Sunday, May 11, 2014

Adharshila Learning Centre

Annual Report 2013-14

 


   Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Roll Call
  3. Academic
    1. Student Projects
    2. Craft
    3. Library
    4. Computer Training
    5. Teacher Training
    6. Exposure tour
    7. Student Scholarship Program
  4. Organic Farming
  5. Other Activities
    1. Publication
    2. Workshops
    3. Music and Dance
    4. Media
    5. Functions and Important Days
  6. Adharshila - A Democratic School
  7. Funding
  8. Participation
  9. Visitors
  10. Support

Introduction

The Adharshila Learning Centre situated in Sakad village of Barwani district in the state of Madhya Pradesh was started in 1996 under the Veer Khajya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan to work for the education and all round development of adivasi children and youth. Since then it has been working successfully and its area of work now encompasses primary and middle school education, organic farming, theatre for a social cause, propagating progressive, democratic and secular ideas in children and youth through magazine, workshops social media and any other creative medium.
Through its various programs Adharshila was able to reach out to about 3000 adivasi families of Badwani, Alirajpur and Burhanpur districts.
Over the years Adharshila has become a name to reckon with in the field of innovative education for children of marginal communities and is helping in training teachers involved in this difficult task.

Roll Call

Children

Life at Adharshila is made fun and hell by 117 energetic children from more than 25 villages – 95 boys and 22 girls
-          107 are in the hostel and 10 are day scholars
-          61 are in the Primary Section comprising of the Beej, Yamuna, Kaveri, Krishna and Brahmputra Groups
-          30 in the Middle Section consisting of the Amazon, Nile and Octopus Groups
-          3 in the High School of which Sunita helps the Beej Group children, and Anil and Abhishek go to the Chatli High School and stay on the campus and help in running the school.
Elders -Badri Bhai, Devika Behen, Majali, Kesarsingh, Sunita, Deewan Singh, Shobharam Kanouje facilitate the learning of children, take care of them and look after the daily grind of the campus which is much more tiring – headachemaari - than the teaching part.

Volunteers

Sai Pranav, a graduate from Hyderabad who stayed for 15 days, came to explore his teaching abilities and realised he was cut out for other things.
Sanjeevani an electrical engineer from the US/living with parents from Indore/originally Kashmiri volunteered from December to April. She engaged the children in science projects and also took a dance workshop. She gave valuable company to Majali, one of the senior teachers here.
Vibhore, a computer engineer from the US who divides his time between Adharshila and Araria in Bihar has been spending time here since the last two years. This year his main aim was to familiarize children with computers and tablets, which he had brought. He is now enrolled in a PhD program at Berkeley. He is also helping us propagate the idea of organic farming in villages through mobiles.
 Krunal, another engineer from Surat who left his job after doing Engineering to do a course in Education, worked with the children on an electricity project to find the total electric load of the Adharshila campus.
Nargis, Nishith and stayed at Adharshila for three days and painted the walls of the Beej Group classroom.
Direction  Jayashree and Amit, who have been living and working amongst tribal people for the last 30 years. They started the school with the help of Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, a local people’s organisation.

