Saturday, September 8, 2007

Report 2006-2007

Dear friends,

We are happy to present the 9th Annual Report of Adharshila Learning Centre, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Thanks to your support and belief in us and our work Adharshila is one of the leading examples of alternative education in the country.
A brief outline of ideas practiced in Adharshila is presented here. Hope you enjoy reading. It will be a great help if you share this report with other friends interested in children, education and those who want to join hands for a good cause. We will send the report to your friends if you can just mail their id to adharshila.learningcentre@gmail.com
Your suggestions will be very useful for us.

Annual Report
Adharshila Shikshan Kendra
2006 – 07
Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan
Village : Sakad, PO : Chatli, District Badwani
Madhya Pradesh
Phone : 07281 283221
adharshila.learningcentre@gmail.com


The Cast

155 children at the opening and about 135 on the farewell.
80 residents and 75 day scholars
Girls – 40
Adivasis – 150



Badri Lal Solanki – Mess, Agriculture and Miscellaneous tasks
Devika Solanki – Craft, agriculture
Shobharam Kanouje,- Middle classes, Administration, Accounts
Shanta Kirade – Sports, library
Nemichand, Vadarsingh Pawara – Middle classes

Student Teachers

- Senior girls and boys who will give the 10th exam from the open school next year, worked really hard to make the primary school a success -
Kamal, Majali , Suresh, Shakuntala, Suresh Chota, Prakash,
Savita, Anita, Anita, Sunita, Bhagiram, Gyarsilal, Seetaram, Dinesh

And

The Amazon and Nile group children helped by taking classes in their free time –
Dharmalata, Manisha, Jamuna, Vijay, Shersingh, Anil, Kashiram, Pushpendra, Chetaram,

Volunteers

Karuna, Shashank, Sumit and Vijendar

Direction

Jayashree and Amit

Introduction

The mandate we had set for ourselves was against the common perception of people. We started work in an area where in the name of education people have only seen non functioning govt. schools. There expectation is to simply have a good school, ie. where every body passes with good marks. As opposed to this we have been trying to make Adharshila a place where children can live freely and creatively and not be bogged down with the drudgery of school.

Secondly, there is no link between schooling and the life around us. The only link that people see is - schooling leads to job leads to money leads to better life. For some years this link worked for a few individuals. How many individuals benefited from this can be gauged by the fact that about 98% children who join school never compete school. Even the national average for this is 96%. Also the jobs found through schooling are usually outside the local economy. So schooling has not led to any societal change – nor in terms of strengthening the local economy nor awareness about problems and solutions. It has not contributed to finding solutions to people’s problems – economic or social. In this sense schooling has not educated children. They only make a few of them capable to serve at the lower end of the job market.

Our mandate was to change this linkage. To make education more relevant in the local and broader context. To help the child realize his talents, potential and dreams while growing up. To help him bloom in his own special way, rather than mould him in a particular way.

Thirdly people see schooling as a way to ‘discipline’ the child through a strong authority.
Where as we are against hierarchy and authoritarianism. We see Adharshila as a place to nurture freedom.

People see education as a gateway to the mainstream world. We see Adharshila as a foundation for a new world.

Adharshila is not just about teaching children. It is about educating society through these children. Success or failure, we are not sure but definitely there are lots of lessons to be learnt for people interested in education for change.
…………………………………………………………….
It is difficult to write an annual report after a decade. One is constantly reminded of all the dreams, struggles, successes and failures. The immense effort of so many people and on the other hand, extreme frustrations and loneliness at times, Lot of ideas have been tested and challenged, new ideas born, in the past ten years. We started on a clean slate. Now we are ready to write a book. In this report we are presenting some of the themes (very briefly) that have engaged us during the last ten years..

Democracy in Adharshila

The criticism of regular schools is manifold. The regulars are that they promote rote methodologies, stifling of children’s creativity, the culture that the school promotes, curriculum and cramming facts, cut throat competition – thus individualism. One more which is not so popular, even in alternative education circles, is the structure of the school it self.
Some of these are also seen as problems by mainstream schools. But some like competition are actually seen as strengths of the school. Some people send their kids to schools for the elite culture that they breed. They know where they belong!

