I write this obituary with a heavy heart. Dr. Bijaya Sahoo, promoter-chairman of the Bhubaneswar-based SAI International Education Group, comprising the Sai International School (SIS, estb.2008), Sai Angan Preschool (reportedly the largest pre-primary in Asia, estb.2015), Sai International College of Commerce (2015) and Sai International Residential School (2018), all new millennium, globally benchmarked institutions with an aggregate enrolment of 5,260 students and 756 teachers, passed away in Hyderabad on June 3 at the relatively young age of 58, following a long battle with Covid-19. With his demise Indian education, especially the socio-economically backward eastern seaboard state of Odisha which he impacted on the education map of India, has suffered an incalculable loss.
A commerce and law graduate of Utkal University, Sahoo pressed on to qualify as a chartered and cost accountant and built a prosperous practice in Bhubaneswar, also co-promoting several business enterprises. However, in the new millennium he sold his practice and business interests after he experienced an epiphany to the effect that universal high quality preschool-class XII education is the best prescription to place the people of the outlier state of Odisha (pop.43 million), ill-famed for famines and starvation deaths in its Kalahandi district, on the road to sustained socio-economic development. For five years he toured the world visiting reputed schools and studying their best practices before promoting SIS, as the pioneer new age day-cum-boarding school of Odisha.
Shortly after the first unprecedented annual (EWISR) that rate primary-secondary schools countrywide on 14 parameters of education excellence was launched, Dr. Sahoo met with your editors and resolved to develop SIS on a broad front across all parameters. Fittingly in EWISR 2020- 21, SIS was ranked India’s #1 day-cum-boarding school. Simultaneously, Sai A ngan was ranked Eastern India’s #1 preschool. In recognition of his commitment to education excellence, in 2019, Dr. Sahoo was appointed special advisor with cabinet rank of the Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya Sangathan with the mission to establish one CBSE-affiliated English medium government school in all 314 admin blocks of the state. Working with customary speed and efficiency, he ensured that 214 K-12 OAV schools were operationalised within two years before the deadly virus claimed him. The consolation is that the excellent education institutions he built will enshrine his memory forever.