Prior to Independence, Banaskantha, situated in northern Gujarat, was known as a backward and remote district with a large tribal population. Bordering its western boundary lies the desert area of Kutch and the district itself was prone to droughts; and its populace faced much hardship.
The inhabitants of Banaskantha had little access to education, and the means to bettering their lives. In 1948, there were only three schools in the district and no colleges for several years thereafter.
The Banaskantha District Kelavani Mandal (BKDKM) was established in 1961 with an aim to uplift and educate the students of all castes and classes of Banaskantha, which was still an economically backward area. With hardly any funds and no buildings or infrastructure to speak of, BKDKM took the brave step of setting up the first degree college – in the Faculty of Arts – in 1964 in a rented building, Yavar Manzil.
over the past decades, not only has BKDKM managed to expand its offerings widely, setting up seven colleges representing different faculties, it has provided quality education to successive generations of students. Today, BKDKM runs colleges for Arts, Science, commerce, Law, computer Application, Business Administration; as well as one for Fine Arts & Arts which offers diploma/certificate level courses in music, painting, dramatics and yoga. BKDKM has also initiated professional courses like a foundation course for chartered Accountancy, cost Accounting and company Secretary; and courses for entrance examinations in the field of banking, insurance etc.
Apart from these, BKDKM offers Post Graduate courses for M.A., M.Sc., M. com. and other degrees. Aspiring students are also offered the opportunity to do research and acquire a Ph.D.
BKDKM, which started its endeavour with a single college with 100 students, today has grown into a multifarious, multifaculty, multifaceted educational force with, totally, over 7000 students on the rolls of its colleges every academic year.
The colleges under the umbrella of BKDKM have been provided with up-to-date infrastructure including well- equipped laboratories.
Its library holds pride of place on the campus. Spread over several floors, each dedicated to a specific stream, it has, arguably, the finest and widest collection of books that any educational institution in the area has to offer.
With a well-qualified and dedicated faculty for all courses and the eager determination of the students themselves, it comes as little surprise that nearly half of the Hemchandracharya north Gujarat University (to which the colleges are affiliated) merit list in any faculty comprises students from BKDKM colleges.
But, BKDKM goes much beyond merely offering tuition it encourages its students and offers them facilities to nurture their talents and allow their personalities to blossom to the fullest. For this, a number of facilities have been created including a sports pavilion and a large sports ground. Students are encouraged to participate in extra- curricular activities, and their talents are showcased in the many programmes organised from time to time. BKDKM organises science fairs; drama and painting competitions; a mini marathon; a garba festival and other activities every year, to encourage the all-round development of students.
Yet, perhaps the brightest facet of BKDKM is its belief in inclusiveness and its vision to extend educational opportunities to the widest section, including the weakest segments of society, of the district of Banaskantha. To enable the youth from variegated backgrounds to avail of the excellent education it offers, tuition is highly subsidised, the fee structure is kept low, and several colleges have a grant-in-aid status. Furthermore, scholarships - and assistance - are extended to differently abled students and those hailing from tribal and economically weaker sections.
Recently, additional land of about 7091.46 sq mts was acquired where BKDKM can expand its offerings by setting up new faculties and facilities to cater to changing times.
Today, Banaskantha represents an altogether different picture than that of all those decades back. The average literacy rate for the district is 65.32% according to the last census. There is a greater vibrancy to the economic progress and the area has developed in several ways to take its place in the modern world.
BKDKM is proud to have played a role in the regeneration and revitalising of the region, to whatever extent. For, by educating one young person, not only do we impact his or her own individual life, we impact the lives of their families, the larger society and upgrade their ability to contribute to the economy and the country.
As Swami Vivekanand said: “All the wealth of the world cannot help one little Indian village if the people are not taught to help themselves. our work should be mainly educational, both moral and intellectual.”