Adharshila Learning Centre is a unique school for adivasi children in Madhya Pradesh that views education as a tool for liberation...and a place of fun.

The Adharshila Learning Centre was started in 1998 by the Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan.

The children have an active role in running the school.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Math on the Farm

As I started listing the Math activities that we have done on the campus, I reached 50 topics very fast. Here's one.

We wanted to figure out the per acre yield of vegetables on our Center's organic farm. So with great enthu I took the Amazon and Nile group children ( Age 12 -14, roughly 6th and 7th grade) on the farm. This I explained to them and after a frantic search of the campus and inquiring from the adults we were able to find  ropes and an old steel tape, left on the campus by a mason. Children divided themselves in groups for various vegetable plots viz. kaddoo - pumpkin  lauki- bottle gourd, gilki - gourd, bhindi - ladyfinger and chavli.- beans. 

It started on a good note as most children knew that to calculate the area we need length and breadth of a rectangle. Discovery 1 - the plots were rectangles. But one was not. It was a trapezium. This group had to struggle the most. Later on the groups also struggled with this problem in the class. This stage of measuring and multiplying to get the area of the plot was fairly easy. The main problems were like how to write 34 meters and 50 cm. in decimal form and add ? Should we write 34.5 cm or 34.5 m ? After multiplying, how to write the answer - 214.65 m/cm or sq. m. ?
And one more thing - the steel tape was broken. Its marking started at 30 cm. It took some time to figure out that the meter that we were measuring was actually just 70 cm. Also it was easier to measure with a stick  rather than a rope, that I had suggested.

The next steps were very sticky. Firstly we had to convert the square meters to gunthaas - the measure used by organic farmers around us - especially those associated with Dabholkar and the 40 guntha experiment. One guntha is 100 sq.m. for this conversion children had to go back to the 5th class problems eg. 5 pencils cost 10 rupees so what is the cost of one pencil. Sounds easy but with numbers like 259.78 sq. m it looks impossible to children. Any way once one or two smart guys had done it they taught the others. They learnt this after doing similar simpler problems ( at least at that time they did it. Actually I cant say that they learnt it). Then they had see the mess register and figure out the total amount of vegetables produced and find out the production per guntha. And finally the production that would happen on one acre. One acre is 40 gunthaas

After toiling for two - three hours one group got the result. The other groups got frustrated and left it. They tried it the next day with help from a senior who teaches them maths.

The best part of all this was the result. The realization that we had produced quite a lot. Though we have to check the record productions for veges but the figures were pretty high for us, considering that we started from a totally barren peice of land. Most of the veges. went to about 20 quintals ( 2000 Kg./acre). The pumpkins were about 40 quintal an acre. Costed at Rs. 20/ kg this means Rs. 40,000/acre which is very good income as compared to other crops( not counting the marketing problems).

All the children were wide eyed and didnt believe their answers. Anyway it led to a discussion with the elder children about the usefulness of the school syllabus which does'nt teach to earn from their own resources. We are able to produce veges for the school mess - 120 children and adults - enough for 3-4 months. How we wish that some children opt to learn this instead of blindly following the school under societal pressure. Maybe someday...someone....

Friday, October 5, 2012

Naatak India Company has a page on fb

Inspired by our success of the play 'Bhanai' in Indore, we have created a page on fb. The idea is to show the work of the Naatak India Company - our theatre group.
But not just this.
We also want to get in touch with other theatre people/ groups who can help take this work forward.
Like most of our other ventures the Naatak India Company is not a funded venture. We want to take it fwd. with the help of friends as volunteers and through the funds generated through the shows. Only if some people want to work on it on a full time basis, we will look for their fellowship support.

Though the page is new please like it and link it your blogs, accounts, etc.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Adharshila - We're on - 2012 -13

The new session of  2012 -13 at Adharshila. Its on. About 80 parents turned up at the new admission meeting on 25th June. 60 new aspirants have registered. Lets see how many turn up.