Academic

This section always worries us. What the hell ? We are not a regular school. We are an alternative learning centre. But where does the alternative lead to ? Huh! Parents want children to get into sarkaari noukri and talking of conditioning even a class 2 child, when asked why are you studying will say noukri judse ! So all alternatives lead to the mainstream. (Actually there is a message for all those trying to change the system by operating within the system). But the Ambedkarite argument is that first let us get into the system then we will critique it. The route seems to be - To get out of the system first you have to get in! So be it. We are with this logic on a practical level. Let us assume that if it is important for tribals or dalits then it must be important and hence worth doing.
The reading, writing and math skills of children in various classes are quite compatible with the level required in that class. For primary classes, it is at par for most children. Some children are much above the requirements. Some children have problems as they come to Adharshila after two, three, even five years of schooling in Govt. schools. They find it difficult, and it is difficult for us too as due to RTE we cannot admit them in a lower class. Though they are given extra classes, but it doesn’t happen regularly as it means another teacher. Staying in a hostel they have the advantage of having a chance to do extra study with friends. Topics like fractions, decimals, and difficult division remain uncertain. English comprehension is difficult. With lot of effort some achievement is made in reading. We emphasise on making a dictionary for the lesson and try to translate. Linking the meanings of words through prepositions to form a coherent thought is the main hurdle. But this year most 8th class students were able to translate the texts with the help of a dictionary. Remembering meanings is difficult. Sentence construction in English is very problematic.
At the middle levels it is very difficult for children to be at par with the expectations of the textbooks. There are many known reasons for this – the language of the textbooks suddenly becomes very high level. Many technical words are introduced in science and social science books. The level of math also jumps to a different level. For us, there is the extra factor of non availability of competent teachers.
Usually, we have seen that by the time a child passes through 8th class, she is confident of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Most can do fractions, integers and linear equations. Solving reasoning questions of geometry is difficult as they have no exposure to reasoning exercises before this. English of course is very difficult for a child who has no speaking or hearing back up.
Not that these difficulties are insurmountable but our main problem is lack of teachers who know the subject and know how to teach. Especially for 5th – 8th.
In spite of this last year the local High School toppers were ex Adharshila students. In an informal survey, we found that more than 95% children who have studied in Adharshila till 8th class completed their 12th. More than 75% have gone to colleges including engineering, diploma courses in nursing, technical traits, homeopathy etc.  Some have got into jobs – agriculture extension, police, private. One or two are even aspiring for the state/central civil service exam or a PhD. One has got into active politics, two are looking for jobs in the NGO sector.
There are many who have taken up farming. Unfortunately their families see them as failures. But we are very happy as we have a new project to take them forward in farming.

Student Projects

Children in Adharshila learn by doing projects rather than just reading lessons from textbooks. But again this depends on teachers as doing projects means more work for them.
Herbal Plants – The Brahmputra and Krishna Groups (primary) did a project of listing  various herbal plants on the campus. Each group listed about 20 plants and wrote their uses based on the information gathered from the teachers, cooks, children and some villagers. They made plots to plant them and in their enthusiasm killed one of the very rare creepers.
Aloe vera Medicine - The Krishna, Brahmaputra and Kaveri group children made aloe vera medicine for anemia guided by Majali. Actually it was made for their mothers, who are almost always anemic but they lapped it up before going home.
Biodiversity record of Adharshila - The Amazon group children did a very difficult statistical project to find out the number and variety of trees on the Adharshila campus. Difficult because for 6th graders managing data from different plots in a 6 acre campus, categorising by tree type, putting data collected by 5 groups in one table is quite a complex task. And this was done in copies not excel sheets. They identified 102 varieties of trees and over 1000 trees. Though this is quite a feat considering that we started with a barren piece of land but the number could have been higher with more people and better management.
One of the aims of Adharshila was to converse the different types of plant diversity of the area. In this sense this is a good start.
Solar Cooker project – The Amazon and Nile group children made small solar cookers and in the process learnt about heat, measurement of temperatures.
Water Project – Three groups surveyed the Sakad village and created a data base of water sources and the depth at which water was found. They realised that the water table is going down each year. They transferred this data onto the tablet and some children learnt to make graphs from the data.
In the same project they did an experiment to understand the conditions in which more water seeps in the ground. They were also shown the Satyamev Jayate episode on water conservation and the issue was discussed. But much to our dissappointment it didn’t seem to translate to not wasting water while washing with the taps open!
Electricity data Two electricity-related projects were undertaken. In one project the children estimated the electricity load in the Adharshila Campus. They learnt about power consumption, wattage, load, unit and other electricity related concepts. In the process they also learnt about electricity generation, transmission etc. In the other project they worked out the hours of electricity in their villages, while on the winter vacation. The survey punctured the much hyped 24 hr electricity supply propaganda of the Govt. under the Atal Jyoti scheme.

