On our third week in Bhubaneswar, we had a really unique opportunity to visit the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS). And it is not me, who says it is unique: it is the largest residential institute for the tribals (indigenous people) in the world, with more than 25,000 students from Odisha. KISS provides a very complex education for tribal students, from kindergarden (from the age of 3-4) to post graduation (KG to PG) since 1993. And the impressive campus is not only a school for the tribal kids but also their home during their school ages: except their 2-month summer holidays, they spend all their time here. Therefore, KISS has all the facilities the students need: accommodation, laundry, computer lab, library, gym and yoga, medical facilities, food, clean drinking water. KISS pays special attention to the students’ cultural and traditional tribal heritages and helps them to remain integrated into their own communities. All primary school students learn their mother tongue, and the institute has built 10 tribal demo houses in its campus to give the proper representation of tribal culture and tradition.

But why it is so important to have such a unique school in Bhubaneswar? Of all India states, Odisha (formerly Orissa) has the largest number of tribes and tribal people constitute 24 percent of the total population of the state. States with sizeable tribal population have higher literacy gap than in other parts of the country. In the past decades, both the Central and state governments have made considerable efforts to provide every child a proper education. The National Policy of Education in the year 1986 declared that the whole nation must commit itself to drive away the menaces of illiteracy, especially among the young population. But since tribal parents are mostly uneducated, they are not really engaged to send their children to school every day. And that’s why tribal communities deserve more attention, as Achyuta Samanta, the founder of KISS said: “Poverty creates illiteracy, literacy removes poverty”. It seems that the innovative pedagogy of KISS works: they have achieved zero level of dropout, students are high achievers in academics, co-curricular activities, and national and international sports.

KISS also pay special attention to its operation’s environmental impact, it is something that an institute with more than 25,000 students and about 800 employees, must take into account. Just to mention some of them: it has implemented a solar water heating system with a capacity of 10,000 liters, and they use their food waste from the kitchen to produce clean energy in their Biogas plant.

I haven’t mentioned a very important thing yet: all services for tribal students (education, accommodation, food, etc.) are for free. But how is it possible, how the institute finance itself? Achyuta Samanta is also a founder of the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technologies (KIIT) which was started one year earlier than KISS, in 1992. His vision was that KIIT University provided the financial resources for KISS because as he considered, donations could not provide sustainable financing. As KIIT has grown, KISS has also grown. Nowadays KISS has many different co-operation with international organizations, like United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) or Ashoka Foundation.