For Achyuta Samanta, Founder of KIIT (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology) University, Bhubaneswar, it’s been a quintessential story of rags to riches. He calls himself a pauper, but one with a big heart and a great vision for the education of the not-so-privileged, yet aspirational students. Having founded a bustling campus with students from more than 20 countries, Samanta, who is a bachelor, has decided to devote his time, energy and life to his students, who he fondly refers to as his children.
It is legend that you set up KIIT with just `5,000 in your pocket? How did you make it happen?
It is indeed an incredible feat making a world-class university possible with a meagre `5,000 in hand, the likeness of which has not been seen elsewhere in the world. People of great substance from across the world have visited these two institutions (Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) being the other) and have sworn testimony to this and salute the endeavour. Well, I believe this was God’s mandate. I had the strongest inclination to serve the mankind and God showed me the path. I have worked hard, sacrificing my personal comforts without any personal agenda. It’s sheer hard work, dedication, honesty, selfless service, personal sacrifice and the overwhelming divine blessing that has made me accomplish so much in so little time. When I look back on the track I have travelled so far, I consider the driving spirit has been what I call the ‘Art of Giving’.
How does the curriculum at KIIT ensure that students develop all the necessary skills to be able to tackle real life problems?
At KIIT, we encourage students to be part of the plethora of extracurricular activities besides the formal studies. They include various initiatives founded, managed, and organised by the student community. We believe in experiential learning and therefore, students are inspired to learn by exploring and doing things by themselves. Emphasis is laid on honing communication skills, teamwork skills and cross-cultural communication skills. Distinguished academicians and accomplished individuals from across the globe are invited to interact with the student community, which brings them face to face with real life challenges and ways to overcome them. The University has had the singular distinction of visits by 10 Nobel Laureates so far, who have delivered lectures, signifying the University’s strong commitment to high quality of academic rigour and curricular activities.
What do you think about the views of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani on the education sector? Are you on the same page as her? Are you confident of her promises?
I am hopeful that during her tenure there will be significant improvement in the spread of quality education particularly in higher and professional education. Our Prime Minister has also laid great emphasis on value addition in each and every sector including higher education. I stand by them.
What are the shortcomings of the education sector that needs attention?
India is a land with varied cultures, traditions and beliefs. Despite being the world’s largest democracy, we face corruption, poverty and overpopulation, which shall have to be addressed by a vibrant and responsible education system. A large Indian population is still outside the line of quality and holistic education due to lack of adequate resources. Lack of uniformity is yet another area that needs attention. I believe in the power of transformation that education has. That is why I have chosen to dedicate my life for the spread of holistic education. I also think that our education system should match with global standards. Empowering teachers with high skills is to be given importance to make classroom learning experience more meaningful and sustain interest for focused student participation.
Very little focus goes to imparting knowledge on life skills such as morality, ethics, habits and behavioural studies. Does KIIT focus on these traits?
KIIT strongly believes in the relevance of character building through moral education along with professional education. No wonder this gives the University the unique distinction of being the most disciplined and yet very vibrant campus in the country with 25,000 students from across the country and outside, pursuing studies in a wide range of academic domains. The University encourages and facilitates students to realise and showcase their talents, value and respect others’ talents, work in teams, and organise events, all by themselves. International Student Exchange programmes facilitates cross cultural understanding while the students coming from diverse regional backgrounds makes for national cultural awareness and building. Sports, gaming and physical fitness are given special emphasis in the campus which provides adequate world class facilities. Soft skills and communication skills training are compulsory and students are encouraged to learn these skills through highly motivating pedagogy.
Can you briefly describe your journey so far for our readers?
I am a simple man and come from a very poor family. I lost my father when I was only four years old. I grew up amidst abject poverty. After completing my Master’s in Chemistry, I worked as a lecturer. But my true calling was to do something for the poor who have been deprived of education for far too long. I quit my comfortable career as an academic, and plunged into educational entrepreneurship. It has been an exemplary crusade against poverty and alienation. I have been able to create KIIT, the fastest growing and promising University in the country, and KISS, the world’s largest home for accommodating 22,500 deprived indigenous children and facilitating fully free, fully residential education from KG to PG.