Third Annual Convocation of KISS Deemed to be University


Dr. Achyuta Samanta

Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India], November 25: Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, commonly referred to as KISS, exemplifies the manifestation of persistent determination leading to unique social innovation. It showcases the process of implementing transformative ideas to generate significant actions, ultimately giving rise to a revolutionary, sustainable, and scalable institution.

KISS commenced its journey in 1992-93 as a modest residential tribal school driven by the necessity to empower underprivileged tribal youth. The institution integrated comprehensive education, nutritious meals, skills training, and sports to uplift young boys and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. Over time, it continued to develop, incorporating best practices, fostering bright minds, and grasping the intricacies to offer a holistic and transformative solution. Importantly, this transformation was achieved without sacrificing the inherent respect and appreciation for tribal culture, traditions, and heritage.

KISS, as a private institution, ventured into the challenging domain of tribal upliftment and empowerment at a time when many efforts fell short of making a significant impact. It has since evolved into the world’s largest tribal residential institution, earning praise as a successful model worthy of replication by Nobel Laureates, legal luminaries, academicians, policymakers, statesmen, writers, and celebrities who have visited KISS.

KISS is unique, the only residential educational institution in the world providing free education, accommodation, medical care, vocational, athletic, and artistic training and preparation for competitive examinations to 80,000 tribal children.

The students come from 62 different tribal communities within the region, of which 13 are Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). Of these, 30,000 students are studying at the main campus in Bhubaneswar. It has a strong alumni base of 40,000 empowered boys and girls, and another 10,000 students study at 10 satellite centres of KISS across Odisha. It has created an archetype by implementing its cardinal features for the primary and the satellite centres – a fully free-of-cost residential model institute catering to the needs of deprived and underprivileged children. It is a prototype for empowering girls through the tool of education.

The sheer number of girls at the institution is an indicator of the scale at which KISS resonates with the cause of educating girls to learn and lead without fear. What makes KISS stand as a trailblazer is its innovative pedagogic practices that equip the students with the advantage of modern formal education, yet stay close to the roots of the rich tribal legacy. KISS has indirectly impacted over a million tribal children and youth which is in itself a milestone.

While dropouts remain an aching sore in our educational system, KISS has substantially reduced dropout rates, child marriage, gender-based harassment, left-wing extremism, proselytisation, ignorance, and superstition through education-led empowerment. It has stimulated awareness of the importance of education, girl-child empowerment, up-skilling and vocational empowerment, entrepreneurship, and addressing the SDGs. KISS has also advocated the indigenous wisdom accumulated over the years of how tribal communities are real caretakers of the ecosystem and nature.

KISS provides a complete academic solution, offering scope for Higher Education up to postgraduate and Doctorate levels and assurance for employability so that the students don’t feel lost out. The higher education wing of KISS was granted university status in 2017 by the Ministry of Education (then Human Resource and Development Ministry), Government of India, and it became the first Deemed to be University exclusively for tribals.

KISS Deemed to be University, steered by veteran academicians and experienced administrative personnel, has taken some ground-breaking pedagogic novelties like inducting 14 Professors of Practice and 24 eminent academicians as Emeritus Professors, and an Innovation Council to spearhead activities of the academic research centres on Entrepreneurship, Sacred Groves, Languages and Narratives, Herbal Medicine and so on. It has instituted seven Research Chairs after the name of Utkal Gaurav Madhusudan Das, Utkalamani Gopabandhu Das, Santha Kabi Bhima Bhoi, Prabada Purusha Biju Patnaik, B. R. Ambedkar, Bhagwan Birsa Munda, and Saheed Laxman Nayak to have an in-depth studies and research on life and works of the great personalities of Odisha. KISS-DU has also signed MoUs with many national and international universities and institutions for greater academic synergy.

The Third Convocation of KISS Deemed to be University is being held on 25th November 2023. It is a matter of great honour that Shri Raghubar Das, Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, will be the Chief Guest, while Shri Biswabhusan Harichandan, Hon’ble Governor of Chhattisgarh, will grace the occasion as the Guest of Eminence. Shri Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa, Govt. of India and Former CEO, NITI Aayog will deliver the Convocation Address, and Dr. Ricky G. Kej, Internationally Renowned Indian Music Composer & Three-time Grammy Award Winner will adorn the event as the Guest of Honour.

I am delighted that Shri Biswabhusan Harichandan, Hon’ble Governor of Chhattisgarh is being conferred with Honoris Causa degree at the Convocation, along with two other distinguished personalities: His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President & Spiritual Head, Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh; and Mr. Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, Monetary Authority of Singapore and Chairman, Board of Elevandi, Singapore. They are being honored for their immense achievements and remarkable dedication, and I am grateful to them for agreeing to accept the Honoris Causa degree.

Over 350 students will get degrees for completing their Masters and Ph.D. programs successfully. The brightest and the most promising graduates will be conferred with Founder’s Gold Medal, Chancellor’s Gold Medal and Vice Chancellor’s Silver Medal at the ceremony. On this historic occasion, I express my heartfelt gratitude to all the stakeholders of KIIT – the rice bowl of KISS – for their unflinching support. I would like to express my thanks to all the well-wishers of KISS for their love, affection, and belief in our cause.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the staff and students of KIIT and KISS for their untiring efforts to help KISS reach the level it stands today. KISS, which started as an idea metamorphosed into an institution and a revolution, calling for the creation of more prototypes by providing a local sustainable solution to a pressing global problem.

We envisage KISS Deemed to be University to stand as a think-tank for tribal issues to academically debate, discuss and critically analyse tribal policies, laws, language, culture and offer solutions for its continuous and comprehensive enhancement in the course of its evolution in particular and to the wider society in general. Now KISS is a brand and in the coming year KISS will be one of the best research universities in the country and beyond.

As Victor Hugo puts it, “Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” And I add, we are a small drop in an ocean to remove darkness as the secret of getting ahead is getting started with a belief that “Education is the third eye of a child”.

The writer is the Founder of KIIT & KISS.

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