A calm person with a ‘can do’ attitude, educator Sakar Pudasaini started Karkhana along with his peers as a place for ‘innovation focused’ educational system. Located in Gyaneshwor, Karkhana welcomes everyone who has the desire to learn and do better for the community. Their website says ‘they want to catalyze an ecosystem that permits kids they teach to do the things they were unable to do – create innovative solutions to local problems, and make a living while doing it.’ With dedication and hard work, Sakar and Karkhana have made themselves the front runner in the new age learning sphere of the Nepali educational system by introducing a radical new way of educating kids altogether.
Speaking of his journey, Sakar says, “When I was in class 4 at St. Joseph’s, North Point, computers were introduced in my school, and immediately I realized my calling card. Some kids were attracted towards music, sports and such but for me it was computers.” He remembers his love for computers was so strong that when he was in class 5, along with a few students of class 8, they started a computer club and since then he wanted to become a computer engineer. “Long story short, for my college I applied for Computer Engineering programs. I completed my program from John Hopkins University, worked there for 4-5 years following graduation and worked at Georgetown University for a few years where I worked for various large scale computer systems,” he recalls.
Pudasaini explains how regardless of how much passion one has for their dreams, as time goes by, you grow and start to change. “In my 20s I got interested in diverse sets of other things. I taught myself how to dance, I became more interested in philosophy, meditation etc. I feel in your 20s, you start the process of maturing. And I realized I no longer wanted to do the thing (computer engineering) that I had wanted to do my entire life,” he laughs. Without regretting any of what he had done in the past, he and his pet cat returned to Nepal in April 2011 to spend time with his family.
After coming back, Sakar spent about four months doing nothing. He would laze around, talk and go on long walks with his parents and just chill. “After a while I started looking around to see what was happening and tried to gain some insight. I knew I did not want to do computer engineering but I wanted to do something. I am the type of guy who finds pleasure in working,” he confesses. He along with his sister Surabhi started a project named Galli Galli, which was a way to curb bribing government officials by providing citizens with knowledge about all the documents required before hand. “Small types of corruption were happening because there were no clear instructions about what documents were needed and such. So we decided to create a platform similar to Wikipedia where all the information would be available and thought that it would at least help people,” he explains. Another project that caught his eye was of a group of young engineers who had created the Robotics Association of Nepal. Though they were doing small scale production, he liked their energy and teamed up with them to start a product design company. “We helped E-Sewa make a vending machine. We also helped a solar power company build a predictive technology with their charge control mechanism,” he says.
Further down the road Sakar started working with engineering students and found a gap in their thinking capabilities. He realized that even brilliant students with a clear understanding of what they had learned, looked at a problem with only one kind of solution in mind and when they couldn’t figure it out they blamed the system. “There was no alternative attacking of the problem. If it didn’t happen, it will not happen! A sort of negative mentality rather than finding an alternative way to a solution,” he says. Armed with this predicament, Sakar started conducting seminars and conferences in engineering colleges until he realized that many college level students wanted to get a degree and fly abroad and only a handful had that learning mentality. “Slowly and steadily we started working with lower and lower levels of students until we found that students in grades 6, 7 and 8 were the perfect demography. They have this curiosity and excitement intact and are also slowly thinking critically. And SLC or SEE’s tension has not creeped up (laughs),” he adds.
This realization was 5 years ago and their team identify themselves more as educators rather than engineers. Sakar says, “This is how Karkhana came into existence; to change the thinking pattern, to change the educational ecosystem. One of the ways we thought of Karkhana in the early days was that whatever we now wish the generation before us had created, lets at least create that and leave the rest for the next generation. The generation before us did not create a good eco-system and if we do not take up the initiative to create that, the next generation will hit the same roadblock as us. This was one of the biggest visions we had from Karkhana,” he explains. At Karkhana they have a saying: “Makers today are the shapers of tomorrow” because that will help people shape themselves, their lives, their community, their nation. Sakar explains how in the real world new problems arise almost every day and that schools only teach students about problems that have already been solved. At Karkhana, one of their intentions is to challenge the student into thinking of new ways to solve problems and make them realize the process of problem solving. “Every problem at Karkhana is new and you will get stuck and the point is to be stuck so that you can learn how to get unstuck,” he explains.
A social business as he explains is very difficult to run. “We want to run things on our own and not through the interest of others. Sure, in time if our opinions align with that of an international organization, we will and can work with them. So it is necessary to have a core that will help revert back,” he reveals. Karkhana started with eight members seven years ago and still has those core members. A consensus based collaborative organization, Karkhana is run by strong willed individuals who want to change the educational landscape. They have been working on lots of new things in secret to introduce in the market and it’s been 7 years since they have been in operation. There are plenty of new products they are currently working on which are cool and exciting and they plan to unveil their hard work and fruition to the world sometime in early 2020.
“The main thing we want to stress is that we have to prepare children for the unknown. Nobody knows what’s coming. We can try and predict but there are so many distractions in the world that you never know. And the best way to prepare children is to give them an unknown situation now and let them figure out how to solve them. This can be done by changing the education system or by the parents themselves, the community or even among friends,” concludes Sakar Pudasaini, an educator who is determined to bring change.
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