KISS Wins Prestigious UNESCO International Literacy Prize 2022

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Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), Bhubaneswar has won the prestigious UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize 2022 for its outstanding literacy programme based on the recommendations of an international jury. The UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize is sponsored by the Government of the Republic of Korea and recognizes contributions to mother language-based literacy development. KISS has received the award in the category of ‘Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education’ programme’. The award carries an endowment of US$ 20,000, a medal and a diploma, informed Dr. Achyuta Samanta, Founder, KIIT & KISS in a press get-together here in Bhubaneswar. 

The award was presented at a global award ceremony organised by UNESCO in Côte d’Ivoire on 8 and 9 September 2022 to celebrate International Literacy Day. The programme aims to tackle the challenges of poor retention of indigenous students in elementary schools due to classroom language barriers and teachers’ incapacity to deal with multilingual and multicultural classrooms effectively. 

Every year, the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes focus on a specific theme. This year, the spotlight was on Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces. KISS is the fifth institute from India and the first from Odisha to receive this international prize. It is also the third among the non-profit NGOs and first indigenous-based organisation to be conferred with this award. 

KISS, a Sister concern of KIIT, the largest institute for indigenous students in the world, is credited with the adoption of innovative pedagogies as learning tools and bringing about a perceptible change in the socio-economic lives of the indigenous population through education. This recognition also brings the state of Odisha to prominence on the world map for its efforts at changing the education ecosystem. Moreover, it is also a big day of celebration for indigenous communities as it is truly an award for them. 

KISS is a not-for-profit organisation headquartered in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India. It was established in 1992-93 by well-known educationist and social activist Dr Achyuta Samanta to empower the indigenous population through education. It is a fully free residential educational institution that provides holistic education, comprehensive skilling and sports empowerment. The educational initiative at KISS comprises a school, a college and a university founded with the objective of providing food, education and empowerment to indigenous children. 

“I thank UNESCO for recognizing our efforts and social innovations in the field of education, literacy and indigenous empowerment. In my childhood, I struggled to get proper education and now I put all my life and soul to provide holistic education to millions at the margins,” said Dr. Samanta.

KISS has transformed the lives of 70,000 indigenous children (30,000 children pursuing education and 40,000 alumni) directly and about 700,000 lives in the indigenous communities indirectly. Its higher education wing, KISS Deemed-to-be University is the world’s first university exclusively for indigenous students. KISS has in its course of evolution and function collaborated with various UN agencies and organs for the implementation of several initiatives related to education and empowerment. KISS has been in special consultative status with ECOSOC since 2015 and is affiliated with UNDPI. 

Since its inception, KISS has been respecting the diversity of indigenous languages and dialects. It has consistently focused on imparting classroom teaching in the mother tongue at elementary levels before transitioning to a common language. This one of its kind pioneering effort of KISS took a concrete shape in the form of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education in 2013. 

KISS, which adopted the Multilingual Education Programme through innovation sandbox, has set an example for other educational institutions and governments to impart classroom teaching in indigenous languages. It aims to tackle the challenges of poor retention of indigenous students in elementary schools due to classroom language barriers and teachers’ incapacity to deal with multilingual and multicultural classrooms effectively. The programme is in a hybrid format with face-to-face and distance learning modules using low-tech solutions such as television, radio, and text messaging.

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