Solar LightAdharshila has many solar lights which are maintained by the senior students. This year too, the children underwent on the job training about maintaining solar equipment. But there is still scope for solar kit designers as we have yet to find tamper proof solar equipment which children cannot destroy.
Solar ClockThe Amazon group children made a simple solar clock on the ground with a stick and markings to see the shadow at different hours. It worked well for one month. They lost the enthu to rework the markings for other months.
Fertilizer Use The Nile group of children did a survey in Sakad village to find the expenditure on fertilizer. About 25 farmers were interviewed. This was part of the campaign to promote organic farming. During the project children learn tabulation, work out averages and learn to analyse data.
Learning on Tablets -Two tablets were donated to Adharshila this year. In addition to taking countless pictures of themselves and watching educational videos, the children used them to feed the data of water sources. The idea is that data from other villages and over years can be added to the same data base and after few years we can do comparative studies.
Methi Plots Every winter the primary school children make their own plots and grow methi. This year some children tried their skills at tomatoes and brinjals.
Flower Beds – Each class made a flower bed near its class room under the Classroom Beautification Project.
Drip with Saline Bottles - Every year we bring at least 50 old saline bottles which disappear by the end of the year. Children love to play with them usually making a drip for some plant or small tree. Gradually it develops into a river, bridge, cars etc.
Cycle Repair The year started with some children taking up the repair of the old school cycles. It was a nice exercise opening the cycle and re assembling the parts. One cycle was brought to running condition.
Wall Painting  The idea was to have syllabus topics painted on the walls of the school to increase familiarity. Some children took this up as a project and painted the digestive system, respiratory system and some single cell organisms.
Board Writing The children were encouraged to write inspiring quotes, puzzles etc. on the common blackboard.

Craft

This year the children did a lot of craft as we scheduled a regular class with Devika Behen. The children made hand bands, woolen caps, ear caps, crochet mats, mobile purses, mufflers, ladies cap etc.
Craft is an important activity for many reasons. One is concentration and hand eye coordination. We hope that they will also learn to be systematic, keeping things properly and other related habits. The intricate weaving pattern is a good mind bending exercise till one learns it. And lastly it gives great joy and a feeling of accomplishment when one has made something with one’s own hands.

Library

The Adharshila Library has about 5000 books which children read happily. Each class selects some books for the week and keeps the bag of books with them to read in the free time. In the last summer vacations libraries were started in 10 villages in the homes of our students who became the librarians. This year too we intend doing the same.

Computer Training

This year two computers were gifted to Adharshila by Asha and Rahul, and were deployed by Vibhore. At least 25 – 30 students got quite a lot of computer time. Mainly they learnt MS Word and some children started using Excel. They are given some school job for practice. For e.g. the children made stock lists of solar and mess equipment.

Teacher Training

For Adharshila Teachers
·         A 4 day teacher training was held at the beginning of the session where 15 teachers from 4 schools participated.
·         The Adharshila teachers went for exposure and training to the Nai Taleem School in Wardha.
·         Kesarsingh, Science teacher for the middle section, attended a 15 day training in Hoshangabad organised by Eklavya.
·         Sunita undertook the primary teacher training while studying for her high school.
For Other Schools
·         A two day teacher training was organised for teachers of the Rani Kajal Learning Centre, Alirajpur.
·         In house Activity Training for teachers of a school in Dewas district and schools run in Alirajpur district by the Khedut Mazdoor Chetana Sangath was held towards the end of the session.

Exposure tour

We strongly believe that travelling is a big learning experience. Like every year, the children went on tours this year also. The great thing was that the longest tour was partly funded by the Saklecha School who invited the Naatak India Company to show the play Bhanai.
Senior children  - Indore, Gandhi Sagar Dam, Mandsaur, Mandu Fort and Dinosaur Museum
Juniors – Shirpur, Barwani.
Teachers - Organic Farm of Vandana and Vasant Phutane          

Student Scholarship Program

SRUTI, Delhi gave scholarships to 10 students of High School/Hr. Secondary. All the students have been affiliated to Adharshila in the past and take part in the programs even now.

