Udaipur : At a time when castes and religion are believed to be the root of growing intolerance in society, this educational institution stands out as a model for its initiative, though a very small step, in reducing the stereotypes based on identity. Vidya Bhawan Polytechnic college, an institution run by VidyaBhawan educational society, imparting diploma, post graduate diploma level and various skill development courses has done away with the age old practise of surname usage in maintaining records.
Here everybody, from the students, to the teaching and non teaching staff and even the Principal are identified by their first names only. ” We call it the First Name First Initiative (FNF) under which only the first name would be used for anyone who is a part of the college. Under FNF, surnames of students have been removed from the attendance registers and likewise last name of the staff too have been striked off from the name plates. We are all known by our first name” Principal Dr Anil (Mehta) told Udaipur Kiran. The idea struck the Principal three years ago and with some initial inhibitions, people started conditioning themselves to the new mannerism.
“Casteism is conditioned in our system and all of us are somewhere tuned in for it. In a society like ours with varied cultures, diversity is a strength but when the difference leads to biases then the aspect becomes rather a hindrance and we do not want that our students too nurture such biases inside them” Anil emphasized. The college has a strength of 580 students who are enrolled for mechanical, electrical, electronic, IT and civil engineering diploma courses and rubber technology post diploma course. The teaching, technical and helping staff strength is 65 including 12 female workers.
“Accepting the new way hadnt been easy with confusion prevailing where pupils having same names happened to be in a class. We thought a wayout and in such cases ‘initials’ of last name are used to confirm identities” Anil says. The FNF initiative has so far met 80 percent success rate and on the next level, the college administration is gearing up to remove the surnames from the display boards of the merit holders of the institution. “We can not do away with the last names completely as they have to be kept in the service records of staff members. However, on a superficial level, this initiative has helped to a large extent in changing the mindset specially of the younger generation and inculcating a feeling of oneness” Anil said.
Another major change the VidyaBhawan society has implemented for all the 13 institutions run by it, is by doing away with the hierarchial way of keeping attendance records. The society president Ajay Mehta and CEO Suraj Jacob have made it mandatory for the affiliated institutions to maintain the attendance record strictly on alphabetic order. ” This step has been taken to promote values basedon equal respect for people of all races, gender, religion and socio-economic background. To develop a broad and open minded outlook on life, such baby steps come really handy” Jacob said.