All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Smriti Singhal swears by this adage. As an English honours undergrad student at Khalsa College, New Delhi, she took steps to start an English society in the final year of her college and felt elated when they successfully staged a play. Right after her course ended in 2012, this particular incident gave her impetus to start The Education Tree, a student-led organisation that aims to promote the thought that education is not just about academics, but that students should be exposed to a healthy mix of art and craft, performing arts and gender sensitisation among others. By conducting events, campaigns, projects and workshops for both school and college students, that is what The Education Tree hopes to achieve.
One of their flagship projects is Project Emerge. “This is designed for students from Class IX upwards. We pool in funds and help them with free books and stationery, give them a glimpse of workshops and dance performances, and introduce them to craft and theatre,” says Smriti, who has about 200 volunteers and interns helping her out. While volunteers aren’t paid anything, the proceeds they earn from the workshops and other events is shared with interns and students. Smriti also says that they conduct career counselling sessions for students on the streams that they could pursue for higher education and the scope that each offers.
The organisation besides spreading awareness that education should transcend academic barriers, also uses novel methods like freeze mobs, flash mobs, graffiti, chalk art, street dancing and street plays to create awareness on women empowerment, child labour, road safety and other issues plaguing the society.
They are also into personality development and corporate training for college students for which they have tied up with experts in the respective fields. Smriti says that she keeps The Education Tree floating with the money they make from the workshops (free for students, institutions have to pay) and also through the youth engagement programme. “There are a lot of marketers and brands who meet the students and engage with them through the events we conduct. We charge a small commission from them,” says Smriti. A few institutions that The Education Tree engages with include Bal Bharti Public School, Presentation Convent Senior Secondary School, Miranda House and Kirori Mal College, all in Delhi.
Other initiatives of The Education Tree include ‘Jo Mera Hai Wo Mera Hai’ (My body. My rights) campaign, where through street plays and flash mobs, they disseminate important information to women, such as helpline numbers, contact details of organisations involved in women’s welfare, mobile applications and laws on women safety and so on. There are also more ideas in the pipeline, not just limited to education and women’s rights, assures Smriti. Besides that, the future for the 23-year-old holds taking her workshops and projects to more educational institutions at a nominal cost.