While starting Adharshila we had all this in mind and more. Let me share our experiences in democracy in Adharshila. We started very radically like all new converts do. In the first year we took student feedback on teachers. Not just this we shared it with teachers also, though after much briefing – this was a big mistake. They just didn’t want to take it. We also realized that the power it gave to children was too much for them to handle. They started behaving rudely with the elders.

We were amazed at the possibilities of this bombshell method of giving power to children but also cautioned. We were also scared that the already scarce commodity, the teacher, will vanish.
But this experiment definitely set the tone for the children and adults for things to come.
One of the complaints of adults to date is that children speak in front of adults, don’t respect elders and the usual cribs. But no one can deny that they do a lot of great things.

When we got hold of the book about Summerhill, we knew that we were in the company of greats – in thinking about democracy in schools. We were greatly impessed and immediately set out to apply Summerhill to Adharshila. It was called swashasan. The rules had to be made by the children and they had to adhere to it and see to it that they were followed. Swashasan meetings were a hit. They lasted till 10 -11.00in the night, without us of course. Rules were made, changed, punishments and warnings – the works started happening. Gradually the seniors or vocal people started earning the ire of the junta.

But democracy half way is very dangerous and damaging to democracy itself. Though lot of decision making was happening, it was more of a implementation committee. And we were still there to veto or the children knew what was right by us. It came to an end on its own due to lethargy. It demanded a lot of energy on children’s part.

Right now there is a group of about 12 senior students who are very actively involved in running the school. They have Sunday meetings to decide the week’s program and fix responsibilities. Thursdays are review days. The farm, student mess, primary classes - all come under the purview of these meetings. The annual function was done completely under the guidance of this group.

Next year the group will be involved in more key decisions.

The senior children, who are not giving board exams, are free to choose their topics of study/activities, based on their interest. They make their weekly schedule, daily schedules and follow it on their own. Some times weekly targets are given to them and they are asked to complete on their own and get the work checked. Many days they are working for ten hours. Classes are taken to introduce new topics.

Progressive School

We try to follow a questioning approach. Many contemporary issues are debated and different viewpoints are brought forth. Some of the central themes are - Gender sensitization, people’s view of environmental problems, importance of organic farming,
Self respect – through language, culture, history.

Many projects and activities are undertaken to discuss these ideas. Special workshops are also held on specific subjects.

Innovative education

Some examples

Natak India Company recognized & Theatre in Education

1st January 2007. 45 children and teachers are packed in a small truck. They are singing songs and shouting slogans. Spirits are high. They are off to Ankush Vihir, a small village in Maharashtra.

This year the Natak India Company, Adharshila’s theatre group was honoured. It was invited to perform in an Adivasi Sammelan in Maharashtra in front of a 10,000 strong crowd. Darbar Singh had seen the Company’s performance 5 years ago in another sammelan and had liked it. He came to invite us saying he wanted the same play. Reason – people remembered the dialogues of the play even now and all the bhashans of big netas were not even heard attentively. We were flaterred. He payed for our travel and hospitality. We earned a good friend.

He is also ready to start a school on the Adharshila pattern. Last we heard was that he had identified a piece land and one or two persons to run the school. Theatre is regular feature in Adharshila. The children love to enact stories. The elder children enact plays on Independence Day depicting the full story of the independence struggle in the local context. Besides being an excellent educational medium theatre helps children in confidence building and opening their personalities.

Theatre was also used in a workshop with the adolescents, about the state of children in villages. During the workshop a play evolved which was shown on the annual day. Two teachers also participated in a 4 day theatre workshop, held in Adharshila.

Indigenous Urea factory urf Organic Farming

Do you know every house has a urea factory! Yes, even your’s. Well urea – urine – sounds similar, is similar. Adharshila has at least 80 residents and 3 animals. This makes it a very big urea production centre. Production is high but collection and use is less.

As far as the cow urine is concerned it acts as a pesticide and enriches the soil and we spray it regularly in our field. It is really a substitute for urea which farmers have to buy in increasing quantities every year and which surely destroys the fertility of the soil.

Some farmers in our neighbourhood and some parents also picked up the practice. Coming back to the urea factory – we saturated heaps of soil with piss and put it in the farm. Visitors were very amused when shown the urea factories.

While we are in the farm ……….

