Showing posts with label in search of alternatives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label in search of alternatives. Show all posts

Thursday, December 29, 2011

End of Term 1

20 September 2011


The children have gone off. What ever we do we can’t beat the joy of going home. The rain and wind have gone too. Silence is all around us. Even the bright multicoloured cosmos flowers, thin and elegant, cannot fill the silence with all their colours. The birds too seem to have quitened. The first term is over.

      Kamal has finished college and taken a drop of six months on our advise to roam around the country before he applies for MA Economics somewhere, which is before he sits for the IAS. He has long plans. We are looking for suggestions for a good college where the atmosphere is not laden with too much English and neo-liberal economists. He volunteered in a school run by a people’s organization and of course Adharshila where he has been brought up. He is going to spend some time in Bihar with Arvind an old friend and activist of the once famous Vahini group.

    We feel this is a natural extension of our work, to place children in good institutions in the fields of their interests. We have made a list and will try to seek admissions for higher studies for our and other deserving students.

      A small cat has come into our house. God sent. Freedom from rats. But she is all over the place now, only decent looking and loveable.

    We went to conduct a 5 day Education Skills course for the IIIrd year Bachelor of Social Work students at the TISS campus at Tuljapur, Maharashtra. It has about 160 students, 130 staff and 100 acres. The amount of resources pumped into an institution doesn’t necessarily mean quality education. One thing for sure, it means lot of wasteful expenditure and no use of creatively using resources. So the lesson learnt outside classrooms is of a wasteful, extravagant living with others doing all your labour work. How so ever much they may debate on the caste divide or factors of poverty and equality and other big words inside the class room. Routinizing such words is dangerous. It just might prove to be counterproductive. Words lose their edge when overused.

     We have 100 children, 10 staff and 6 acres. Every day we are thinking of improving our farm production or when will we become self sufficient in fuel wood. How can we reduce costs and improve quality with minimum resources. How will we fight these resource rich guys ? This keeps coming up again and again.

New Meaning of Faag

25 March 2011

      Faag maangna is a wide spread tradition in North India. To ask for grains is almost a traditional right of dalits in many states. In the western Indian districts of Alirajpur, Jhabua, Dhar, Barwani, Khargone etc.,five days after Holi is bhoor or gaanda dahda, literally translated – crazy days. It is adivasi tradition that groups of people dress up in interesting attires and go from house to house in villages and ask for Bhangoriya. People give grains or money or whatever they have made or brought for the festival. After five days of collection, the team has a joint feast (funded from the collections) where the whole village or hamlet eats together. Small groups of children also do the rounds. It’s generally fun time. Many teams block roads with boulders and logs and ask all those who pass by – on foot, cycle, jeep or truck or bus. Some teams of Alirajpur and Chota Udaipur and Dharagaon districts are so beautifully dressed that they are a big tourist attraction too.

     People’s movements and activists have always been wary of funding agencies. But funds are needed. There is always an impasse. Ultimately many bow to the Funding agencies, taking indirectly, through agencies who are friends or not that bad etc. and keep nurturing a guilt complex at having succumbed to making a compromise. They try to work, mostly in donation mode. In spite of this having been a very important issue with activists, they have not been able to work out ways of reaching out to ordinary people to raise funds for their work. Many times they don’t have the time. Basically fund raising has to be seen as part of the political activity and politicization of people.

One plus Two
     There is no dearth of creativity and spirit at Adharshila. And being part of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetana Sangath tradition we are diehard about combining fun with politics. Jayashree decided to take to the streets during bhoor, after Holi with Adivasi Mukti Sangathan activist Bijoy bhai, a leading Congress leader Mr. Motiyani and a band of enthusiastic students and ex studs of Adharshila. A pamphlet was printed highlighting the state of the country due to the policy of liberalization. They distributed the pamphlets and explained the issues to the people while asking for faag to support various struggles taking place all over the country against land acquisition by highways, SEZs, mining corporations and the likes.

     It was also a great public relation exercise and there were some interesting interactions with people. Some reacted with much empathy like the police commissioner – who told us how alarmed he was at the 165 Adivasi suicides that came across his desk in rural Sendhwa Thana in the past year alone. Others reacted with less emotion – like a hardware store manager who didn’t see the point of what we were doing with the flyer, as all the information could be found daily in the newspapers. And others with questioning minds – What you’re doing is fine, but is it really going to change anything? I mean, if people, just planted trees that would be more change than anything. Our response to this last comment… You are so right! Come to Sakad, and see our school. What was once barren land is covered with greenery because of our students and teachers planting and raising trees.
      We hit everywhere we could from chai-walas to local public offices. They were people we had pre-existing relationships with, and many new friends were found.
     The money collected from the faag is to help people doing this kind of consciousness - raising work and to take forward the work of people’s struggles. Though our team was small (as most of our students were on break), our presence was definitely felt and appreciated.

