Geetha Narayanan's journey from starting up with INR 1000 to becoming an education visionary
Geetha Narayanan started her career as a school teacher in 1971 and formed Ujwal Trust with 5 other women and INR 1000 in 1982, with which she a started the Mallya Aditi International School and later on in 1996 founded Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. She dons the hat of the founder and director of both these institutions today.She has dedicated her life to finding and establishing new models of educational institutions with a vision of learning rather than schooling. These educational models are creative, synergistic, are beyond dualities of art-science, mind-body or even east-west and have a holistic approach towards learning. She is also the author and principal investigator of Project Vision, an international research initiative that is trying to develop instructional strategies and technology-related tools that foster creative cognitive architectures in young children from urban poor communities.
We had a chance to hear her story at ‘Conversations with Namu Kini’ sets and her plethora of achievements and contribution to education sector has not come easy. It took a lot of time and effort to get the first batch of students and fund raising, a hard nut to crack as we know, was never easy. She says that in the beginning, the month of March used to be a scary one where we did not know what and how to do things for the coming year but we kept moving ahead and things started falling in place.
While building the bigger compound for Mallya Aditi International School, she fell in love with design. For finding an architect to design an open, creative and positive space for students, they held a competition with entries from different companies. Reinstating the faith in their mission and vision, to their pleasant surprise, one who won the competition were the students from a design school who have registered for it under the name of a company.
With all the plans in place and the building architecture ready, there was again a shortage of funds for completing the building. After a lot of arduous efforts, she got an offer for a loan to get approved if they started a professional course and hence was born, Srishti School of art, design and technology. Geetha saw that there were schools teaching art or design or technology but she wanted to collate all three for a holistic approach towards designing.True to what Robertson Davies once said “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend,” the changing of people’s perception of her from a school teacher and administrator to a design professional was very challenging. But she stood tall and strong with her vision and today the institute has collaboration with 35 other institutes and runs the only full fledged Masters Program for French students in its Yelahanka campus in Bangalore.
At the age where most people are looking to a happy retired life, Geetha started her first for profit venture last year as a founder director at pepperSlate innovation and design. In her words, “I have always been swimming against the currents. If we all follow the status quo, it will never change.” Being a leading entrepreneur in the education sector, her entrepreneurial style is as different as her vision of the educational models (read her distinctive idea of ‘slow learning’here).
She has been and believes in being a curator rather than a leader. She says, “Do not try to manage, be the curator of creativity.” Being a grandmother and involved in many entrepreneurial initiatives, she is the living example that age is just a number and young is an attitude. Geetha, who finds her life her in work, hopes “to give the ability to take risks without the fear of falling flat on face” to as many people as she can.
Featured Image Credits – ARS Electronica