The context of our work is government school leaders and teaching staff. A common sight when visiting a government school is teachers and school leader (headmaster) sitting together in a room or under a tree chatting and having chai. Children will either be copying in their worn out notebooks from a textbook or creating a racket of sorts in classroom or outside. Teachers don’t work. They have no motivation to teach. Most of them would have joined the profession either because their preferred profession did not happen so this was decent option from monetary, status and stability perspective. For some people the reason could be as simple as doing a job in (or close to) their village and leading a decent life. Rarely would one find a teacher who has chosen the teaching profession for the love of it or for the meaning in making a difference in lives of children.
Using danda to discipline children is another common sight in schools. Alternate mechanisms like conversation, constructive engagement and the like are not seen happening between teachers and the children. Teachers and headmasters themselves stick to administrative jobs like paperwork, midday meal, attending to visitors, responding to circulars to stay occupied. Since any mistake or deviation in these jobs brings negative response from administration officials in form of show cause notices, transfers, stoppage of promotions etc. Response to any deviation from norm is almost always negative and lacks any concern for the person involved.
Promotion to school leader (headmaster) is time and tenure bound. Competencies required to be a school leader are not a consideration. Both teachers and headmasters are disenchanted by their work and the system.
Teachers and headmasters have become attuned to command and control thereby suffocating their creativity and leading to apathy towards education and the system.
In the given context easy solutions are training (and more training), administrative controls, danda to bring alignment with administrative norms, financial incentives and disincentives (to bring alignment with set norms).
In trying to find solutions to failing motivations levels of teachers and headmasters and their apathy towards education and system, the efforts are towards creating administrative structures rather than the profession and its meaning. There is no other profession that is as steady as meaningful as apolitical and clean as teaching. This is where Kaivalya steps in. We believe that respecting people and accepting them in their circumstances can cause mindshift from apathy to interest.
We believe that each individual is capable of finding meaning for her in all circumstances, good as well as bad. Each individual can give meaning when they what to. Meaning is the basis for people to engage with one another at work. In this context, teaching is a potentially meaningful career. This is one of the only profession which has the capacity to influence and shape personality and thoughts of individual child.
We have chosen to work with headmasters in govt schools as they have the most influence on children, community and teachers. We believe that at school level headmasters can cause change if they want to.
As a team in Kaivalya we believe in engaging with all the stakeholders on the following principals -
1. Person is first. We believe that person is foremost and important than any other thing
2. Communication. We foster open, transparent and continuous communication within our team, with headmasters, with partners, with govt, with other organizations
3. Sensitivity to others. We are sensitive and non judgemental about others.
4. We believe that each person will engage when they find meaning for themselves in the work they do with us. This forms the basis for recruitment of staff and Gandhi Fellows, for identifying and forging relationship with partners and donors and for building relationship and engagement with govt.
5. All the processes we do are geared towards causing change on the ground. This is our driving force.
Causing change through our program
1. Self selection into program
We believe each person chooses to find meaning in their life and in what they do. Headmasters have the freedom to choose to join the program. We educate a wide audience of headmasters, showcase how the program works and what one can gain from it. Thereafter only those headmasters who are excited by the proposition, self select themselves to the program.
This experience is quite unique to them as usually they are asked to attend training. The consequences of not participating in training they have been nominated to is show cause notice and even a verbal rebuke.
2. GF as an influence on headmaster/ ASP
Kaivalya’s other innovative leadership development program is the Gandhi Fellowship Program. The Fellowship is designed to help talented, young people find meaning, discover their private dream and have the courage to make them public. The two year fellowship takes them on a journey of self-discovery, personal transformation and social change.
Supporting the headmaster and experiencing positive results gives the fellow courage to take on more risks. The fellow works in an environment of respect, sensitivity, care and non-judgementality. She translates the same to the headmaster and her school. As a result the fellow builds grounding and humility which she does not experience normally in our society. Being able to cause change in the Indian Education system gives the fellow courage to dream her private dream and make it a reality.
3. Partnership with Bodh and IIMA
Kaivalya has forged very close partnerships with Bodh and IIM-A. Both these institutions have found meaning for themselves in the work that we do. They find a space in the context where they are willing to work not just with us but also with each other.
Open, ongoing, transparent communication has built trust. Ongoing sharing and seeking their perspective on the program keeps them interested and engaged with us. The partnerships are based on personal relationships with key people in these institutions. It’s the meaning each person finds for themselves in the context that they chose to engage with us.
4. Hiring the KEF team & Organizational culture
KEF’s recruitment processes are very democratic. Both KEF and the potential hire decide whether each wants to be part of the organization. KEF selects as much as the potential hire.
We forge very strong personal bonds with each other in our teams. The basis for which is respect, care, love, sensitivity and sharing. Our processes of communication, dialoguing, deliberation, responsibility form the pillars on which the organization stands. Together this makes for a strong team.