Dubai Education of the underprivileged is key to building a tolerant society and fighting sectarianism, the founder of the ‘Super 30’ initiative said in Dubai on Wednesday.
Anand Kumar, speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the World Tolerance Summit, said intolerance usually thrives in localities where the most impoverished segment of society is exploited by “hate-mongers”.
Kumar founded Super 30 in 2002 in the Indian state of Bihar, where he is from, to take in 30 economically marginalised students every cycle to tutor, feed and lodge them, free of cost, for entrance exams to India’s coveted Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT).
He said people who are uneducated and disenfranchised are most likely to be “swept away by emotions, which too often takes the form of a call for violence against ‘the other’.”
“After the dust clears, it turns out there was no issue, or that it was a rumor, but it’s too late by then,” he said.
Intolerance takes many forms; in Bihar, for example, said Kumar, there are still some fissures along religious or caste lines, even if “most people are peace loving, tolerant and live in harmony”.
“All these kinds of problems, world-over, have one solution – tolerance. And education is the key to tolerance.”
Kumar has a wider definition of education, beyond “bookish knowledge”. He said: “We don’t just teach bookish knowledge so students go to university, get a job, but our ethos is also how to view society without communal hatred, to understand the world is ultimately one, that people of merit and talent, even if they are from the most economically deprived section of society, must be given a chance to go forward, to be loved – that is also part of our teaching at Super 30.”
Kumar himself comes from “an underprivileged background, from a poor family”. He said he is indebted to his father, who worked in letter sorting and distribution, for guiding him.
Kumar said he plans to open a non-profit school “in a year or two” for around 200 to 300 children in grades six to 12 in Bihar. Using his own funds from tutoring students, including from online coaching planned in the future, he hopes to also see temporary guest teachers from prestigious American universities and Dubai teach students of the planned school.
If the project is successful, he will “try until my last breath” to open at least three or four more such “model, world-class” schools in India.
Super 30 refuses to take donations, not least because it can lead to snide remarks of being supported by “one community or the other”, Kumar said, but in the future “we will think of what to do” regarding the planned school project.