Sunday, September 16, 2007

This week in Adharshila

Mirchi Week

This was mirchi week in Adharshila. After Jaya ordered a drastic cut in the red chilly in the daal and vegetable everybody was talking just about chilies or the lack of it. Chilly is the main spice and a favourite. So Jaya’s action couldn’t havee been taken lying down.
The older girls initiated a children’s meeting to canvass for more gun powder.
In the meeting Jaya put her point. She used all her persuation skills, and the facts that came out in the malnutrition survey conducted by the amazon group children last year. The survey, had shocked us when we found that even households with irrigation had malnutritioned children. The food habit survey had brought out the fact that very little veges or fruits were consumed. Mainly daal and in the lean season chilies were the favourite food.
More than half the children surveyed were found to be malnourished. Children were found to be eating mainly carbohydrates with chilies.

The older children understood the logic but chilly was part of a strong habit. Most of them agreed after she took the responsibility to get tasty food made without chilies. Finally they also made Jaya concede to put ten more chilies.

Well it’s five days now and every thing is fine. New things have happened in the mess. Like the fuel efficient, Sarai cooker, bought from AARTI, Pune was reactivated. Some other spices were added and Jaya took cooking classes of the older children who help in cooking.
As of now the matter seems to have ended.

Volunteers

Veena Lakra, doing her Masters in elementary education from Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, is here for her placement. She is trying to understand the teaching methodology used in Adharshila for social science related topics.
Shailaja, an organic farmer stayed here fo about ten days and showed the children many new techniques of growing vegetables. Most of her time was spent in planting seed to develop a fence around the farm and the campus.

Bhutta Break

The fact that the children are leaving tomorrow for home for a short break has overshadowed everything else. This break is unique to Adharshila. The corn in the fields is ready to be eat. children are given a break at this time so that they can go home and have their fills of corn and other fruits mainly traditional varieties of cucumber and watermelons.

……so long.
Meet you after the break.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An Appeal for Organic Farmers

Aazadi of a different kind……….
@adharshila.learningcentre
@sakad_in_badwanidistrict_madhyapradesh.ind
Flag hoisting on a barren piece of land on 15th August..
Part I

In the Kaveri group everybody is laughing at Mangala’s drawing of the flag.
Why are you laughing? A woman is unfurling the flag in Divya’s drawing! They exclaimed and started laughing again. So what? Why do you think a woman cannot do the flag hoisting?
This set the teacher thinking and it was decided that this year the flag hoisting would be done by a woman. So it was that Sumli Bai, an activist of the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan hoisted the flag this year and told the children about the various freedom fighters and adivasi leaders who laid their lives fighting for justice for their people.

Part II

Hey, where are we? Why are we in this field rather than being near the school building ?
And what’s this ? No flowers or decoration around the flag ? Five six types of leaves are placed at the base. Something in a bucket nearby is stinking.

It has started to drizzle and no shelter around. Mukesh Bhai is talking about the problems of farmers and the crises of agriculture in general. The children are getting restless and Mukesh Bhai cuts short his speech. The children run for shelter. Many elders also follow suite.
But a small band remains in the rain. The teachers and elder students of Adharshila are there. So are some villagers and parents of children staying with us in Adharshila. They are digging the field and putting hemp plants in the shallow pits and covering it with soil. The hemp was grown on the field and cut just before flowering. Cow urine and pesticide created from various leaves are sprayed on the plot where the hemp is buried.

It is a small ceremony. Every body is drenched in the rain. Someone breaks a coconut and says – today we are starting a new experiment in organic farming to save farmers from the clutches of money lenders and companies and also to provide food security to the poor.

Children are shouting slogans –

(Desi beej rakhna hai kisan ko bachaana hai.
Jaivik Kheti karna hai, Gulami se bachana hai –
We have to protect traditional seeds, and save the farmer.
We have to do organic farming and free ourselves from bondage).

The rain is there to bless us. If you believe in omens it’s a good start.

It is a beautiful sight. The flag furling with all its glory amidst a dark sky and green fields all around. People drenched in the rain. Digging the field and shouting slogans. There is a romance about the whole scene. A small but significant event. If we pursue what we have started then this 15th August will become a historic date.

Part III
After the children’s performances and sweets we got to serious talk with the parents - all farmers. The mood had been set by the ceremony. There were long sermons on the ills of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides by all the parents inspite of the fact that all of them use these chemicals and are heavily into market propoganda. Jayashree explained the main themes of organic farming. Most of the farmers were able to grasp this because they have seen chemical free farming themselves. Some of them still practice it in parts. She also told them some examples of Maharashtra where some farmers have taken yeilds to the tune of 3 tonnes in one acre. Or about 20 quintals jowar and toovar in one acre. Most people didn’t believe this. We said that we don’t believe this but want to try it on our land. Six other farmers and parents of children studying here volunteered to try this experiment on ½ of ¼ acre land. A small start..

