Kiss " U" Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences to form International Partnership with VT

May 8, 2019

A new partnership between Virginia Tech and the world’s largest tribal school is in the works.  Students from the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, in the poorest part of India, will join Tech students to work together; sharing knowledge, expertise, and connection across continents. 

Achyuta Samanta with KISS students in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
Credit courtesy of KISS/KIIT

In 1993, a visionary teacher from southeast India, named Achyuta Samanta founded The Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, known as KISS.  Some 30,000 children from 62 indigenous tribes, who couldn’t afford local schools, receive free education, room and board at the institute.

Sudipta Surangi is head of the economics department at Virginia Tech, and hales from the region where KISS Is based. He says, “When you go there, and I think this is true for anybody, the scale of the enterprise is absolutely breathtaking.  And at the same time, it’s also very awe inspiring. You walk into this little campus and you see thousands of kids, and the thing that stands out is, you don’t see an unhappy face.”

Taking a page from Tech's mott, ‘That I may Serve,’ plans are in the early stages to share knowledge and expertise between the schools.  Virginia Tech Sociologist, Bonnie Zare, has been to KISS twice in the past year. She says, “These are people who are formerly nomadic. They were called tree dwellingpeople by the British when they came in the 19th century.  They are people who live off the land.” The students come from many different cultures and “have many different languages and bodies of knowledge amongst them.   This is an effort, not only to get them access to education and employment, but also to preserve their body of knowledge, their stories, their understanding of natural medicines and things like that.”

Zare spoke with some tweltfh graders and saw “how excited they are about continuing to pursue college education and showing their families that they can get jobs, that I think were beyond their families’ wildest dreams.”

Plans are in the works for students from both universities to study on each other’s’ campuses.  Visionary founder of KISS and several other schools which support the free college for indigenous students, Achyuta Samanta, was born in the region, and has won dozens of awards and international praise for his work.

Again Bonnie Zare: “And one of the first things I found out about him is that he conducts meetings with important people under a tree.  He is a very humble person, who has a very open, welcoming smile and leadership style that I think many of our world’s leaders could emulate.”    

‘Bollywood’ is making a movie about Samanta’s life and how he created the school.  He plans to travel to Blacksburg soon to formalize the partnership with Virginia Tech President, Timothy Sands.

***Editor's Note: Radio IQ is a service of Virginia Tech.