Organic Farming 

In Adharshila

 The Organic Farm is a major learning activity for children at Adharshila. Like every year this year too organic farming was one of the main activities. The farm produced about 21 quintals of veggies providing for almost 6 months (many times mixed with daal, kadhi). This is the official figure. Unofficially, children treat themselves to tomatoes, radish and even brinjals and ladyfingers. Also the vegetables taken by the staff are not weighed.
This year we structured the learning a little by making sure that each group has learnt to make some basic ingredients like Jeevamrut, Organic pesticide, growth promoting mixture. They wrote down the method of preparation after making these. Some of them even tried it at home.
Outside Adharshila
Another effort this year was of promotion of organic farming in surrounding villages by showing films, talking to parents and ex students, and by way of the Adharhila Radio messaging which reached out to almost 400 farmers in the area. Two meetings with app. 60 parents and ex students were held in this regard.
Many children prepared the organic pesticide at home and showed other techniques to their parents. We plan to go to the surrounding villages this summer to appeal to farmers to adopt organic farming techniques.

Other Activities

Publication

A book based on an earlier student project on famines was published by Eklavya, Bhopal. The book called Rookhi-Sukhi was released at the International Book Fair, Delhi in February 2014.

Workshops

Theater Workshop About 30 children and two teachers participated in a 15 day theater workshop led by Girish an aspiring Bollywood actor from Indore. More than acting it was a great exercise in confidence building, development of team spirit and taking responsibility.
Communal Harmony Workshop Two day workshop by Chintan Girish Modi. Children were shown a film on the theme and discussed. The children were asked to draw their impressions and the middle school group wrote letters to make new friends in Pakistan.
Gender Workshop Majali and Sanjeevani took a gender workshop for Adharshila Students. The gender project was done with the Krishna, Brahmputra groups. In the project the stereotypical images of women are challenged in the minds of children.
Organic Farming A workshop to promote organic farming was held for the ex students of Adharshila.
Internet Workshop A small discussion was held with adivasi college students to ask them to help in searching and downloading videos related to organic farming.
Painting Workshop A group of five young artists came to Adharshila for two days and painted the walls of the Beej Group (1st Class) depicting words starting with all the Hindi alphabets.
Music and Dance Four children learnt to play the Casio on their own. We just made it available to them. classes in the last session.

Media

Theater  The Naatak India Company was invited by Kamla Saklecha Public School in Bhanpura, Mandsaur district to perform on their annual function. The Company performed the play Bhanai. On the side they also had a nice trip as they visited various places in Indore and saw the power house in the Gandhi Sagar Dam on the Chambal river, a windmill farm and yellow sarson fields.

Calendar

Enthused by last year’s response, this year we printed 3000 copies of a regular calendar with photographs from award winning photographers on the theme of ‘Tribal Heritage’. We raised about Rs. 50,000/- for the school through the calendar. We are happy that this year the calendar reached in about 17 states and not just in the capitals but also rural areas through NGOs. About 100 calendars reached the US too !
About 500 calendars were distributed free of cost in villages.
For the next year we will print only if we are able to get orders beforehand as it is a painful job selling them.

Adharshila Radio

This year we started a new experiment to propagate messages through mobile to promote organic farming. Messages regarding various aspects of organic farming were recorded in the local language and broadcast at a fixed time to about 400 farmers. Many people called back. During the summer we will be following up on the people who showed interest. Listen to one -
 https://soundcloud.com/adharshila-learning-centr/organic-farming-jeevamrit

Functions and Important Days

Special Days- Sports Day, Annual Function, Painting Competition and Important Days like Environment Day, Literacy Day, Hiroshima Day etc. were celebrated. Special Assemblies are held on these days and children are told about the important people and events.
Baal Sabha – once a week a Baal Sabha is held for half a day where children show their talents. For each Baal Sabha a class is assigned the responsibility to prepare events for the Baal Sabha.
Baal Mela – A Baal Mela was organised for the school going and non school going children of Sakad. About 400 children/youth/adults participated and had fun. There were 25- 30 different types of activities and games.