Like last year this year too we were deeply involved in louki, torai, baingan and tamatar and kaddoo. This year’s highlights were the 4 ft. long loukis. In spite of excessive rains we were able to get about 5 quintals of vegies and 1 quintal daal. We used cow urine extensively. Pesticide was made from leaves of local plants and trees. Milk products were also used to fertilize the field. And of course organic matter was put around the plants as mulch. We tried a new idea of not weeding the brinjal and tomato plot for quite some time. When the weed became as big as the plants we cleared the area around our plants. Later the weed was not uprooted but cut and spread. In some parts, where it was very thick, it was uprooted. This gave us the much needed organic matter of which we are very short. We were also able to establish a green fence around one vegetable plot, comprising mainly of Adulsa and Aloe.

The children went around the village to collect waste organic matter. There were three school plots. The responsibility of looking after these plots was given to different groups. The children worked on these plots during school time and also in the evenings. Each group had it’s own plot also where they planted whatever they wanted to. Some children made their own groups and cultivated. These were also very successful. This year’s bhindi kings were Shobharam(10yrs.) and Ganesh (12yrs.) of Brahmputra group.

Another highlight was that the growth of brinjal plants was extremely vigorous, although it was planted on very poor quality land. They withered due to lack of water. We tried a lot, but could not put a drip irrigation system in place.

On our educational tour this year we went to see the organic farm of Dhirendra and Smita Soni. They are electronic engineers who dropped their jobs to do organic farming. The best thing is they work on the farm themselves the whole day. The farm is their main source of income. The children were inspired a lot and so were we.

This year we can try to actually propogate the use of cow urine in place of urea by printing pamphlets and wall writing and talking to farmers. A team of children who are interested in organic farming can go to villages to propogate this. This has long term implications for making agriculture sustainable – one step to reduce dependency on the market.

Organic Farming is a part of the curriculum. It is one of the main ideas that we want to transfer to children. We believe it can become a part of their thinking only by doing it with full involvement and enjoying it.We are also trying to convince parents to adopt organic farming techniques on at least 1 acre land.

Working for the community

- Baal Melas in 15 villages

The team of student teachers and the Amazon and Nile group children went around govt. schools, talked to the principals and convinced them to conduct a Baal Melas in their schools. In this way theyorganised Baal Melas in 15 schools. In some places, on seeing the mela other teachers and Sarpanchs invited them to their villages. The travel of about 15 children was paid by the school teachers or Sarpanch. They also got donations. In the end they netted Rs 2000/-
In each school/village the Melas were attented by 100 – 200 children and adults. The main activities in the Mela were – group games, songs, science experiments, drawing, origami, story telling and looking at nails and lice through a microscope.

This is an activity which children can manage on their own and is also useful educationally. It helps raise the confidence of children and makes them more responsible. This is a very nice exercise in team management, leadership skills and group dynamics.They tried to identify youth in these villages who could be trained to do these activities on their own. But this could not happen.

Malnutrition Survey in 5 villages

Every year a health survey is done by children. This year the focus was malnutrition. We also had the advantage of Dr. Varma who guided the children. About 85 -90 children were found with severe malnutrition. The children learnt to identify malnutrition. The survey report prepared by the children was published by local newspapers. Dr. Varma also participated in a press conference in Bhopal, about the status of health in Madhya Pradesh. Due to Dr.Varma’s campaigning the district health administration held a health camp at a nearby village and AMS – a local people’s organization also took up the issue.

In the discussions that followed the survey, many chapters from the biology book, related to disease, primary health, food, protein, vitamins etc. were covered. The children discovered the power of campaigning and speaking out.The children also prepared health supplements and sold about 50 kg of it at cost price.

The children also learn about medicinal plants and ways of preparing ayurvedic medicine. This year children prepared balms for headache and cold, syrup for anemia and cough syrup with Dr. Varma’s help

School Health Programme

This is a new programme that we started this year with Dr. Varma. The idea was to interact with school children and make them aware about seasonal health problems and malnutrition, healthy diet etc. He visited about 10 govt. schools, once a month and gave talks. The teachers reacted quite positively to this.


Books and Newspaper by children

This is a regular feature of Adharshila. Children make their own books based on folk stories that they have heard from their elders. They also illustrate these books. They also make books on topics of their interest after consulting the library and talking to people who know the topic.
A weekly newspaper is taken out by a new group every week. The group is made by taking two children from each class. This is presented in the morning assembly. Interesting news items are also read out from the newspapers.