We hope to do it even bigger next year ……….

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Children's village v/s School

…It is 3:00 of a sunny afternoon and wandering through Papita Hamlet, I find my way to Mullya’s hut, where kids are hooked with sheets of paper folding them into origami birds, boxes, and stars, which they hang from the ceiling. After he gives me some cool water, I move on to the Boyda Hamlet, where Sanjay gives me a tour- their house is under construction. He shows me the small enclosure they had just built for one of the new mother dogs and her puppies. We hang out in his neighbor Suklal’s house where he is copying song lyrics in his notebook, and begin to sing out the songs.

Adharshila is abuzz with energy. Very hectic activity. It starts at eight in the morning and children have to be dragged out at five or six in the evening. Since the last three weeks children are fully engaged, making small box like rooms for themselves, from anything they can lay their hands on – twigs, gunny bags, plastic, cloth, ropes, old anything.

They are sitting there, eating there, playing, chatting, reading and writing also, drawing. But mainly they are building the room, already repairing, rebuilding, changing location, decorating and going around.

It started as a joke but now it’s full time. Kids often play ‘make-believe’ which mimics reality. But this has everything to do with reality- the kids have brought in water pots for cool water, clothes washing spaces with drainage, a common open space with park-like benches, and racks for books, clotheslines, curtains, and small brick enclosed verandahs. A dry latrine is under construction. Outside one of the homes, a Subabool sapling and aloe vera plant have been planted and being drip irrigated (an overhung plastic bag filled with water with a small hole). A chalkboard with the school chants and all of the residents’ names is posted. As soon as the the kids heard a story of a boy in Africa who brought electricity to his home and village making a wind mill out of waste they started to ‘make current’ from gobar (dung). No two houses are the same and there is a steady flow of visitors to one another’s houses. There are three hamlets- Tower, Papita (papayya), and Boyda (hill)- with 2-5 houses in each hamlet and 4-5 students in each house. In all about 40 children are involved in this.

But…… everything is not happy, happy. There are fights – someone broke someone’s hut, hey you took my sticks or gunny bag, someone forcefully made a hut ….and so on. Also there’s been damage to public property …. as at least two new upcoming trees were broken, hedges were broken, new bricks were taken for construction, one almirah and the basement were ransacked for material ..

So …

...there was a meeting to frame rules ( of course we exercised our authority). Everybody had a say and about 20 rules were made – not to break new branches, enter with permission, elders not to bully small children, clean surroundings of hut etc.

Sounds like a lovely picture but there are some apprehensions and resistance from the teachers as well as senior students. One day the teachers were very upset as nobody turned in for ‘school’. They pulled out everybody from the huts and sent them to class

For the teacher, the question lies in how to do the ‘school’ stuff when all the students have gone off in different directions, each doing a different thing. Before the the establishment of this children’s village, the bell-guided school structure was set- morning prayer, class, breakfast, class, lunch, class, …. One thing that was done was to get rid of the class bell, as it went against the students’ flow of work in their new spaces. Again, there was opposition to this, but the question remained… how to add the school stuff in the context of what the students themselves created?

So we had a meeting to explain the importance of this activity and generate ideas on how to incorporate ‘ learning of subjects’….

We tried to tell them that this the best possible thing that can happen where children are doing something continuously for 12 hours, without being told anything. There must be something in this. We should think how this initiative can be extended to what we call studying or learning.

We explained that the biggest learning that’s happening now and which could never have happened inspite of our best efforts was that children were learning to use freedom creatively, decide what they want to do and pursue their ideas without anyone telling them to. They were learning self discipline. And if one is so keen on learning then they were learning real life the settling of villages.

This was all right they said but what about english, maths, science etc. what will happen to all that we have planned for them ? so we made some exercises –

For teachers –

  1. Go by their (children’s) plan for a while.
  2. Go to their huts and record what they are doing.

For children –

English excercises --- 1. Where do you live?

2. Who lives in your house?

3. When did you build your house?

4. What is your house made of?

5. What is in your house?

6. What are the names of trees by your house?

7. What are you doing?

8. What are you doing in the hut ?

Activities --- 1. Survey the village and the hamlets and make a list. Find out who lives where, the number of people in each house and total the number of residents.

2. Make a map of the village.

3. Plant a medicinal tree by your house.

Maths --- 1. Take measurements of your house, find it’s area.

2. Levels worksheets that students do them independently and move up as they successfully complete a level.

Each of these activities were written on a card and the children were free to take a card and do it anytime they wished to. On completing a card they had to show to the teacher who would correct it and put a tick mark on her list.

The students have been continuously and independently beautifying and ideating for a month now, everyday, along with the rest of the school activities- cooking, farming, theatre, singing. And the reading and writing is alive and well, as the houses are a favorite place for quiet (and uninterrupted by bells & teachers) study. They read, sing songs, make lists, tell stories, play cards, sleep, eat... the list goes on…

… I’ve heard that the physical environment is a major conditioner of behaviour. From observing and interacting with the children and their spaces it is evident that the kids hold a sense of ownership over their house, their work, their days. Hopefully this will help them take control of their lives in adulthood. One thing that can be surely seen is the drive they have in this new project, and there is potential for much more…..