Background……

We have been doing organic farming at the Adharshila Learning Centre for the past 6 years. Farming is one of the main themes of our educational programme. This is so because we think that our educational programme should address the needs of the surrounding area. About 100 adivasi children stay here and are growing up with organic farming. Learning by working on the farm and eating its fruits. Our target is to make this hostel for 100 students self sufficient in veges, pulses and fuelwood. We have about five acres of farm land to work on. Friends keep coming to help us out and guide us. We are looking for more of our types to come and stay with us and help us in farming.
Any takers ?

You can ask for more information on Adharshila by contacting Jayashree and Amit at –
09425981606

Or
Email at-
adharshila.learningcentre@gmail.com

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.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

An invitation to become a partner in the Education

An interesting educational experiment is taking shape in a corner in rural Western Madhya Pradesh. The Bhils, Bhilalas & Barelas who inhabit this region are part of the country’s indigenous population. Even today most villages of the region suffer from lack of electricity, water, access roads, education, medical facilities etc.



The best land has been lost to non-adivasi/tribal settlers. From a forest based & marginalized agricultural economy; they are either becoming a wage based economy where the forest and land base have eroded. In places where agriculture has ‘developed’ (irrigation) they are getting into cash crops where the remuneration depends on the market. Administrative corruption is rampant. Exploitation of adivasi/tribal communities continue by petty officials, liquor traders & moneylenders. The forest amidst which they have lived a life of dignity has been denuded thanks to a century of commercial exploitation by the state. As a result the soil is eroding rapidly and migration to nearby cities is a common annual phenomenon.

Cash crop farming in the name of agricultural development, is pushing the farmers to debt traps and creating infertility of soil, due to the increased dependence on electricity, water, chemical fertilizers, pesticides & multi national company seeds.

‘Education’ has also brought in a change in lifestyle for those who have gone through school. The main opportunity this has offered is of government jobs in the lower rung of beauracracy. Very few are able to make it to senior government jobs or medicine, engineering etc. Civil services have also remained elusive. With the increased interactions with the market & mainstream society everything from clothes, attitudes, value systems, likes, dislikes, social structure, culture, housing, everything even the gods are changing!

One of the roles of education as we understand is to help people understand & cope with these changes or enable to chose or guide the path of these changes to whatever extent possible. We give the example of the sieve. Education must provide the mind a sieve to judge, what to keep & what to throw rather than giving ideas to follow the path blindly.

Primary education in the villages present a dismal scene. Many of the state schools in adivasi/tribal villages exist only on paper. Teachers seldom perform their duties, preferring instead to draw their salaries from the comfort of their homes. Even in schools where teachers arrive sober than drunk, the standard of teaching is abysmal. The curriculum bears no relation to the life of the children. The language & the concepts are unfamiliar. Learning is mechanical & is laced with brutal punishments. Students end up been alienated from their culture & villages and also grow up lacking in self esteem, self confidence, creativity & social awareness and also this type of education makes the educated youth feel that the only option in life is to swell the ranks of the unemployed competing for jobs that are increasingly unavailable.

More than 90% children who start school are branded as failures on the way to the 12th class. As a result there are thousands of children who have no opportunity to get even basic education. Obviously the fault lies with the education system and not with these 90% children.

We are convinced that education is a fundamental key to long-term transformation. We are convinced that education is one of the biggest weapons of change. A society was registered after the name of Veer Khajiya Naik, a freedom fighter of the area in 1998, in the name of Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratisthan. (The Satpura hills in Khandesh, inhabited by the Bhils & Naik tribes have been a turbulent area since time immemorial. For the safe passage of armies & trade the conquest of this part of Khandesh was crucial for all rulers with imperial designs as the main routes linking the south & the north parts of the country passed though this area. The brunt of these battles were faced by the Naiks & Bhils in terms of devastation of forests, agriculture & the loss of their hereditary rights. Veer Khajiya Naik was one amongst them. He posed the biggest threat to the British during the first war of independence in 1857. He along with 3000 men & women waged war against the British & gained control of the Shendwa -Shirpur section of the Agra – Mumbai national Highway. The British killed him in 1858. Khajiya is still worshipped by the tribals as a symbol of strength.)

Aims of the Education/Learning Programme

The aim, content & method of education is been redefined to help the adivasi/tribal children to realise their full creative potential & develop into socially aware & responsible adults, capable of leading their community on to new paths of community based & ecologically sustainable development.

To impart not just basic, but quality education; relevant & meaningful to the community’s collective life and helping the child to fulfil his/ her aspirations in life.

To equip the children with knowledge & skills while fostering a wider social awareness and a willingness to make personal sacrifices. And most importantly to make learning a very enjoyable experience.

To develop self confidence & self respect.

To learn how to learn & what to learn.

To stimulate the interest & curiosity to know & learn about new things.

