INTRODUCTION OF GANDHI VIDHYAPITH : AN INSTITUTION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION IN RURAL AREA.
A small village named Vedchhi, is situated in the backward area of tapi district in the state of Gujarat. It is about 22 kilometers away from bardoli, where the famous battle of refusal by farmers to pay increased revenue taxes was fought and won against the mighty British rule, under the able leadership of sardar vallabhbhai patel, the ironman of India and one of the top loyal lieutenants of mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation.
Gandhi’s advice to his fellowman to go to villages and start various constructive works among the people and thereby prepare them to fight for freedom and to preserve it after the attainment, lured shri jagatram dave, a bachelor during whole life spaning 90 tireless years, who could not successfully finish even his high school education, to come to Vedchhi at the end of the first quarter of this century and join shri chunibhai Mehta, who came here a couple of years earlier and had started among the local tribal people spinning and weaving activities. Gradually, they started teaching young children of the village and finally, Vedchhi swaraj ashrama (residential community centre) was founded in the year 1928, where students were learning while working. They besides attending classes, where formal education was imparted, also performed numerous other activities which increased their real knowledge and skill, like offering prayers, keeping the campus clean, self cooking, working on farms to attain self sufficiency, conducting tours, arranging camps, joining group discussions, etc.
As years passed by scores of institutions of such type started functioning in the district of surat, valsad and the dangs, most parts of which are populated by tribal. Formerly there was illiteracy, much alcoholism and exploitation by money-lenders. But now, after five decades of determined endeavor, the picture has completely changed. Resultntly, teachers, engineers, doctors, pleaders,Members of legislative assembly and partiament, and ministers in Governments have emerged.
Uptill 1966, for attaining higher education, students had to go tofar away places. Hence, the need to provide such facilities locally was folt. In the year 1967, Gandhi vidhyapith, governed by a team of dedicated workers, was founded, Dr Zakir Hussaein, the then vice President of India and a stqunch supporter of the new basic education theory advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, was the chief guest at the inauguration ceremony. Its first faculty, namely Samajshastra Mahavidyalaya, (the college of sociologu ) which had a 4 year degree course, was started In June that year, since 1980 it functionslin the name of Samajseva Mahavidyalaya (the college of social services ) where now a 3 year degree course in agriculture is being conducted. A year letter, in 1968, Snatak Adhyapan Mandir-G.B.T.C. ( a Graduate Basic Training College) with 1 year diploma course in teachers training was started. In the same year, shanti sena Vidhyalaya(peace corps Training school for Volunteers) was established. In June 1970 Vantra Vidayalaya (a School of Technology )started where improved small agricultural subjects, was started in the year 1980 to prepare village workers. There are nearly 250 students and about 50 staff members Comprising 3 faculties on the Campus.
In 2 faculties no tution fees are charged. Instead, the students render about 250 hours manual work for the institution, annually. There is a comparatively good library with some 15000 books on various subjects, Facility of a store is also available where grains, groceries, etc. are sold to the inhabitants. Main source of income to the institution is from the profits of agriculture produces, supplemented by donations from public and grants from the government to some of the educational sections.
Gandhi Vidyapith holds about 113 acres of land, of which 80 acres are under plough, producing sugarcanes, paddy, vegetables, mangoes, and other mixed crops, while the rest of the land is covered by approach roads, buildings, water-works etc. It has 2 cowsheds which provide milk to campus dewellers. Research work is being carried on the corps of wheat paddy, cereals. The extension services rendered by the institution among 50 selected farmers of the surrounding villages, has resulted in better farming techniques , increased out put of agriculture products in better farming techniques, increased out put 0f agriculture products and improved in living habits.
The students, alongwith the keen assistance and co-operation of the teachers perform innumerous activites, on project basis, such as running Balwadis (kindergarten Schools) Primary- and middle schools, hostels, render Social services, encourage village industries, perform cultural programmes, propagate against alcoholism, asving community from the clutches of money lenders stating different co-operative societies, organizing relief activities n natural calamities like floods, famines, washed-away dam dewastated people and manmade holocausts like communal riots, refugees rehabilitation, self surrendering decoits, adult education, offering Satyagraha (Non Violent action) against slaughter houses as to save cows and bullocks, taking peace missions to places troubled by anti social eliments and many other.
Just adjoining is another autonomus and non-Governmental Campus of The Institution for Total Revolution, run by Shri Narayan Desai, a disciple of Gandhi, Vinoba and Jayprakash Naryan, where short as well as long term courses are conducted to train workers to comat corruption, Social evils, illiteracy, mal-practices, hazards of atomic establishments, etc.
In short, Gandhi Vidyapith, whose motto is ‘Uplift yourself by self help’, is a co-educational, Voluntary, Multidimentional institutional complex, striving for the betterment of the down-trodden. The very fact, that it has been acclaimed as one of the 10 best educational institutions in the world by UNESCO is itself a credential.