Last week in Social Spotlight, we covered the humongous work of EducationLinked in the education sector in tribal schools. The brainchild behind this venture is Sohan Mahajan, who is the founder of EducationLinked.
Stylewhack had a chance of interviewing this great mind and as you read his interview, you will understand how gravely he feels for this cause and how has his journey being so far on this noble path.
Who is Sohan Mahajan?
By education I am an engineer. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical engineering, I also have an MBA degree in Marketing and I have done my Masters in Mechanical Engineering with focus on Robotics from the University of Cincinnati, USA. Apart from running EducationLinked, I also run my own business in robotics under the name Mahajan Automation. I am also a Director at another company called Mekonix Systems and a Faculty member at the Art of Living Foundation.
You studied in the US, worked there for almost 3 years. What was the defining moment which made you return back to India and start EducationLinked?
There was no defining moment as such. I always had the urge to do something for education of underprivileged kids in India. So I started this activity while I was in the US and few of my friends used to co-ordinate the activity in India. But soon I realized that unless I am on the ground myself, things won’t get the required momentum. So I took the decision to come back. Also along with EducationLinked I always had this entrepreneurial urge to start up my own business, so this along with the desire to stay with my parents drove me back to India.
Sohan Mahajan is a Founder of EducationLinked. Sohan Mahajan is also the MD of Mahajan Automation. How different or similar are these 2 roles?
They are similar in some ways and different in some other ways. We run both organizations professionally, so managing teams and setting goals and executing them is common to both. However business is driven by profits and social activities are driven by your desire to do something good for someone else. So there is a tremendous paradigm shift in our own thinking while doing either activity.
What was the reaction of your family and friends when you told them about starting EdcationLinked?
Of course your close friends and family care about you and so they want you to earn well and lead a good life. That too when you are working in the US and leading such a comfortable life, some people feel it is not wise to do all this. However once I started EducationLinked, family and friends both were very supportive to me and to the cause as well.
How difficult were the initial days of EducationLinked? Any incident which you would like to share with our viewers which proved that perseverance helps you achieve your goals ultimately.
Not difficult, I would say they were exciting. We wanted to do something in the field of education. However we had very little idea of the reality on the ground. So when we started our work we used to do anything and everything that the schools asked us to do to help them. As we progressed we shortlisted the activities that proved to be most beneficial to the schools and then started working in that direction.
About perseverance, yes surely you need that and a lot of faith in yourself and in your guru or god, whatever you believe in. However I would like to say that if you work with pure intentions, then definitely you would be able to make a lot of difference to the lives of people in whatever way you have chosen.
How do you co-ordinate between receiving funds and putting it to use?
We do receive funds from a few individual donors. Also we have recently received some CSR support from some companies. Every activity of EducationLinked is documented and streamlined. Resources are always limited, so we use them in such a way that we can reach maximum number of tribal kids with the available resources.
The status of education in India, especially in villages is underdeveloped. What according to you is the reason behind this?
The areas in which we work are extremely remote and even to reach schools the teachers are doing a great job I would say. Also the Indian government has done very well to open schools in every nook and corner of the country, however the main concern now is that of quality of education. We must understand that India though growing at a rapid pace, it is still a developing economy with most of its population living in villages where funds availability is very limited. I am of the view that the government is actually doing enough, however it is the apathy of the middle class India that has led to most of the problems. We need to own up responsibility and do our bit to improve quality of education in schools.
When I visit the tribal schools I always tell the children that once they grow up, wherever they go, whatever they do, they must come back and do their due for their schools and their villages. If all of us start thinking in that direction, none of our villages or schools will have any shortcomings. Of course the education system has scope for improvement, however when you visit these areas you would realize that it is easier said than done and whatever I have seen I am impressed by what our teachers and our administration achieve with what little resources they have.
Do you think poverty and education are related or is it just a perception often considered in the negative sense?
Yes of course they are related. Your chances of leading a good quality life are much higher if you have good formal education. And education is the very first step to take out millions of people living under the poverty line in India. Even parents have started realizing this and are encouraging their kids to study.
Considering the fact that women are less literate in India, would you extend your services to educating women of all ages in the future?
The fact that women are less literate has various factors including the conservative thinking in families, not much with schools or the education system. Also in tribal Maharashtra we do not find this factor to a great extent, at least not in primary education. Some factors like unavailability of good toilets in secondary schools is a problem and our prime minister Modi ji has referred to this several times and the government has made plans to work on this. We will definitely look at this issue in the future as our organization grows.
Can you share one experience with us which made you realize how much the students and their parents patronize your and EducationLinked’s efforts.
In every school that we visit, teachers are telling us that the absenteeism has gone down since the start of E-learning in the schools. They say kids love to learn through the E-learning system, their attention span has increased, their understanding levels have gone up. So all this is encouraging.
What are your future plans for EducationLinked?
Our first mission is to reach entire the tribal Maharashtra by the year 2019.
Any request you would like to make to our viewers.
Yes definitely, especially if you are from villages and have now moved on to cities or different countries, please do see what your school and your village needs. Each one of you should strive to make your school a model school and your village a model village. NGOs like us can only do a few things, however if we want to see real change and sustainable change in our education system, all of you need to revisit your schools, understand their problems and strive to improve your schools in whatever way you can.
It was indeed an eye opening interview with some grave topics touched! We wish Sohan Mahajan best of luck for all his future endeavors!