On 11th February, Dr. Rajesh Tandon (Founder President, PRIA and UNESCO Co-Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education) conducted a session with a group of student leaders hailing from Asia, Africa, Germany and Caribbean. This session held under the “Commonwealth Futures” initiative of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), dealt with the topic of Gandhi and his relevance in the space of Higher Education.
Knowledge can be defined in several ways, whether it be through facts, or experiences of a person, and thus can be represented in various forms whether it be in text, in art or in a political discourse. Thus, Dr. Tandon emphasized on the need to recognize the value of knowledge that lies with the people and communities as sites of local knowledge. This traditional knowledge is an asset held by the community. Passed down from generation to generation, this knowledge is interwoven into the cultural values of the community and is key in explaining their livelihood. He said, “The future of our humanity requires us recognising the knowledge of our indigenous communities”.
Sharing the work undertaken by PRIA, he stated that the organisation runs with the core belief that there is a need to provide knowledge to the community such that they can voice their opinion, thus strengthening democracy. Further elaborating on his position as UNESCO Co-Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, he shared how it facilitated an integration of traditional academic methods with participatory methods through the partnership between University of Victoria and PRIA, thus allowing there to be an exchange of learnings between the two.
In reference with Higher Education, Dr. Tandon discussed the need for higher education institutions to step beyond the boundaries of their campus, urging the students to supplement their curriculum with the knowledge of the people. A similar belief shines through in Gandhi’s quote, “Universities do not need majestic buildings inside walls, they need intelligent backing of public community.”
Dr. Tandon touched upon the relevance of Gandhi’s idea of respecting one’s mother tongue, elaborating on the current scenario where the youth have lost the connection with their roots. He further went on to encourage the students that their future research work should be linked with the community, thus allowing there to be a new channel of learning to be established.