Shuvajit Payne

Shiksha Niketan Barefoot College, Rajasthan, India

Shuvajit  Payne

Shuvajit was an introverted child from a Kolkata family with limited resources, who made it to a degree in Economics from Presidency College, a master’s degree in finance and marketing from IIM Lucknow, a job with IBM based in London, and then to a confident role model as a teacher working to bring out the voices of underprivileged rural children and young adults.

Shuvajit’s first teaching efforts were as a voluntary teacher in the small, marginalized rural community of Sawad, Washim district, India – an area much affected by farmer suicide. Today, a decade later, he is the Head of Education at Barefoot College, responsible for the curriculum and operations of 50 informal community schools that bring holistic primary education to 3,000+ children from the remotest of rural communities in India. Shuvajit is also a direct teacher of a classroom in Shikshaniketan, a 400-student school based in the village of Tilonia, Rajasthan, and is responsible for designing and delivering a unique curriculum of citizenship and education for sustainable development.

The communities Shuvajit serves are severely marginalised and economically underprivileged (earning less than $1 a day). These circumstances have led to a generation of individuals that have internalised exploitation and dominance by higher castes and that are silent towards their own rights. Child marriage and domestic violence abound. Shuvajit believes these patterns are a direct result of the fact that education often excludes studying citizenship and civic responsibility. His approach to teaching encourages children to be responsible actors who contribute to creating a more sustainable world – one that offers quality education, gender equality, climate protection, clean water, sanitation, good health and wellbeing. His curriculum is specially customised to include supportive low-cost digital content, which means it can be replicated for community schools held at night (for children who work in the day) in remote rural areas. These schools make use of a solar-powered Edu-Box that includes a projector, an offline content repository and tablets for student use.

Shuvajit’s journey through education in rural India has been well documented in English national daily papers such as The Hindu, DNA, and The New Indian Express. If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, he would use 15 per cent of the prize funds for the training and improvement of his local teaching community. 40% of the funds would be used for a one-time capital expenditure towards transforming the bare-minimum facilities of his schools into creative and productive spaces for residential learning and research. The balance would fund a five-year operational plan to open the schools to global participation.