Tuesday, February 27th, 2024

Megha Bhagat and Abhijit Sinha receive the Rex Karmaveer Chakra Award for their audacious work in the field of alternative education at Project DEFY

Abhijit Sinha and Megha Bhagat: Co-founders, Project DEFY

New Delhi (India), December 20: Megha Bhagat and Abhijit Sinha, co-founders of the Bangalore based non-profit Project DEFY have been awarded the gold medal under the aegis of the Rex Karmaveer Chakra Awards. As part of the broader Rex Karmaveer Global fellowship, the Karmaveer Chakra awards were instituted by the international confederation of NGO’s in partnership with the United Nations. The award seeks to honour and recognize individuals who have vastly impacted society through their pioneering body of work and initiatives. 

The vibrant award ceremony took place on the 27th November at the Shiv Nadar School, Faridabad. Megha, who also serves as the Chief Growth Officer at the organization, received the award on behalf of both herself and Abhijit Sinha. Engaging with an eclectic mix of social impact champions, Megha expressed her excitement to exchange and share experiences with the other awardees. 

“As an organization, we had a humble beginning. What kept us going was the belief in the change we wanted to drive. Attending this event and sharing this space with other changemakers has been an enthralling experience for me. As part of Project DEFY, we are on a mission to create a more inclusive model of education.” 

Since 2016, Project DEFY has been at the forefront of creating a parallel movement in the space of alternative education. Through their flagship concept of ‘Nooks’, Project DEFY aims to democratize education by enabling learners and communities to design education for themselves (DEFY). In stark contrast to the mainstream model of education, ‘Nooks’ serve as an alternative community learning space where any member from the community, irrespective of their age or gender can embark on their learning journey based on what their interests are, what makes them curious and what problems they want to solve. 

Project DEFY stands to reject the notion that individuals, whether young or old, are mere “empty vessels”. Instead, the organization believes that everyone possesses unique skills, talents and aspirations. According to their philosophy, the current education system uses a brutal top-down approach that ends up silencing and crippling the true creativity of a child or learner in general. Embracing the tenets of self designed learning, the ‘Nooks’ are designed to help individuals discover their passions and pursue their aspirations. 

The ‘Nook’ concept by Project DEFY is one of the most audacious efforts in the country to build an alternative vision for education, one that does not follow the assembly line model of the industrial complex. What started as an experiment, is now a reality. Project DEFY is currently running Nook spaces in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Meghalaya. In Meghalaya, Project DEFY has collaborated with the Sauramandala Foundation and the Government of Meghalaya where the concept of Nook is taking shape under the name of Chief Minister Youth Centres (CMYCs). Apart from this, Project DEFY has also opened Nook Spaces in Bangladesh and Africa, including the countries of Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda.

In its short existence, Project DEFY has not only driven impact across international geographies but has also received accolades from other prestigious international institutions, including being recognized by the ‘hundrED’ education collective multiple times. Apart from this, Project DEFY has time and again collaborated with various governmental, non-governmental bodies and international agencies to drive consistent impact. It is hard to imagine a learning space where both a teenager and a grandmother can learn together, a space which encourages not only STEM domains but also art and culture. Nooks present a more humane approach to education where the focus lies on building the agency and choice of the learner. 

Along with working in the space of alternative education, Project DEFY is also leveraging its community-centric philosophy to help marginalized communities become self resilient in the face of natural disasters. The DISPECS initiative, which stands for Disaster prepared community spaces has completed its design phase and is being currently piloted in rural parts of Assam.

Jeroninio Almeida, founder of Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship, emphasizes the need for recognition beyond the traditional awards reserved for privileged individuals in various fields. The Karmaveer Awards were established to honor unsung heroes and change champions from diverse backgrounds who selflessly work towards addressing societal issues. These awards aim to celebrate individuals who embody the spirit of making a positive impact and leading transformative change. Eitu Chopra, Co-Founder of Rex-Ideas For Action, describes the Karmaveer Awards as more than just accolades; they represent an emotion, a mindset, and a commitment to being the change. The awards foster a culture of continuous learning, with a unique hierarchy ranging from the Karmaveer Chakra badge of honor to various medals and prestigious recognitions like Karmaveer Puraskaar, Karmaveer Jyoti, and Karmaveer Maharatna. This progression encourages recipients to take on increasing responsibilities, learn, grow, and contribute more to society as true Change Champions. Explore more about the fellowship and awards at www.rexideas.com.

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