On a Monday the teachers forgot all the meetings and rang the bell. Collected all the children in the ground and … go to class!!

Some children didn’t go. They were tucked in their new houses. They didn’t even go to class. Again meeting, reminding.

Now a bargain has been arrived at. Some time the children have to go to their level groups in English and Math. Sometimes they just sit and do whatever they want. Some time they are given activity cards and they can choose to do them whenever they want to. We are creating more spaces and activities so that they can go to them. For eg. There are two boxes with books, an almirah with some games. Children just go there, take out things on their own and keep playing or reading. We are trying to create more of these self service counters.


  1. Some children become just wanderers and lost. It may be fine by us but not for parents.
  2. Some just ape others. Not neccesarily thinking on their own.
  3. The look of the school is very disorganised. The parents and visitors don’t like this.
  4. The parents have a set idea and no exposure to innovative or alternative learning methods leave alone curriculum.
  5. The children if questioned threateningly by parents or elders, just say that we are not taught. They don’t know the theory and merit of self learning.
  6. Ultimately the children have to give exams so they have to ‘study’.

We are sure that this is a good thing and will continue with bargains. This concept has generated a totally new concept of a learning within a school environment and we are now working out a different architectural concept for this approach.

Anyone with an idea interested in coming and working with the students? Calling engineers, architects, artists, musicians, teachers…

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What We Did in 2008 -2009 - Annual Report

If you are interested in knowing what keeps us busy at Adharshila all year round.

Dear friend,

We are happy to send you Adharshila’s Annual Report for the academic year 2008 -09. We take this opportunity to thank you for the support you have extended to Adharshila. Due to your invaluable support for the last eleven years, hundreds of adivasi children of Barwani, Jhabua and Burhanpur districts of western Madhya Pradesh have been able to get an education which they could never have dreamt of.
This year has been an year of terror and shock inflicted upon humanity. The terror emanated from fundamentalist ideologies - religious and economic.
This has convinced us more about our project of promoting values like humanism, secularism, selflessness, equality, strengthening of community life etc. through education. It has firmed our resolve to take the work of Adharshila forward towards creating a more just, equal and humanitarian society as opposed to a society of atomized individuals motivated by consumption and greed.
We feel there is an urgency to spread these ideas amongst children and youth – who are going to be tomorrow’s leaders.

Once again thank you for taking part in this process of change and looking forward to your continued support and inspiration.

Warm regards
Amit and Jayashree
The Adharshila Team

ANNUAL REPORT 2008 - 2009

The Team
Shobharam Kanouje, Shewanta, Shanta
Majali, Anita, Balsingh,
Kamal, Seetaram, Deewan, Dinesh, Anil, Shersingh,
Jamuna, Dharmalata, Kavita, Reena
Shailaja, Ranjit, Zahid and Roshan
Badri Bhai, Dewika Behan
Jayashree, Amit

Run By
Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan
Village Sakad, PO- Chatli, Dist. Barwani
Madhya Pradesh

Roll Call
The school started on 25th June 2008, with the onset of the monsoon with 60 day scholars and 90 in the hostel completing the quota of 150 students.
This year was lucky for us. We got a MSc. (Math) person who took care of middle and high school student’s, science and math classes for 6 months. One more for primary classes joined us. In addition to these we had a strong team of about 20 student teachers (senior students studying from 8th -12th classes). Majali, an ex student took the responsibility of co-coordinator of the primary section.
We were fortunate to have five volunteers from PRAVAH, INDICORPS, ahmedabad and individuals, who helped the children with English, Math, Craft, documentation work and generally in running the place.
The many visitors from various countries and states also helped the learning process of the children.
Results - The traditional measure
One old student who stays and helps in running the show at Adharshila got the 2nd position in the first semester of college. He missed the first just by 1% Two others from this batch are preparing for the PMT exam and keep in touch with us regularly.
Two students passed the 12th exam, one got 70%. Another came 2nd in the district in the excellence school admission test.
Many of our students who joined the Govt. Schools are doing extremely well. The Chatli High School Principal openly confessed that their school was getting good results because of students from Adharshila.
Interesting class projects done in the year besides the regular text book include The children were divided in 10 groups. Lot of stories, songs, activities and trips were used to aid their learning process. Many projects were undertaken - Equality and Caste System, History Time line from Apes to today's cities and villages, Classification of Animals, Evolution, Animals, Elements needed for growth of plants, Forests, Directions, The History of Man, Threshers made from recycled materials, Pin boards for two , classes made from recycled paper, How a cycle works, Modern modes of communication (Email, SMS, Post), The Solar System
Learning Opportunities at Adharshila
Adharshila is known not just for the good performance of the children as compared to the surrounding schools but more so for the learning opportunities it creates outside the classroom.
Art and craft : Children did a lot of craft work this year. One of the volunteers along with one of our own craft teacher helped the children in learning many types of crafts with different materials. A regular art and craft class was run, where children did origami, greeting card learnt jute knitting, etc..
Theatre etc. : Regular practice of drama and legime was done in afternoons. 2 students went for a film making workshop at Udaipur. One student who is learning organic farming, went to a sangathan meeting to convince people to adopt organic farming . 8-9 farmers –
Interactions with visitors : Many visitors come to Adharshila every year. This was an international visitor year for us. People from the US, Canada, Israel, Belgium and England. We also had visitors from Rajasthan, Orissa and Delhi. Children learnt about these states and countries by talking to these visitors in class and informally. Learning Workshops at Adharshila
Health and Body Awareness - Rinchin a social worker from Bhopal held a four day workshop on Body Awareness and health.
Story Telling and Criticism - Rinchin also held story telling sessions of stories she had written while she was working on a health programme in our district.
Muriel, a children's story writer and also a parent, home schooling her daughter also demonstrated how stories can be used to teach social science topics to children.
Film Making - Kavita, from Drishti, Ahmedabad held a 4 day film making workshop. 22 students and teachers participated in it. They were taken on a learning journey from story writing to handling the camera. They took shots for a film on Adharshila. This process will hopefully continue the next year also.

