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 PRAYAS : An Effort
 
 

A Interaction with
Rev. Fr. Dr. J. Felix Raj, SJ

Moumita Das, the NSS Board Member got an opportunity to have a one to one interaction with the person behind Prayas, Rev. Fr. Felix Raj, SJ. Here is what Father had to say about this unique movement.

 

  1. Father, what according to you is the outcome of Prayas?

    The village children are benefitted academically. Firstly, children who have gone through the Prayas classes fare better in their schools than the others, because they have received greater help. St. Xavier’s College students are in a privileged position, and they have the ability to help these village students at least academically and motivationally. Secondly, the meeting point of college and village is important. The whole idea behind “Village to College and College to Village” is to bring about greater exposure. On the one hand, our students gain perspective. On the other, the village children look up to the college “didis” and “dadas” and aspire to be like them. For at least some, this motivation has translated into a fruitful academic career and there are students from these villages who have gone out to pursue higher studies in various colleges. In fact, the whole village changes as a result of our exposure. Villages like Debipur and Shalpukur are going through a tremendous amount of positive change, not only academically but also in terms of outlook and attitude.
     

  2. Father, where do you see the need for our college students to engage themselves in this movement?

    Our college students need to be aware of their responsibilities toward the larger sections of society. As Gandhi said, India lives in the villages. Going to the villages and interacting with the people there gives them a sense of the real India. The college students need to be in touch with reality. Actually, living within the four walls of our homes or this college is not real education. Nurturing love and concern for others, being willing to extend a hand in service- all these things comprise a very important part of education.

    Also, these experiences would challenge the students. . Our college students amidst all their comforts and advantages, should be motivated to work harder after being exposed to the harsher reality of rural India. There is a lot of hesitation on the part of the college students when they visit a village for the first time. But there has been a total transformation in the attitudes and approaches of some of our students after two or three visits. This, for me, is the crux of this project- the transformation of the mindset of our students due to this project.
     

  3. What is the future of the movement?

    I am confident that this project will continue. In eight years, we have expanded from one village to nine, and there have been requests from two or three other villages also. There is a possibility of expanding this work further in the coming years. One thing that needs to be done is the strengthening of our structural base for organising it, maybe by involving more people in the coordination of the project. A minor setback is the slowing down of the financial contributions that our students had been making- but that is not a disappointment as the project is not about economic outreach. Financial aid is secondary. I am very optimistic. The commitment of our students, at least a good number of them, is very genuine.
     

  4. Is it feasible for other colleges to start a similar project with the purpose of achieving 100% literacy?

    We have implemented this project for 8 years. Somehow, our neighbourhood colleges have not bought this idea. One reason for this obviously is the presence of a unionised political atmosphere in most other campuses, which hinders the undertaking of social activities. We can send a copy of the EMMRC documentary on the Prayas movement to other colleges, convince them to perhaps adopt one village, the way St. Xavier’s adopted Paikhala. In fact, the NSS might take it up as a challenge to prepare a team of students and resource persons and visit these colleges in order to motivate them to take up a similar project. It is my dream: if 33,000 colleges adopt at least one village each, there’ll be a total knowledge revolution. Unfortunately, it is not taking place.
     

  5. Father, could you share one recollection that stands out in your many years of experience with Prayas.

    In the recent years, the enthusiasm of the village children of Debipur stands out. I remember the eagerness with which they participate in the activities we organise. Moreover, something very commendable is the whole-hearted support of the teacher volunteers of the villages and the village women. I find them standing in solidarity with us- they want the village to progress, the children to be educated. This is something that is not very easily seen in many villages.


     

 
PRAYAS - The Fruit Bearing Tree

PRAYAS GROWS FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

Village to College - College to Village
An Interaction with
Rev. Fr. Dr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
Tête à Tête with Rev. Fr. Dr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
-The inspiration behind the movement
Facts and Figures
Thumbs Up : Positive Feedback
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"If colleges and villages meet, there will be a knowledge revolution,” believes Fr. Felix Raj, SJ, the person behind the success of Prayas.

Fr. Felix Rau with Salpukur Leaders

Village to College College to Village
Project Prayas brings 50 underprivileged children to Calcutta Know more
Message

In a country with 10,33,473 number of schools and 16,885 colleges and countless number of educational initiatives by public and private sectors, there are still 100 million children out of school of whom 60 per cent are girls. With 35 per cent of the population still not literate, a country cannot boast of achieving high standards of development.

Education is one of the indicators of progress. It is the key to development. The second millennium goal is to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Therefore, the need of the hour is to bring about an educational revolution. The process has already begun. Let us all join together to take India to a greater heights.


Dr. Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
Artha Beekshan, Vol. 16. No. 2. September 2007
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