The enthusiasm is less as there are'nt any rains as yet. Its difficult, going to be more difficult. For the animals its going to be really bad. If you are a farmer you do'nt have to be a crystal ball reader to see the future year, sitting on dry land with no clouds. Just wind.

The uncertainty of agriculture is a real reason for people wanting to get their children to schools. The only link of schooling is with jobs. But the kind of education being dished out in rural schools, mostly in steel plates at the time of mid day meals, is the main reason for the lack of interest in schools. If you can afford it - the option is pvt. school if not wait for being 14 or 12 or whatever to go to a ginning factory when you can start earning. Till then small chores at home - tending goats, farm, this that, fun....

We too wait... for children, friends, volunteers, fee, donations, something to happen .. rain.

With all kinds of theories in the head, contradicting each other, principles and practicalities we are still at it   (" i still love you" our daughter tells us like a cuckoo clock)...

We cant let the dryness dry our spirits. Majali, Shewanta, Shanta and Badri bhai are at it. Running after the crane to pull out the tubewell, then to put it back, out again, more pipes, electricity, decorating the rooms, fodder for the cattle, talking to parents, entertaining the children, bargaining with the cooks...

....... living up to promises and the sparkle in the eyes of the newcomers.
Thats it. We can't dissappoint them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Sound Recordist at Adharshila

It started with a two line email, in October, of a film maker friend introducing the sound recordist. The mail said that the recordist wanted to take a break from regular filmy Mumbai work and was keen to work with the Adharshila children on the song cd project. The song cd project is a very old dream of taking out a cd of our sangathan and school songs sung by children and self. After many aborted promises, we had another one. So obviously we took it as another of the same and forgot it.

We were quite surprised to get a call in the middle of January when we were just planning to take a rest after a very tiring week spent on taking out the special issue of Yuvaniya. Anyway our minds started rolling. List of songs, singers? When we had thought about the cd we had many children who were keen on singing. But now they were gone. Ex star singers of Adharshila were contacted. In the mean while whoever was at hand became a singer and started serious practice. Most students have gone for the winter vacation. And what about instruments? Our good old Kachaat Band! The elder children start collecting old buckets, drums, iron, wood and any other sound thing.

The recordist bombarded us with many questions about configuration of computer, mike, fire wire and many other new technicalities. Ultimately we told him that though we had lot of such things but the experience was that none of them worked like one wants them too so it was best to get whatever equipment that was needed. (He had no idea that the first question should have been about electricity, and we too kept quite as it might have made him rethink his plans about coming here.

Anyway he arrived on the promised day, in fact a little early – 2 am instead of 6 am. His bus driver was an aspiring rally driver. He had to chill out at the bus stop - from 2am. His bus reached very early.

The first thing was that there was no way to connect the sound box to the laptop through a USB port. It needed a fire wire port. Our ancient computers had crashed trying to install fire wire. So a search started for a computer. We discovered that one of our old students had one. After chasing him we convinced him to loan it for a few days and of course was welcome to sing. Our computer genie, Latif fixed the fire wire port in it. When the electricity came the next day we discovered that it worked. Vow! With claps he tested all rooms for acoustics. Finally decided that open air was the best option. So the whole computer set up was moved near the door where he could see the artist, remember in the studios the composer sees the singer through a glass wall. Here we were singer and recordist face to face, without the glass partition.

He wanted to listen to the band. What band. What artists? We were just a bunch of children who sang every now and then. Of course we thought we were great. He was quite disappointed at not seeing proper musicians.

For four days he struggled with us – with erratic electricity, only one mike which meant recording 15 layers 15 times – solo, chorus 4 times two children at a time, one side of the drum, other side of the drum and so on and on. We also started feeling and behaving like artists with headphones and a little imagination. He also referred to us as artists, out of habit.