Learning Opportunities outside Adharshila
3 Suresh, Prakash, Seetaram, Balsingh and Shewanta - accompanied by Roshan a volunteer and Amit, attended the Activist Training held at the Manthan Learning Centre, Rajasthan where a beginning was made to understand their social reality. They also learnt about the origin of the Earth
3 Anita, Jamuna, Revali and Sunil went to the Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya, Vedchi, Gujarat for one month, to learn the full process of cloth making by hand right from cleaning raw cotton, ginning, spinning on the Amber Charkha, and weaving on a small Manipuri Loom. They also attended the Gandhi Mela in Surat - a big affair where many organizations participate.
3 Majali attended a two day women's workshop in Nagpur. She got an opportunity to understand the problems of women's organizations in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi etc.
3 Shobharam Kanouje, a senior teacher at Adharshila and Dinesh a student went to attend a two day training held by a reputed NGO in Pune, to learn about generating electricity mechanically. The workshop did not turn out to be as productive as we had thought, but they got an idea.
3 The senior students observed the process of elections. This was a new initiative where the organization did meetings in the district to convince people that the candidate should be selected by the community and not by party leaders sitting in Delhi.
Student Events
Students were very involved locally in many fields. Taking part in events and organizing them is a great for confidence building, self esteem and developing leadership skills.
3 The music team performed before at audience of 25-30,000 at the Narmada Maha-rally. They also participated in an election awareness campaign for six days with the Adivasi Mukti Sangatan(AMS) a local people’s movement on.
3 The Adharshila Band was at it's peak during this season. In general it was a musical summer. With the music team they recorded a lot of music. From a distance or listening to the recordings nobody can guess the instruments.
3 A student also spent a month as a volunteer at the AMS office.
3 The cricket team lost to the Sendhwa Public School team by 17 runs, while in chess, our team notched up 4 victories. Our two chess losses came at the hands of opponents twice the age of our students.
3 Three students, Sitaram, Suresh and Majali, received awards in a Hindi essay writing contest, while student-teacher Kamal placed first in his college exams. This period also saw regular music, dance and art teachers join our staff.
Major School Events
In all these events the students and children help in organizing the event according to their age.
Sports Day - This is easily the happiest week, with children practicing, preparing the ground and anticipating the gifts( prizes). Children from 6 schools participated in the sports day. For the smaller children most games were non - competitive and in the end everybody got a gift.
Tantiya Mama Kabbaddi Competition - This event was started last year for the village youth, who have to rely on 3rd grade films or liquor for entertainment. The good thing about this was that it was organized purely by the senior students and teachers. Eight village teams participated in the event. Cash prizes worth Rs. 3000 were given to the winners.
Primary Section Annual Function and Parents Meeting - Usually this is a big affair at the end of the year. This year we changed the practice and called the parents at the end of each term. The children put up a show to tell what they had learnt in the term. They also exhibited their work through charts and displayed the craft work that they had made.
In an in-house meeting with the children of the primary section at the end of the year the small kids told about their impressions of the year. Many of them came up with complaints of beating by elder boys and the elder boys apologized. Everybody was overwhelmed by the way the small pips were standing up and speaking up. Nobody felt bad at the complaining.
A report with grades and the child's general progress was also given to the children and discussed with the parents.