This exercise helps children develop their writing and comprehension skills in a creative manner. A Rough draft has to made before the final product. Other creative exercises are also taken to develop writing skills like taking interviews, writing songs and stories, essays, summaries etc.

Observations and science teaching

Recording observations forms an important part of science education. Children are encouraged to observe from a very early age. In the beginning they record observations through drawing and later in words and a numbers and by making tables. The kind of observations varies for different age groups. They observe just about anything – the food they eat, colour of clothes, things in the classroom, things in soil, growth of plants, changes in seasons, temperature, humidity, crops, seasonal disease, water levels … just about anything that catches the fancy of children or the teacher. The elder children undertake village level surveys and prepare tables to classify their observations. Results are discussed and conclusions are drawn from these observations.

Children are encouraged to ask what they want to know about things around them. Then their questions are taken up as topics and studied rather than doing chapters from the book. The children consult books from the library and write about their questions and later discuss in class.

Another aspect of science teaching is the social aspect of science. The older children are engaged in debates about so called achievements of science. The merits and demerits of dams, earth cutting machines, harvesters from the view point of tribals and labourers are discussed.

History

Children go around villages in groups to talk to elders and from these conversations piece together stories of the past. Some stories that they have been able to find are –

How people survived in droughts –stories of chapniya akaal;
How did Reechada Boyeda get it’s name?
Story of deforestation around Sakad Village.
History of the school land.
History of the local stream.
Story of a school run by Gandhians in the 1950’s
Besides these projects children make time lines, do historical plays and read books too.

Art Craft

The craft room was one of the most active places this year. Many children made woven jute bags and belts. The smaller children made mats and hand bands for themselves. Some knitted mufflers and caps for their fathers and small children at home. Some of the craft pieces were sold at the People Tree shop in Delhi.

Craft work provides dexterity to the hands. It helps in developing coordination in children. The satisfaction of making something with ones own hands is immense. To inculcate respect for people working with the hand is one of the important values that Adharshila wants it’s children, to imbibe. Like last year this year also children made greeting cards in the art classes. A poster competition was held to depict the plight of migrant labourers hit by silicosis, in Gujarat.

Tours and travels

This year too the children went on various tours. The major tour was to Rajpipla, Gujarat to see the hospital run by ARCH Vahini. The great thing about this is that it is being run by people who have got on he job traning with Dr. Pate.. We also saw a workshop for making farm machines through appropriate technology. We visted the Soni organic farm and were greatly impressed and motivated by it.

The sea at Dandi is a hit spot every year. this year we added Toran Maal to our list. This is the hghest point of the satpuras in this region. The place is of religious importance and famous for its vast store of herbal plant. The children also visited our sister school – Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala, Jhabua. The smaller children went to Baewani to see the hand made paper factory, Bavangaja, and the Narmada river.

Primary Teacher Training Programme
A hope for the failures

This programme started last year. There were two-three reasons for starting this programme.
One was that schools produce 97% more drop-outs than pass. The programme is an extension of the original idea of older children helping younger children to teach. Thirdly economically this is a very viable for non funded organizations like us. 12 youngsters aged 16 – 18 years formed the student teacher group. For 4 of these it was the second year of teaching.

Some are Adharshila students who opt for 10th exam through open school. But others are 8th – 10th failures. When they join their academic level and self confidence is very low. In the first three months basic language (Hindi and English) and math skills are imparted to the student trainees. They are asked to learn nursery rhymes and do all the activities themselves. Mock classes are held with them. Discussions about the education system and general topics are held twice a week. Basically after the first year they start getting out of the failure mode and realise that they too can do something.

In the second year they start taking responsibilities independently. The pressure of giving the 10th board exam fast is a big detriment to their learning. Weekly meetings are held with each of them to plan the weekly programme and review the previous weeks work. We are in the process of finalising a curriculum of sorts for this group. They sit with senior teachers and assist them in various activities. After three months they were given independent charge for doing activities with primary classes.

