving, Pranjal had to completely overhaul his methods. “Logic doesn’t work here,” he says. “From the word ‘go’ things were different. You cannot just work with the student. You have to work with their family as well.” His brother, who was more familiar with rural life helped him out and acted as a facilitator. Without his interventions, Pranjal admits, things would have gone quite differently.
He learned that people understood degrees. A degree was considered a worthwhile investment, but there was no syllabus readily available for rural schools in local languages. He had to start from scratch and construct one.
Drawing upon all his resources, over the years Pranjal Dubey has invited experts to guest lecture and share their wisdom. Various faculty members from IIM have graced the college, and to further their exposure, the children are taken on field trips to see multi-national companies at work. The faculty also tries to ensure that they have access to internships in cities like Indore and Bangalore.
Building Confidence And Role Models
Motivation was a key part of SSISM’s success. Early on, Pranjal and his team identified a few core principles that they needed to focus on:
- Create dreams and confidence: They needed to give the kids something to aspire to and help them feel confident that they could achieve those dreams.
- Create role models: There’s nothing quite like a role model to inspire people, and by ensuring that educated kids were succeeding, the team created role models for the next batch to look up to.
In today’s world, where farming is considered ‘unfashionable’, Dubey’s team try to emphasize on vocational skills. He says, “IT is easier. Anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can accomplish something, but farming is harder. There has to be some payout. The day they see a farmer driving a Honda City, I think we’ll see a change.”
Happily Ever Afters
Despite their excellent education, it’s not always easy for the graduates of SSISM to find work. Many dislike the idea of relocating, and for others, family pressure keeps them close to home. Others find the idea of government jobs, which are known for being corrupt and more ‘stable’, preferable to taking a chance on big city life. But, the winds of change are hard to resist. Pranjal is proud to report that many of his graduates have gone on to become teachers themselves, strengthening the local community in the best possible way – by educating others.
Quite a legacy for a man who only 6 years ago was unable to get someone a job. And he’s just getting started.