Many festivals were celebrated at the campus. Like every year this year's holi was a zabardast affair. This year the school was not closed. The full gang was there. Holi is very special at Adharshila because the students, big and small, freely throw mud, ash, water and colour on the teachers and other elders, sparing no one. It is really a time to forget who we are and indulge in true child like enjoyment.
During Diwali, students learnt to make chandeliers from recycled materials, as well as rangoli and wall painting. They also learnt to make gujia and puri sabzi.
All the local festivals are also celebrated.

Teacher Trainings3 At the start of the new session, a five day training was organized where 14 teachers from Adharshila, Rani Kajal Jeevanshala, Dist. Alirajpur and from schools affiliated to Adharshila were present. These schools are being run by people's initiatives. The main theme of the training was about making the school a place to promote democratic, secular and progressive ideas. The project approach of teaching for the middle sections was also discussed.
3 Two boys from Jagrit Dalit Adivasi Sangathan and one from Burhanpur Sangathan stayed with us for two months for training after which they started schools in their areas.
3 Teaching through stories : Muriel, a children's story writer, published by Scholastic, spent ten days at Adharshila. She worked with students and teachers, exploring the power of stories as learning tools. She also trained the teachers, to harness the potential of storytelling.
3 A one week shivir for our teachers/ student teachers was held ( 3 hrs/ day) to remove the doubts about Adharshila or the fear of not following the regular system.

Curriculum Development
Adharshila developed academic material and textbooks for several levels during this period. Though the work did not proceed at the pace at which we wanted to but still we were able to develop some primers. This definitely improved the quality of teaching. Among these are:
a. English poetry collection for Levels 1 - 3. We are making small poems in English based on themes familiar to children there.
b. Hindi poetry for Levels 1 - 5.
c. English conversation for Level 1and 2
d. English teaching books based on phonetic system - Level 1and 2.
e. Hindi reading material for Levels 1- 3
f. Activities and lesson plans for 8 topics were prepared for 6th - 8th grades.
g. The teachers wrote out there weekly plans for two terms ( about 6 months). Of these the programme for the two smallest groups has been typed out for the full year. Next year the teacher will get a ready planner and will be able to spend more time on thinking about teaching methodology rather than content.
a. A Children's Magazine, Baal Oorja –Four issues of a children's magazine - Baal Oorja were taken out. One of the volunteers helped in this. The last issue was taken out completely by a senior student. He learnt to do the layout through this. The matter was written completely by the children of Adharshila. We invited articles from other schools but nobody responded.
b. A book based on the malnutrition and food availability survey has gone for publication. This study had received first prize at the National Children's Science Congress last year.
c. The children chose a topics of their interest., researched it and made their own books. Some children illustrated them also.
d. We published the books for the primary section ( in-house ) mentioned in the Curriculum Development section.
New Initiatives -
New Schools
We are constantly trying to convince people's organizations to start rural schools through people's initiatives. One new school was started in Burhanpur and another in Barwani district. The teachers for these schools were trained for 2 months in Adharshila.
Yuma Shivir
Due to the insistence of yeas in Adharshila a yoga shivir was organized. The theme of the shivir was - ' Youth is the future of India but what is the future of Youth' About 25 boys and girls between 16 - 20 years from 8 villages attended the shivir for 2 days. The shivir concluded with discussing ways of increasing the learning opportunities for youth in villages. They listed many things which they wanted to learn ranging from herbal medicine to film to moths.
Sale of farm products - A preliminary meeting of farmers was called to discuss ideas to sell farm produce directly to consumers in cities. The people were positive and even collected about 50 Kg. pulses and 5 Kg. haldi.

Organic Agriculture :
Like every year, organic farming was one of the main activities that engaged children all the year round. This year we sowed jowar on an experimental plot of 500 sq.m ( 5 gunthas) and got 2 quintals. This is pretty good for a start. Besides this we harvested 7 quintal vegetable and 3 quintal daal and fodder for 5 cattle. We did not have to buy for at least 3 months for the mess feeding 100 students.
Through this the children learnt many practices of organic agriculture which they practice at home also like making Jivanamrut – an organic fertilizer, mulching plants with leaves, composting and making organic pesticide from leaves etc. They also learn principles of science, ecology and problems of farmers through this work.
Small plots were allotted to children’s groups where they grew vegetables.
Drip irrigation, brought from Wardha was also tried in the tomato plot successfully. We also sowed coriander on a large scale specifically to raise money. The crop was great but the price was so low that it barely fetched the cost of seeds and transport.

