The NSS Cell of Sikkim University organized a two day workshop on Proposal Development under the UGC Scheme for Establishing Centres for Fostering Social Responsibility and Community Engagement (CFSRCE) in Universities on 28th and 29th March, 2017 at Barad Sadan Conference Hall, 5th Mile, Gangtok, Sikkim. The objective of the workshop was to develop an appropriate proposal, keeping in mind relevant societal issues, which would then be submitted to the University Grant Commission (UGC) for consideration for funding under the scheme.
The workshop was chaired by the honourable Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof T B Subba; while Dr. W.G. Prasanna Kumar, Chairman, NCRI, Hyderabad graced the occasion as the chief guest. The participants of the workshop included faculty members, students of department of Horticulture, Management, Geography, Sociology, Geology, Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Limbu, Law, Mass Communication, Music, commerce, Education, Anthropology, Tourism.
PRIA was invited by Dr. Sujata Upadhyay, Assistant Professor, Department of Horticulture & NSS Programme Coordinator, Sikkim University for sharing its past experiences on ‘engaging with the community’, and sharing insights on ‘how academia can meaningfully engage with community for contributing to holistic societal development’. On behalf of PRIA, Mr Gautam Majumder, Senior Program Officer, PRIA-Sikkim, participated in the workshop. Some of the pointers on which he deliberated included:
- Enhancing knowledge of all stake holders and community at large
- Capacity building of communities and various societal stakeholders so that they play a meaningful role in development.
- Academic engagement with community, in a way which is mutually beneficial and sustainable
- Role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in deepening democratic practices and nurturing democratic attitudes.
From the discussions, it emerged that Sikkim provides a fertile ground for practicing relevant community engagement. The emphasis that the university places on community development and traditional local knowledge provides the best platform for academia and communities to collaborate for achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Below mentioned are some crisp action pointers shared by the participants, which could be taken up for immediate action:
- Local stakeholders (farmers, local cultivators, women self help group members), representatives of civil society organizations, panchayats, municipal corporation can be engaged in practical classroom sessions, which can enable and facilitate ‘practical learning’s for the students. This may also serve as a means to connect students to their society and make them come to terms with ‘life beyond campus’.
- Community engagement be integrated into all three missions of higher education; teaching, research and service; rather than being limited to the latter alone.
- Deepening understanding of the real essence of ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic behaviours/practices’
- Fixing accountability for all societal actors, including governance institutions and HEIs
- Mainstreaming community learning and change as essential principles for curriculum development for future citizenship
- HEIs to embed themselves in the larger national efforts of creating active, informed and ethical global citizens of India.
In addition to the above, Mr Majumder also used the opportunity and platform to share more about PRIA’s current interventions. He briefed the participants on one of the current featured initiatives of PRIA, viz., ‘Engaged Citizens, Responsive Cities (ECRC); and the various activities undertaken at various cities under the project in Ajmer, Rajasthan; Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh and Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
The workshop ended with a valedictory address by Dr Sujata Upadhyay; and it can be said that the event was successful in re-affirming the commitment of various stakeholders towards realizing their social responsibilities; in particular, the higher education.