IntroductionEducational Institutions need to adapt themselves to changing times. Today, no educational institution can afford to live in a vacuum. They need to reach out to society. The immediate society around them, up to around ten kilometers is the vital area where the particular outreach initiatives can really take place. How can a school or a college make a difference in this respect?
Whatever the resources of the school or the college, there are always some resources with the community, and even with people and other business or trading organizations in and around the educational institution. These resources should be tapped, along with the resources from the Corporates that may be situated in the same district.
This outreach can be done in various ways. In the main, these outreach initiatives should be inclusive of, but not necessarily restricted to a) Tapping Alumni support for outreach b) Teachers to act as change agents c) Organizing seminars and discussions with opinion leaders d) Enabling minimum State Government support and e) Making outreach a part of routine value-added activities.
Tapping Alumni support for outreachImagine an Arts and Science college with 500 students who are trained swimmers. When there is excess rainfall in a particular area, these students can support the local administration by developing a database of these trained professionals, complete with phone numbers, emails, and contact addresses, that can be shared with the police and the State Government local authorities.
The work done by these students, in times of need, should be duly recognized and appreciated by the District Collector in an appropriate function and there should be wide coverage in both the print and electronic media about such contributions. The students may be given cash awards, for which the District collector can even seek sponsorship from the local trading community. In this fashion, the College would have done something unique.
Certain State Governments are desilting the tanks and small rivers far before the monsoon. The NSS volunteers of the college or even schools can actively take part in this activity. If this is done, there will be a mass movement toward constructive action. All these activities, among several other constructive activities, apart from the regular blood banks, should be supported through Alumni support. Many former students are always employed in foreign countries and in Information Technology companies. Such Alumni can easily support the initiatives.
Teachers to act as change agentsIf some six proactive and service-minded teachers can be trained as psychological counseling experts, after acquiring appropriate qualifications from the leading Universities that offer Post Graduate courses in Counseling Psychology, through distance education or online mode. Once the trained teachers are available, they can start counseling maladjusted persons in the local community.
For instance, the consumption of alcohol and subsequent disturbances in the family in terms of beating up of wives, not caring for the children, and so on, results in severe psychological problems and this affects the community as well. The free counseling services of the teachers will lead to positive outcomes and this will enhance the quality of relationships with the local community, thus making the outreach a very meaningful exercise.
The aforesaid outreach is just one activity. Organizing Adult Education classes in the evening or organizing basic legal advice sessions for housewives through the qualified advocates of the local area in which the school is situated. One understands that such activities are already in place in several places. The only thing is that these activities should gain momentum.
Organizing seminars and discussions with opinion leadersIrrespective of whether a school or a college is situated in a local area, the support of the local leaders is vital. It is only these opinion leaders who can play the catalyst role and also ensure that justice is being done to each outreach activity in terms of community support in terms of cash or kind. For example, there are doctors and nurses who work for free in the blood donation camps organized by schools or colleges, These camps are absolutely routine activities. However, harnessing the power of social media to organize support for a very sick patient or a bright student who needs support to pursue his career in a leading engineering college in a metro city and so on, is very much possible if the local Panchayat leaders or the famous senior citizens with good personal power can chip in with their support.
In the cities, there are associations of various kinds and these offer their support for such activities. The scale and nature of such activities need to improve by leaps and bounds. For example, if all the college students join together and .start a massive tree plantation campaign, the entire city will be green. The Government can also provide needed support if needed.
Enabling minimum State Government supportEvery school or college can also seek the support of the Government authorities, starting with the District Collector. Invariably, the local party may be involved, but this is not a big issue if the Management of educational institutions cultivates good relationships with the members of the political class at all times. These are times when social media is very active in enlisting support for any good activity. The State Government support, if needed, can indeed make a vital difference.
Making outreach a part of routine value-added activitiesThere are too many value-added activities that can be organized. Involving very young minds, right from the sixth standard, to the hazards of global warming and constantly educating them on the need to avoid plastics to the maximum extent possible, for example, can make a big difference. This is exactly the kind of outreach that is missing on a mass scale. There are too many issues that require attention. For example, the bad influence of alcohol or drugs among school children is now becoming a big problem.
This requires support from various quarters. The parents, the teachers, the local opinion leaders, the influential retired judges or advocates, social activities, the NGOs, the police, and even the judiciary. For, only when there is coordinated action, these anti-social activities will come to an end. There has been an improvement in some quarters but this has not yet become a movement of a tall order. There is still a big gap between what should be done and what is already being done. The big gap has to be addressed not only on this vital issue of misuse of both tobacco and drugs but on other social issues like excessive exposure to social media, virtually all over the country. All these are areas where the colleges can play a vital role in terms of outreach.
ConclusionA school or a college or both, exist only for the benefit of society. They get all their resources from the very same society. These educational institutions do need to reach out to society in more than one way and some nuances have been discussed in the aforesaid article. There is indeed a massive scope for the outreach to be widened as the process starts picking up momentum.
Educational institutions should understand the needs of society and based on that they should train their students so that society will progress in the right direction. When a teacher looks at this society, he will find his old students around who will respond to him positively. Taking this as an advantage the teacher should try to develop the school by getting additional infrastructure with their help.
Similarly, teachers should look around for industries and business people around their area who can help the school in improving the amenities required for a quality learning by the students. There are people to help but we all know unless otherwise we ask, even mother also will never feed us.
At the same time there will be some bad elements in this society. Small local leaders will also try to interfere in the school affairs and they will cause headache to the teachers. So, teachers should be selective and should maintain a distance from such forces and should manage them diplomatically so that there will not be any problems with such persons and leaders.