This group of 12 students managed the nursery school almost independently. Besides teaching they also looked after craft, mess and general management. We had to hear a lot from the parents for this, though, who said that there are no proper teachers here. How can failures teach? To answer there questions the annual function was held in Chatli from where, lot of day scholars come. The function was conducted by these youngsters and was full of English poems and conversation as an advertising point.

We are looking for a co-ordinator for this programme.

New trades learnt

Plumbing - four children helped in setting up the plumbing lines in the campus. Two children have gone to Hyderabad for a two mont course on plumbing and electric fittings.

Masonary – Six children constructed a water tank base I the masonary project.

Computers – three senior students learnt MSExel and helped in entering accounts and listing of library books. Others helped in data entry of reading materialprepared in the school.

Weaving – the children and one staff member learnt weaving jute bags hand bands and belts. We are also trying to sell them.

Natural dyeing – A team of two teachers and three students went to Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya, Vedchi, to learn natural dyeing techniques.

Tailoring – We supplied about 100 bags to Elements, a shop in Kerala. One boy went to Manthan, Rajasthan to attend a two month tailoring course.

Solar Lamp Repair – one boy went to Samparkgram, Jhabua to learn to repair solar lamps. He was already repairing the solar lamps on the campus.

Participated in …………..

· Activist Trainings organized by SRUTI.
· A.M..S protest march against electricity shortage and Blocking NH3.
· AMS dharna against irregularities in EGS.
· Staged a play in the Adivasi Sammelan, Nandurbaar, Maharashtra.
· District Health Sammelan organized by CEHAT,Badwani.
· India Social Forum in Delhi.
· Social Science Training for middle School organised by Eklavya in Bhopal.
· Delivered the Jaya Prakash Memorial Lecture, Gandhi Vidyapeeth, Vedchi, Gujarat.
· SRUTI Mitra Milan at Dehradoon.
· Press Conference on Right to Food
· India Health Forum, Bhopal
· Health Camp, Chatli.
· Cycle Yatra in Badwani District to find out the status of EGS works.


Support to New Initiatives

Initially we had thought that many Learning Centres will be established in the AMS area and with the help of other people’s organizations. Due to lack of people in Adharshila we could not give much time to this process. Though we contacted many people but nothing much came out of it. Many organizations showed interest, including some SRUTI fellows too. Every year people come and take ideas from Adharshila and start schools in their area but are not interested in keeping links in the future.

· Last year a new school was started in Mardai, a remote village of Badwani district, with Adharshila’s support in teacher training and educational support. This year with the help of other young people, the school has been transformed into a full fledged residential school with about 50 children.

· An NGO in Sheopuri, MP, started a residential school taking initiative from Adharshila. By chance this school is also called Adharshila. 5 teachers and a coordinator stayed with us for 3 days to study the ideas and method being practiced in the school.

· Training - Six boys, sent by AMS, a local people’s organisation, were given teacher training. They stayed in Adharshila for one month. They initiated the process of starting three schools in their respective villages. Out of these one was alive at the end of the year. They are trying to start a residential school next year. It was envisaged that the trainees will come to Adharshila once a month for two days to review, discuss problems and take the next month’s programme. But this did not happen.

Board Exam Results 2007

10th exams

Total students 2
Passed 2

8th exams

Total Students 11
Passed 8
Re appear 3

5th exam
Total students 14
Passed 14
Re appear none

We are richer by

Dr. G.D. Varma, an Ayurvedic doctor who has 10 years experience of working in NGOs He is looking after the health programme and health education of Adharshla and surrounding schools.

A generator. Due to the pathetic electricity situation in our part of MP our 3 phase tubewell just refused to pump water. Children had to treck daily. The task was done in a very organized manner but the sheer drudgery was too much. And when this went on for months we decided to buy a generator. Hope fully this will help on our farm too, though we will have to work out the economics properly.

A shed outside the kitchen. Due to Jaya’s ingenuity we got a big semi covered space outside the kitchen. This is used for eating, relaxing, sleeping and studying.

Teachers. Vadar Singh joined us with the usual promises of spending his lifetime teaching children in Adharshila. He lasted about 4 months. Was good, while he was around. Reason for leaving – govt. job.

Computers. Thanks to SRUTI we got computers, not one or two but full ten. The children started using at least three of them. We are looking for independent power options for these.

Bullocks. The two calves that we had have grown up and started working – on the farm and carting grain to the flour mill. Children had a nice time training them.