Adharshila - A Democratic School

As an institution we have been concerned about making Adharshila a democratic place as far as possible. There are many limits to this democratic experimentation. Finance is a constraint. Lack of exposure or experience is another. The most trying limitation is our habit of living in a non democratic environment – family, village and in general all market and Govt. interactions.
So it is not just about creating structures or a set of practices. The idea is that over time children and adults develop a habit of expressing their opinions, listening to others without fighting and treating everybody as equals across caste, gender or age, not just top down but from below too.
Weekly Meetings - This year we insisted that decisions for the week be taken in weekly staff meetings where senior students also take part. On much pursuing, this happened at least 50% of the times. Mainly the decisions were managerial about listing tasks. Who/when types. But at least there was something. Basically, we felt there is a resistance for talking and sitting for too long for something. Gossiping can be endless. The middle class has made a fine art of gossiping incessantly on any topic. In the absence of a boss there is one upmanship, non-cooperation, who the hell do you think you are?.. and many such attitudes. But this all the more reason to develop these skills. Basically, developing the ideas of social democracy.
There are two aspects of Democracy. One is participating in decision making and the second is taking responsibility. It is not possible that decisions are taken by one group and implemented by someone else and getting things done needs a strong person. There is an implicit hierarchy in this of thinkers and doers. In the school context it would translate to teachers and senior students as opposed to rest of the children.
Student Karyakartas – Every 6 months or term student karyakartas are made to look after different aspects of running the place. Some of these karyakartas have to do something every day like overseeing the cleaning, taking out mess rations. In some cases the Karyakarta becomes a boss especially the cleaning one. There are others to welcome guests, look after sick students, electricity, water, etc… Somehow they insist on calling themselves Mantris (which they were named earlier without giving much thought). It’s a tough job making them karyakartas.
Swashaasan Meetings These meetings are students meetings held twice in a month where students speak up their problems. Either they speak directly or they ask the concerned karyakarta to talk about it. The problems mainly relate to the school administration, mess, and rules. Sometimes they also relate to problems with other children. The teachers note the problems and try and take action or give explanations. Some meetings see loud confrontations between the children and the teachers.
Senior students meeting with teachers Senior students sit in the weekly meetings and separately with the teachers also to talk about their problems. Mainly the teachers have to convince them to get things done.
Weekly Newspaper Every week a group of 4-5 children, one from each class spend the whole day making the newspaper. All the important events and fights are covered in this. Digs are taken at teachers. Burnt rotis are headlines. To make it more appealing photos from newspapers are pasted. This is read in the assembly the next day. We wanted to graduate to a children’s monthly magazine but the teachers couldn’t gather the stamina. Maybe next year.
Boycotts As children share a lot of daily work, many times they just boycott. Especially mess duty when the mess workers are absent for long durations.

Funding 

Adharshila is running for the last 16 years with the support of friends and parents of children. Almost 40% - 50% come from the parents. The rest comes through donations from friends. The total annual budget of running Adharshila was between Rs. 6 – 7 lakh. Next year it will go up to Rs 10 lakh due to increase in salaries and staff. Also we have started subsidising girl students which means it will increase the share of donations. We use different strategies for fund raising -Adharshila is running for the last 16 years with the support of friends and parents of children. Almost 40% - 50% come from the parents. The rest comes through donations from friends. The total annual budget of running Adharshila was between Rs. 6 – 7 lakh. Next year it will go up to Rs 10 lakh due to increase in salaries and staff. Also we have started subsidising girl students which means it will increase the share of donations. We use different strategies for fund raising -Calendar on the theme of Tribal Heritage – raised app. Rs. 50,000/-
Naatak India Company – Sponsored the students exposure trip. App. worth Rs. 30,000/-
Personal friends
Some friends donate royalties of their books and CDs
One friend of a friend donated the cash received as gift in her wedding.
Seriously engaged in organic farming which saved us more than Rs. 40,000/- taking Rs.20/kg as the average cost of vegetables.

