DTU Times interviewed Aman Thakur, an alumnus of DTU and the founder of the NGO Gyankunj.
“Our belief is that a liberation of weaker sections of our community can tangibly spread change in the long run.”
– Gyankunj Team
DT: For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly explain what Gyankunj does?
Gyankunj is an NGO actively working in Delhi. Presently, we are operating two centres, Bawana and Shahbad village. We are working for the welfare of a targeted group of children between the ages of 13 to 16. These students are enrolled in government schools, and hail from economically, socially and culturally besieged communities. Our organisation’s prime objective is to bridge the gap in the academic opportunities provided to children from well off families and the cavity in the education of students from low income groups families, i.e. academic exposure to digital devices, utility of the internet, institutional grooming in verbal and written skills.
Presently, we are teaching 80+ students English, Mathematics & Science. We conduct digital classes on laptops which we acquired after winning the first position and securing funding in the competition ‘Seeds of Hope’ organised by Bain & Company, India. We regularly organise quizzes, debates, visits to museums and other creative activities for the students. We fund them with a combination of regular donations from like minded individuals and quarterly fundraisers (latest amount raised: 3 lac INR in a record time of 1 month).
DT: What motivated you to start Gyankunj?
I know the amount of effort our parents put in to give us a better life. When I was studying in class 10, my mother worked as an Attendant at DTU hostels. That greatly inspired me to pursue engineering from the very same university. I had developed the idea of Gyankunj from my engineering days, and now I’m working on it.
As a child, I wished to grow, and as I grow, I wish for my childhood to return. I realise it’s all about the moments. This moment I am writing this because of my education and at this very moment, there are millions across the globe who are being denied this right. This is my moment to act and to return childhood to those it belongs to.
DT: What are the primary difficulties you faced? How did you overcome them?
The locality in which we work is highly crime-prone and we decided to open this centre to engage more and more children in meaningful and productive activities/tasks, keeping them away from negative elements/influences.
A consensus amongst the founders of this program is that education can equip a child to think independently and become an asset to his/her broader community.
DT: What can the students of DTU do to help Gyankunj achieve its goals?
First and foremost, I encourage students to visit our centre and meet our children. Often, we undervalue how the most unspectacular actions can lead to spectacular impressions. When students come and share their personal stories, there is a dialogue created between our students and the students from colleges. These visits will allow our students to imagine themselves as those they see, and this could be a great motivator.
We have a host of ways in which students can work with us, but what is most encouraged is that you come and share your time with us, you will find your own ways to contribute.
DT: Do you plan to expand to other parts of Delhi and India?
Our supreme objective is of qualitative delivery as opposed to quantitative delivery. We carefully craft annual plans. Our present outlook is to facilitate the students in our operating centre, who have energised us with their exceptional results.
DT: Which other social issue do you wish to work on in the future?
Gyankunj, when we started out as a family, was very coherent and specific about the concerns ailing our modern society. It was again not a coincidence that Gyankunj gender ratio remained almost equal to 1:1. It was clear; we ought to do something about the other half of the society, the women power. Today, there is enough evidence that reinforces the idea of women excelling in every single field, be it being a pilot, winning gold medals or joining the armed forces. But our society, I believe, is still entangled in the notion of masculinity. I want to change this status quo. I believe we at Gyankunj, will change it.