Busy parents often don’t know how to keep their children productively engaged and interested. Rohini Vij started NutSpace in Kanpur to address this need.
Rohini Vij was earlier a working woman with a fulfilling career of 8 years in Publishing and corporate communication. Once she had her baby, she moved to Kanpur, her husband’s home town, as she would get more help from family to raise the child. This move which was initially perceived as a temporary one, and later proved to be the place where she found her ‘ground’.
She quickly realized that the children didn’t have anywhere to go except to malls. Kids these days are usually left to entertain themselves when parents are finishing chores and their own work. Normally it’s the TV or the numerous gadgets that are made the baby sitter whatever age of the kid. Weekends and holidays are dreaded by some parents I know, as they don’t know how to keep them occupied.
This is the potential space which Rohini Vij stepped into. This saw the birth of Nutspace, a place she created for kids to be engaged and to learn skills, which she set up in Kanpur.
Rohini is a certified storyteller from The Academy of Storytelling, Kathalaya, Bangalore. She started this space in her basement but now it has evolved. “We developed a program called Inventive Thinking that works towards building 21st century skills in children. The program uses stories at its core,” says Rohini.
She says, “We offer programs for 1-16 year olds and have kept in mind the need for technology in education. At the core of our programs we use stories. Storytelling is a part of the lesson, and makes the actual lesson much more powerful. Perhaps that’s what makes us different from the rest.”
She also adds with amusement, “It has given me the opportunity to become a child again. I was an average student in school and I never really enjoyed studying. I figured out the reason as I worked at NutSpace – our education system!”
Rohini shared a story with Women’s Web – one of the many that she uses at NutSpace in her work with children. Here it is.
Once there were two women who lived by the banks of a river that flowed close to a small village. Both the women were extremely beautiful. One day they had a small argument which turned into a heated one. The point of contention was as to who was more likeable of the two. They decided to do an experiment. They would go into the village and whoever would come back with more followers would be the winner.
‘Truth’ went first. She decided to go into the village naked. The moment people saw her they ran into their homes, locked their doors and windows. Pretty soon the entire village turned quiet. Truth was devastated. She rushed back to her home sobbing inconsolably.
‘Story’ went next. Draped in a colourful cloak, she walked towards the village. No sooner did she enter the village than everyone came rushing out. They circled around her, everyone wanted to walk with her. When story came back, of course she was the winner.
Truth was upset. So as to console her friend Story decided to do something for her. She removed the colourful cloak she was wearing and draped it around the naked shoulders of her friend. “Now go into the village once again, my friend.”, said Story
With a Story cloaked around Truth, the people of the village opened their hearts to Truth too.
If this story kept you engaged, you get to see how the choice of stories is the medium for engaging and educating at the same time. By the way this is one of Rohini’s favorites and is a Yiddish tale.
Being a new idea she definitely had to go through the trials of convincing people to get their kids to join. “Mostly, it has been word of mouth marketing for us in the beginning. Happy parents and children have recommended us to their friends and families. We now leverage social media extensively for recruitment,” she says.
The other challenge she faced was to develop high quality content for the classroom. Rohini says, “We have managed to achieve this to quite an extent. Most of our content is created in-house and we are actively crowd sourcing.”
In all this what keeps her going is family and friends. “Spending time with my 4.5 year old son Viraaj, the inspiration for NutSpace, helps me unwind”. She would like to vouch for the fact that support from her family has been phenomenal.
She also tells us sadly how difficult it is for some women who have had to give up their talents and dreams for so called ‘family/social traditions’. She proudly admits that “At NutSpace we offer a flexible work environment to women and this helps them take care of their domestic commitments.”
“I envision NutSpace as a catalyst in transforming the face of education in India.” She feels that this would be the biggest contribution she could provide. I would totally understand this feeling as it comes from seeing people chase grades, people demanding teachers to give extra attention and putting kids in various tuition classes, all in pursuit of making them replicas of each other.
“A child who barely spoke a word in the first class asking question after question in the seventh class. The most reluctant parents keep renewing and coming back I feel we are doing something right.” As an educationist these are definite highs on any given day and same with Rohini.
“Building a company is like nurturing a baby, it needs everything in the right proportion, especially patience and time. At times you might feel you should go faster than your normal pace. You might feel you are lagging behind. Be kind to yourself and remember that all you can do each day is get as much done as you possibly can and move on the next day. Make time for yourself even if it’s just to breathe and smell the air.” she says for those who want to start something of their own.
Images source: Rohini Vij.