The cow gave birth to a calf taking the tally of animals to 5. We got about 250 lit. milk for the mess.
1000 saplings of Garside, Sesbania, Papaya, perennial Tuwar, Jungle Jalebi, etc…were grown in the nursery which was set up in March 2008. Of these 700 saplings were planted by students and parents. Of these 400 were saved by the end of the term. It was a pleasure seeing the teamwork and dedication of the small children who took special interest in developing small plots of trees, where they sat for hours after classes. A nursery has been made to develop plants for the next season.
Contact with Surrounding Villages
Baal Melas - Baal Melas, performed in villages engaged nearly 400 children for the whole day in various fun and science activities.
Cycle yatra : 12 students from Adharshila went on a 5- day cycle yaatra which covered 200 km .The main purpose of cycle yatra was to learn about the state of education in the villages. Students held meetings, sang songs and exhibited posters.
Youth Groups : A dialogue with the youth of Sakad village was started by the volunteers. Though a concrete group did not form but a good relationship was formed.
Reaching out
3 Participation in dharna : About 30 students of middle and high school of Adharshila participated in a protest against irregularities in the running of the PDS shops of the area smoothly.
3 Our music team performed in front of a 25,000 people at the NBA rally in Khandwa.
3 Adharshila's Naatak India Company performed yet another hit play in the Barela Pawra Adivasi Sammelan held at Pansemal.
3 A meeting for the members of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, M.P. was held to explain to them the problems of the present education system and ways of bringing about change in it. The theme was explained with the help of songs and a poster exhibition. They have decided to start a people's school.
3 A teacher and two students were invited to be facilitators of a children’s workshop on craft hosted by the NGO Muskaan in Bhopal.
3 Three other students represented Adharshila at a crafts workshop hosted by the Rani Kajal Learning Centre in Kakrana. They also took the opportunity to explore the history of people’s movements in the area.
3 We volunteered to make a ring tone and record songs for the election campaign of an independent candidate.
3 Jayashree went to the women's workshop in Nagpur as a resource person.
3 Amit was called to deliver a key lecture on Work and Education in a state level workshop held by NCERT, in Bhopal

Health Awareness amongst students and community
Primary health is one of the subjects which have been pursuing keenly. This year we took a number of steps to increase awareness about health issues amongst the students of Adharshila and surrounding villages.
3 This year too the middle school children studied primary health as a subject. Primers prepared by reputed organizations working in the health sector viz. CEHAT, Nirantar and VHAI were used.
3 The exhibition on malnutrition was shown in schools in surrounding villages. The exhibition was also shown during the cycle yaatra. The villagers watched the exhibition with great interest and had a lot of questions for the children.
3 Rinchin, from Bhopal who is active in campaigning for various health issues conducted a 3 day workshop for elder children. She did a body mapping exercise and explained the principles of preventive health to them.
3 Two students chose to take health related topics for preparing project reports for their final evaluation.
3 One student went to Gujarat and stayed for 15 days in a rural hospital run by Arch Vahini a reputed NGO working in the health sector. He used the skills learnt there throughout the year dressing wounds not just of children but elders also.
3 At least three discussions were organized with the senior students on health related issues. One of these discussions related to the debate in the parliament regarding giving biscuits to children instead of mid day meals. Another related to chronic malnutrition in a district of MP and the govt. decision to give them special nutrient drops to be mixed in the dough to fight malnutrition. Very interesting and heated discussions took place.
3 A book on malnutrition has been published based on a food availability study done by students in surrounding villages.
3 We started the process of making guidelines for a health curriculum for primary and middle classes.

Even after doing all this there are questions in the mind - where is all this leading to ? What is the contribution of Adharshila in building a more equal and just society ?

Review of Adharshila' work and Exploring new possibilities - We invited Shri Dutta Savle an experienced activist, to review the progress of our work and explore new possibilities. He was with us for 5 days. After a lot of brainstorming and reflecting on past experiences - ours and others, it was decided to start separate activities to engage the youth of the area. The youth shivir was one of the outcomes of this. It was felt that the school part is also necessary and should be systemized further. Talking to him was a very rejuvenating experience. He was very hopeful as education is a long term investment programme and does not show immediate results.
3 A new classroom for small children was built.
3 Books worth about Rs. 5000/- were added to the library.
3 3 new almirahs were built and installed in the main building.
3 The installation of a transformer also meant regular voltage, even though electric supply is still sporadic, that allows for the running of several laptops for several hours. This has allowed, among other things, regular computer classes for 8-10 students.
3 We also experimented with a bucket latrine as a replacement to our septic tank system.. As narrated on our blog, the project was eventually abandoned for a lack of volunteers to do the necessary maintenance.