To develop the creative potential of the children.

To be able to communicate orally & in writing.

To be able to make sense out of numbers.

To develop a synthesis of traditional wisdom & modern science.

Impart values, which help children face the challenges of the new world & to grow up with a sense of justice.

To document the traditional knowledge, history & culture.

To develop a new health system based on modern science & traditional knowledge.

To develop ecologically sustainable farming methods that is low cost & suitable for small land holdings in the region.

To develop new thinking based on gender equality.

To instil strong secular beliefs & respect for all the religions & their history.

To question existing superstitions in society.

To learn, understand the beauty of music & dance.

The dreams & hopes are actually endless, when we dream for a better world.

Dreams apart, we are also rooted in to our present. The behaviour & reactions of seemingly educated & civilised people during communal riots, the ongoing war in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, the conspicuous consumption, rampant poverty, degradation of the ecology & environment & disrespect for the millions of flora & fauna which co-exist with us in this universe in exchange for short term goals have raised very serious questions, besides others about our educational system-formal (school/college etc) & the informal (society & other influences).

What have we taught our children? Or what is that we couldn’t teach them? Is violence, intolerance, selfishness, conspicuous consumption a natural out come of our schooling? Is there anyway to influence the society towards rational thinking? What kind of values do we want to inculcate to build a strong, fearless but non-violent society? How does one impart values & a sense of justice? Has schooling become irrelevant as far as imparting values or making good citizens is concerned? These are serious questions which all of us concerned about our future & our children should address & not just leave it to politicians & governments.

We realise that the market forces, media, & societal influences are very strong forces shaping the behaviour of children & adults. It is very difficult to fight these forces. We have seen these forces overtaking the influence of the school many a time.

We have also seen the difficulty that most parents & teachers have in understanding & accepting new ideas. Probably much, much more effort & time is needed.

All these events reinforce the fact that education is not about books & exams. It is tragic that we have reduced it to literacy. The worst part is that the parents are so greatly influenced by the mainstream education that it is very difficult to convince them that there can be an alternative to what goes by the name of education today. To be true, as of now there are no alternatives. More so, if our lives after school are going to be determined by paper qualifications then there is no recognition of talent, skill or intellect with out paper qualifications.

It is this dilemma & lack of real options in life that has forced us into a dual system of giving board exams on one hand for recognition & following a different curriculum to try & be relevant in between. Constantly our nerves are on the tenterhooks & we keep biting our nails comparing them with city kids & wondering what will happen.

To create an alternative for others is one thing, but trying to practice it is a different ball game altogether. There are a lot of theories about these issues but very little of it has been practiced. There are many practical difficulties in preaching freedom & trying to run a child centred school with which we are grappling with daily.

The teachers/felicitators also have doubts about new ways of dealing with children. Many times they feel threatened. So it is a very big learning experience for all of us.

To develop this alternate educational model a residential school Adharshila Shikshan Kendra (Adharshila Learning Centre), Shendwa (Shendwa is situated on the Agra – Mumbai highway is one of the biggest cotton mandi (market) in the area), was started in 1997/98, to run the education programme.

The school uses creative & stimulating experiential methods, to make learning a pleasure & develop a spirit of inquiry amongst the children. Teacher/ felicitator training & development of teaching material is also done in Adharshila.

Your Support

Funds for the schools are raised from various sources. The running costs of schools are taken out through non-institutional sources. A fee is charged from the children in the form of cash or grain. Many times the parents help by voluntary labour or building material. Friends pitch in with donations & sponsorships @Rs 6000/- per child. For capital expenditures we have taken institutional funding. Our emphasis is on raising funds from individuals as this provides an opportunity for people to get associated with this work & they can contribute in other ways too.
We would like you actively participate in this project & make it a success.

You can help the adivasi/tribal children’s education programme in many ways

Be a volunteer with us for whatever period you want, to share your skills with the children.

A contribution of Rs. 6000/- a year will look after the full expenses of one child’s education. (Cheques / DD’s should be made in favour of ‘Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Praristhan’) Donations of any amount on any special occasion in your family will go towards infrastructure building.

Books for the library (In English or in Hindi)

Educational aids, games etc

Stationary materials (including computer stationary), Colours etc

By spreading the word & involving your friends in this effort.

By buying & promoting the various hand made products which the children have been making for fund raising like cards, jute bags, cell phone covers, etc

For further information about this new initiative in education &learning please visit us at http://adharshilak.tripod.com/adharshila.html or contact us at:
adharshila.learningcentre@gmail.com

Contact persons:

Jayashree/ Amit (+91) 07281 283221 (Shendwa) (+91) 9425981606

(+91) 011 22541930 (New Delhi)

Postal Address:

Adharshila Learning Centre,
Village : Sakad, P.O. Chaatli,
Via: Shendwa, District: Badwani, Madhya Pradesh. India.Pin: 452 666.