Morale Boosters – those who visited us…

· Dr. PV Bhalerao, Veterinary doctor, Maharashtra.
· Members of an NGO from Chhindwara
· Rohit and Praveen, film makers from Delhi.
· Pundalik and Alok, film Director, Mumbai.
· Student group from Manzil, Delhi, for 5 days
· Sushil Joshi, Eklavya
· Sunil and teachers from Adharshila, Sheopuri NGO, MP
· Ashok, Ekta Parishad, Gwalior.
· Students of Social Work College, Pune
· Students and teachers of Daily College, Indore and Appleby College, Canada.
· Shri Padawi, Akalkua, Maharashtra
· Shri Gajanand Brahmane, Mukesh Dudve, Sumli Bai, Bijoy, Rajesh and others from AMS
· Dinesh Solanki, Rajendra Sharma and Rajesh Dinge, Motiram Barde – trustees.
· Khemla and Bhuvan, KMCS, Jhabua, MP.
· Kemat, Ninga, Kisram and Bhagat from Rani Kajal Shikshan Kendra, Kakrana, Jhabua, MP.
· Shri Keniyalal, Ashagram, Badwani.
· Shri Nikunj Bhutiya, Orissa
· Payal and Karishma –student volunteers from the US
· Sumit and Vijendar, volunteered for 1 month and taught English
· Arundhati Roy, Writer and Critic
· Shreepad and Nandini, Manthan Documentation Centre., Badwani
· Harish Deshmukh, Dilip Solanki and Hri Pthode from Andhshradhdha Unmoolan Samiti
· Hartosh Bal, Journalist, Tehelka and Freelance writer
· Team from Bhasha, Gujarat.
· A British couple who came to India from England by land route.

Those who helped us, financially…..

This year too we managed the school without any institutional grants. Fees, grain and donations from friends kept us afloat. We even managed to build two covered areas with these donations.
Next year we will have to increase our fund raising exercise as we want to get more qualified teachers and it is becoming very difficult to retain people at the pittance that we are able to give. This we hope to achieve mainly through friends and students art work. But we are being forced to think about writing proposals to trusts with similar interests.

Mr. Mahesh and Ms. Madhulika Aggarwal
Mr Ramesh Kacholiya
Mrs.Bagchi
Ms. Pushpa Nagpal
Mr. Umesh and Ms. Shachi Atree
Shri Vibhash Sureka through the Krutagyata Nidhi
RS Bhatnagar Trust
Mrs. Chitra Kumar
Indu and Mr. Manoj Mathur
Mrs. Sneh Raj
Ms. Meenu Tewari
Dr. Pankaj Kr. Bhatnagar
Mr. Rahul, Mr. Pratyoosh and Ms. Mamata Kumar
Ms. Natasha Badwaar
Dr. Ms. Amita Baviskar
Mr. Ravindra and Ms. Pomilla Shroff.
Mr. Ranjan Mohanty
Mr. U.K. Varma
Ms. Urvashi Prasad
Ms. Kaushalya Gupta
Mr.Avinash and Ms. Sharma
Shri Shashank Kela and Ms. Karuna
Mr. Sanjay Paul
Mr. Arjun

Plan for next year – 2007 – 08

This year Adharshila will complete 10 years. We have many plans besides taking stock of achievements and failures. What was our agenda and what could we achieve?

Some plans for the next year are –

Fuel wood from the campus – Plant 500 trees in Adharshila.
One Tonne Organic Vegetables and pulses from farm.
Baal Melas in 25 villages / schools.
Complete teaching material for primary groups.
Dialogue with other alternative schools.
Teachers for middle section and a coordinator for primary section.
Help in setting up other schools/educational programmes.
Visit other schools
Explore the possibilities of making student committees and a people’s committee to moniter Govt. schools.

2 comments:

Rahul Banerjee said...

A very detailed start to the blog i must say. however i would suggest that this anuual report along with all other such reports be put in a report section on the side from where they can be reached by clicking. the post part of the blog should be given to interesting stories and photos of a short size that will catch the interest of the people who visit the blog. Also please change the format and make it brighter. a black background is intimidating.

Adharshila Learning Centre said...

Ok, Rahulji, will take your suggestions seriously !!