3 20 young Indian Americans were here for 8 days to know about alternative ways of learning and trying to understand the problems of rural India.
3 Shyam Kansal - A rice mill owner from Orissa stayed with us for three days to discuss the possibilities of starting a similar venture in his place.
3 Muriel and her daughter who delighted the children with her stories.
3 Michelle and Sebastian-Canadian Filmmakers documenting alternative education initiatives in Asia
3 Netta- An Israeli girl interested in Nai Talim education and how it could relate to her country.
3 Shelley- The editor of The Monthly, Australia’s most eminent political journal, along with her brother, passed by.
3 Eames Demetrios, an American documentarian, storyteller and designer.
3 Jordan a photographer from Canada spent three days with us.
3 Abhinav a graduate in electrical engineering stayed with us for 5 days. He also wants to open a school near Jabalpur..
3 A team of students, teachers and coordinators from Hunar Ghar, Rajasthan, stayed with us for a week.
3 A team of Karyakartas from Orissa Jan Adhikar Morcha from Orissa, spent a day at Adharshila.
3 Lokashish and Kavita from PRAVAH, Delhi
3 Nidhi, from Indicorps, Ahmedabad
3 Shashank and Karuna, Madurai
3 Damyanti, Accounts consultant, Pune
3 Winter Birds: The Wagtail from the Himalayas, the Green Bee Eater and the Black Drongo.
Our students took the opportunity to interview our guests and learn all they could while they were here.
We are indebted to SRUTI, New Delhi, The INSPIRE group, Ms. Madhulika Aggarwal, Shri Sudhanshu Pandey, Shri Rahul Ram, Shri Ramesh Kacholiya, Zindabaad Trust
Shri Eams Demetrios, Ms. Michelle and Shri Sebastian, Shri Usha Kant Varma,Shri and Shrimati Sodhi, Jojo, City Automation Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi and Shri Shyam Kansal for their generous financial contribution to Adharshila.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Organic Tomatoes and Shit in a Bucket

Post your summary here
What's on in Adharshila - Organic tomatoes, Election campaign, music group, Greeting cards, Shitting in a bucket...

So what are tomatoes doing in this blog ? these days many of us are working on the organic tomato/brinjal plot. Though due to my kidney stones i will not be able to eat any of this but it is great to wee them grow. The plants are almost two months old now. The best plant has about 60 tomatoes on it. We are feeding them Jeevamrit, mulch, ash and cow urine., and spraying pesticide made of five to six different types of leaves. We have been inspired by the Sharma farm near Amravati.
We have made three songs on elections. Some children have volunteered to go with the AMS who are trying to motivate people to focus on peoples issues and people's politics - whatever that may mean. The children will sing songs in the campaign. One of the songs is engineered on Vinay and Charul's song - mere voton ko ye jaanne ka hak re ... by the way we met them and heard them at a Narmada Andolan rally in Khandawa, where our Jamuna, Revali, Imla, Balsingh, Rakesh, Sarang and of course myself sang in front of a 25,000 strong audience. this was a first time performance for us and we are bent upon doing it again. the school kachaat band is in great josh and practices for two hours almost daily.
we have also got music and dance teachers who come every sunday - bothe bengali.
Children are making greeting cards again this year. Though cards are not in fashion but we insist on making them to keep the thumb from degenerating and to generate funds for our educational tour.
Shitting in the bucket - This is the latest. In an impromptu discussion in the tomato farm, this topic of uzing our shit for fertilizer came up. we have been thinking about this for a long time. but it was always on the lines of bio gas plants. We got books and a CD on dry latrines. This was all too technical for our primitive minds. Then i was reminded of a person in Maharshtra whome i had visited. He used to keep the bucket near his bed to emphasise the point that shit doesnt smell if covered properly. And i told this story to everybody and pat on.. Patidar and Sunil picked it up and promptly inaugerated the bucket toilet. it's been a week now. Inspired b this one volunteer from PRAVAH has also started digging a pit to shit in the bucket - quite poetic !

So long.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Children's Science Congress



(Under the Sub Title – Bio Diversity in Man made and Land Ecosystems )

Team : Suresh Dudve – Team Leader
Majali J.J.
Seetaram Dudve
Deewansingh Brahmane
Suresh Barole

The team was supported by almost 60 students of Adharshila Learning Centre, in the field surveys. In a sense the whole Centre was immersed in Bio Diversity.

Guide : Jayashree

Institution : Adharshila Learning Centre

Area of Study : Four villages namely – Sakad, Chatli, Kunjari and Merkhedi – of Newali Block, or Barwani district in western Madhya Pradesh. The district is a predominantly adivasi district ( 78%). It is situated in the Satpuda range bordering Maharashtra.

Importance and Relevance of the Topic

India is striving to stand amongst the leaders in the world community, but malnutrition is mocking us in the face. The fact that 40 – 45 % of the country’s children are malnutritioned is raising serious questions on the claims to development.Our strides in space are of no meaning if our children are malnutritioned, women are anemic. Something is gravely wrong somewhere.
Most children who have taken part in this project have suffered malnutrition in their childhood or seen there kith and kin die due to malnutrition. Majali’s eyesight is seriously impaired due to chronic Vitamin A deficiency during childhood. Malnutrition is very close to the hearts of the children.

Various surveys have shown that 58% - 60 % children of Madhya Pradesh are malnutritioned, much higher than the National average. Most of these are children of farmers and laborers.

The Journey of Discovery.