Some friends sponsor the education of children @ Rs. 8000/year. This includes hostel fees. 

You can pitch in For the next year
Getting uniforms from students in Indore. (Revali’s effort)
Raddi money from friends in Indore. A volunteer is helping us do this.
Getting the stationery sponsored.
A Jeep to intervene in Govt. schools of the area.
Donation for cow for milk
Raise funds for construction of two classrooms sand semi covered eating space.
Teachers for middle school.


Participation

International Indigenous Day, Sendhwa
Organic Farming Training, Wardha
Teacher Training, Nai Talim Vidyalaya, Wardha
Land Rights Seminar, Delhi
SRUTI Saathi Milan, Delhi
Chhaatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini Shivir, Delhi
Adivasi Ekta Parishad, National Convention, Silvasa, Panji
Dasha aur Disha, BRTS seminar, Indore
Women’s Day Function, Indore
Adivasi Youth Facebook Sammelan

Visitors

Azim Premji Foundation office staff from Bhopal.
Sangharsh Vahini Rashtriya Adhyaksh and member from Allahabad
UNICEF consultants from Bhopal
Nargis Sheikh, Illustrator from Eklavya
Pallav, Photographer, Bhopal
Vikram Achhaliya, Adivasi Yuva Shakti
Rajesh Kanouje, Adivasi Mukti Sangathan

Support

Many individuals and organisations supported the efforts of Adharshila. Some financially and some by providing material help. Please point out if we have missed anyone. We will be happy to edit.
SRUTI, Ms. Varsha Bhatia, Shri Lolichen, Ms. Sriparna, Shri Aman Madan, Dr. Sneh Raj, Dr. Pankaj Bhatnagar, Dr. Holkar, Indore, Shilpa Kamat, Karishma Desai, Sanjay Singhal, S. Srinivasan, Dr. Hem Bhatnagar, Urvashi, Gaurav, Natasha Badwar, Rajesh Khindri, Pallav, Payal Sampat, Madhulika Aggarwal, Rahul and Asha Brown, Noyana Chowdhary, Ruchi Kashyap, Shomali Johri, Clifton, Karuna, Jiten Nandi, Sushant, Ashutosh Jani, Roshan Nair, Neeta Bijoor, Anke Hegmann, Emily Baker, Priya Kamat, Heidi Branz, Ben Sibrack, Michael Paine, Manju and Om Mandhana, Kshitij Mishra, Tutul Chatterjee, Usha Ravi, Bhavani Venkat, Preeti Rakesh, Bibha Singh, Neha Singh, Sheera Duerigen, Yukendra Harris, Bill, Emily Janssen/Praxis, Deborah Riverbend, Shuchi Anand, Vibhor, Sanjeevani, Vinod Bhargava, Christian, Jose Enciso, Aubrie Maze, Bill Lebon, Jayasree Subramaniam, Bhupen, Swati ...
Manju and Om Mandhana, Vibhor, Asha and Rahul provided stationery, laptops and tablets to Adharshila. Eklavya, Bhopal printed a book by Adharshila children,
Many institutions bought the calendars in bulk – Azim Premji Foundation, Lokmitra, Madhya Pradesh Sangharsh Lok Sajha Manch, People Tree, Spandan, AKRSP, Pat and OXFAM Raipur.



End Note


We may have missed some things the teachers and children did and some people who helped during the year may have been missed out. The error is only of the report writer. Please hit out so that we can correct and edit the blog. Thanks.