Akal Academy (soon to be named – Akal World School), Baru Sahib has become the first authorized IB school in Himachal Pradesh. An ordinary sounding feat, right? Well….
Tucked away in a remote, sylvan area of Himachal, about 2 hours from Solan, Baru Sahib is a largely self-sufficient mini township. The origins of this culturally unique place is what legends are made of. This very rustic and religious place is the spiritual headquarters of the Kalgidhar Trust under the leadership of the visionary, much loved and respected Baba Iqbal Singh. At the very ripe age of 89, he steers the efforts of an army of volunteers and professionals to ensure that there is no ‘No Village Left Behind’ in milking the gains of internationally benchmarked, quality-education at an affordable cost. Noble mission indeed !!
So far the Trust has over 120 academies dotting the landscape of North India, mostly in rural or semi-rural areas. The nerve center of all these institutions is Akal Academy, Baru Sahib. My association with the school started in June this year when they were into the 5th year of their IB PYP journey. With an impending authorization visit scheduled for September, the intent was unwavering with all stakeholders leaving no stone unturned to achieve IB Standards and Practices.
But there was a perceptible sense of something amiss. It did not take much time to fathom – the well meaning, fully committed stakeholder lacked faith. Oxymoronic, isn’t it? While they were whole-heartedly committed to the cause of the leadership, they had very little faith in the treasures locked within their own beings.
Diagnostics is always the easy part; prognosis in this case, however, required ingenuity. How do you boost the self-confidence of a community of teaching professionals who had bought into the organizational goal but were unsure of their own worth and the road ahead? How do you ensure that the momentum is maintained once the catalyst for change is removed? How do you monitor day-to-progress in all domains of a complex, dynamic entity such as a school on a war footing? How do you ensure that the whole remains greater than the sum of its parts? How does one manage these issues long distance, as was my case. The prognosis had to be planned and administered precisely as there was little time; the dosage had to be measured and timely to strike a balance between continuity and change. The pace had to be prudent – spurts of urgent and spasms of critical. Leading the pack was a potter’s job – support from within and patting without. The prognosis was planned in June itself.
But a plan is just a plan; when nurtured by the sweat and smiles of all stakeholders it becomes destiny. An irreversible destiny. That is what happened at Akal Academy, Baru Sahib – prayers, perseverance and prudence came together to make the inconceivable into a tangible reality. Prayers of the whole community, perseverance of each foot soldier and prudence of its leaders/administrators.
It is said that if you attach yourself to a greater cause, shed your transient self, you can attain major breakthroughs – ‘a blue fly, if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles, and the green ivy that twines around the tall pine can grow to a thousand feet.’ Akal Academy is driven by an ambitious goal – socially and supremely ambitious. Their mission has never been to just get the IB program affiliation – that would be too small a goal, not befitting the vision and stature of Baba Iqbal Singh. The journey to IB program affiliation at Akal Academy, Baru Sahib is just a means to a greater end. Using the learnings from this journey, the Kalgidhar Trust aspires to ripple out its goodness to the hundreds of other Akal Academies in rural and semi-urban areas. A challenging proposition in itself and to take the challenge quotient up, they would like to make the program available to the students within a shoestring budget based on their budget school model – that in itself is socially and supremely audacious!! Not surprisingly then, the Kalgidhar Trust has been able to travel a thousand miles and grow a thousand feet despite the overwhelming challenges that it grapples with.
IB program affiliation of Akal Academy, Baru Sahib is no ordinary achievement and its profundity will unfold in the coming years as the institution continues to evolve and revolutionize rural education. And if this is to happen, the Akal community of professionals must continue and consolidate their faith in themselves, each other and the cause.
The battle is over but the war continues!