The study is based on the following sources –
Interviews of about 50 – 60 old people. Interviews of old people from outside the four villages were also recorded.
Household surveys in the four villages.
Books and journals were also used to understand the issues in depth.
We took advise from doctors, professors, organic farmers.
Some friends helped us search the internet. Due to electricity problems we could not do this ourselves.

Last year while learning about malnutrition and other health problems we surveyed the children of surrounding villages, taking their weights. We were shocked to see the extent of malnutrition. We saw children of 3 - 4 years who could not stand up. There were many children with Grade IV malnutrition. Many children from this group died after our survey. We reported this in papers and also to local officials.

On the 15th August we took a pledge to remove malnutrition and free the farms from market dependency. We used the opportunity of the Children’s Science Congress to go into the reasons of such wide spread malnutrition in our area, in depth.

We began by interviewing the old people of the villages to find out what they thought about the whole issue. About 50 old people were interviewed. Almost all of them were of the opinion that the quality of food had gone down in terms of quantity, quality and variety. They were the generation brought up on milk, ghee and curd. Even the poor in the village got a share of all this and at least pure butter milk was in abundance for everybody.

They also talked about the increased dependence on cash which was forcing everybody into cash crops and making farming totally dependent on the market. Farming which was once supposed to be an enterprise where - in people enjoyed independence, was now totally at the mercy of moneylenders and market prices.

They were convinced that due to the use of chemical fertilizers and hybrid seeds, which were promoted by Govt. agencies in the beginning, had led to loss of fertility of the soil.It was difficult for our young minds to digest what these old people were telling us. We were almost convinced that the adivasis of our area were going ahead on the development road – what about all the motorcycles, tractors, threshers, tube wells, pumps and irrigated fields, and quintals of cotton and soybean that we were selling by tractors, that we have been seeing since childhood ?

We undertook about 15 – 16 household surveys to validate these claims. A lot of food availability surveys were conducted. After these surveys we realized that behind the seeming prosperity there was severe food insecurity.

We found that -

There were about 120 types of food items which people ate of which now only 36 types were available. Most of the fruits, leafy vegetables, gums, honey, meat etc. available in the past have never been seen by the present generation. All these provided rare minerals, proteins, fats.
In most households only 7.14 kg pulses/person/year was available as against the required 22 – 27 kg/ person/ year( ICDS) .

Availability of milk and milk products had gone down drastically. Out of the 73% people who had got milk in there childhood only 17.39% are getting it now.

Where did all this vanish and why ?

We talked to people about this. About 40 years ago the govt. started promoting chemical fertilizers and hybrid seeds. The forests also started depleting about this time due to the pressure of urbanisation and population. Since then it has been a down slide. As dependency on the market increased people were forced to go in for cash crops. Cash crops meant loans at interests as high as 150%, dependency on the market, monoculture and depletion of the soil fertility. Before they realized people were in debt but started enjoying playing with cash. To repay loans more cash crops. This becomes a vicious cycle.

Also the mainstreaming pressure ( including our education system) forced the people to reject their traditional knowledge. They were made to lose faith in their knowledge systems and believe in the ideas being promoted by the market and Govt. agencies in tandem.

The main lesson that we learnt at the end of the exercise were that –

· Due to the depletion of farm and forest biodiversity about 54% of our food items have gone.
· Of the 65 items that we got now only 9 remain, i.e. an 87% decrease.
· Now 75% of our food items come from the farm.

These food crops are fast losing out to cash crops as market dependency is increasing in all aspects of our lives from clothes to health.

· Coarse grain and millets like bhadi which provided food security in droughts or scanty rainfall years are almost on the verge of vanishing.

· The quality of the soil has depleted, leading to loss of nutritional content of food.

· Cash crops now occupy the most fertile lands, leaving second grade land for food crops. Wheat is replacing traditional grains where irrigation's is there.

· The diversity in crops ensured that some crops will grow well in spite of changes in monsoons. Now with single crops occupying full fields the bad effects of erratic monsoons is more pronounced.


The loss of bio diversity has led to severe food insecurity. The quality, quantity and variety of food has decreased.
Adivasis and other small and marginal farmers are at the mercy of the market and dole provided by Govt. agencies.
If nothing is done then the future is bleak for farmers.

What is to be done ?

A strong campaign to save the farms from the clutches of the market and make the farmer independent, by promoting natural and organic farming techniques.

Fight malnutrition by making people aware about proper diet and importance of growing diverse food crops.

Awareness building programme in schools.

Incorporating related topics in the school curriculum.

Regenerate and save existing forest areas.

Re establish the self esteem of the farmer and adivasis. Revive useful traditional farming practices.

What we are doing ?

Natural farming on our campus.

School awareness programme.

Motivating families who have malnutritioned children to give special food preparations and grow vegetables. Children learnt to make sattoo and even gave it to many families.

Spreading the word through Baal – Melas.

Continue our research on this and related topics.

Motivate children and adults to adopt natural farming practices

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 or contact us at:

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.