When finally everything was recorded for the first song he thought it was enough and the trip was at least not wasted. Now it was our turn to be disappointed. We had a whole list of songs to make a cd. Anyway he tried out some effects and showed us some things. He said that he was actually not a song recordist he was a much bigger deal i.e. a sound designer. Guess what’s that. Well it seems a sound designer is responsible for all the sounds one hears in the background in the movies – car chase, door opening, creepy sounds during a crime etc. Sound designer sounds good too.

Whatever. The song really sounded good when all the tracks were done, especially through the head phones. Ultimately the quality of a song depends on the speakers one uses to listen. We were all thrilled.

We also learnt how small things like mikes costed more than a lakh of rupees the ones on which Rehman etc. Recorded hits. In the end we were wondering which was more important the machine or the voice.

We enjoyed these four days a lot. Finally we have put the song on our mobile as mp3 file. We are trying to upload to the net somewhere. Lets see if we are successful.

Next ... we are waiting for the film crew. A group of children will make a film starting from writing, acting, shooting and editing.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Rope Trick

Let me fly
It’s amazing how little things can bring so much joy. Three months ago we brought a thick rope, usually used in the area for tying bullocks. It was doubled and hung from a tilted branch of a tree about 10 feet high. No there was no tyre at the bottom. Last time we had a tyre, the children were banging into the tree trunk. This time it was only for climbing and doing gymnastic type exercises. They loved it. Withing three days the children had tried at least ten different types of things. Climbing up. Spreading the rope with legs and rotating. Two children making designs. Heads down on the rope.

Suresh heads down
For a month I kept on shouting, not to use it as a swing. Finally we discovered a swing game. Two teams one on each side run, catch the rope and leave it at the end of the swing to see who goes farthest. One boy stands in the middle to stablize the rope. Somebody gave him a name, just like that a new word was coined in the bareli language – ubravniyo – someone who stops. Today I saw some very elegant landings. After a few days, points were added to the game. Farther you go you get more points. Points. Something to fight and shout for. Hey was this point thing necessary? Competition? What will the purist say ? immidiately, without any prompting one boy from each team stands near the other team’s landing place to check if they are counting the points correctly. A little competition doesn’t matter I tell myself.

Only problem is that the rope tree is just outside our house and the noise is unbearable. The kids are incorrigible. They come back everytime they are shooed away in exactly fifteen minutes.

Two hoots to the slick, designer made, eco friendly, child friendly, over cautiously made swings… just simple rope made of jute. Joy is so simple. Such little cost for such big joys.

Another thing is that there is risk in this game. One might hurt while jumping, there are other trees nearby. Someone might come in between. Children are learning to take and judge and handle risks. Isnt this part of growing up. Arnt we overcautious with our kids these days. We are scared so cant help being overcautious ! Many children just watch for a few days then try on their own.

Any way the rope is a great success. I heard Lokesh has already got his face scratched as he fell down once, though he was a star jumper. Overconfident.

Suresh in his rope house
Two's Spider

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Right now we are excited about.....The Making of the Special Issue of Yuvaniya

Taking out a magazine from a remote adivasi village.

We didn’t believe it when we got internet connectivity in Sakad which barely has electricity, where hand pumps are going dry now. Sakad has all poverty indicators. But we got internet. We were in a frenzy and mailed everyone we knew about what a great achievement it was.

Three years down the net we are one of the few fortunately co netted people in the country who are able to crib about not getting connectivity. We never cribbed about electricity as the joke about it is that electricity never goes in our village. It comes. Once in a while. Right now only on alternate days. So what if we don’t have electric supply. We have many peons and IAS officers loaded with crores of cash and gold. Swarnim MP they call it.

Let’s forget the crib. This was supposed to be a positive blog post.

Now we are once again very excited about our new first i.e. taking out a forty page magazine dummy sitting right here in this remote adivasi village – Sakad. Actually this was the fifth issue, a special issue for the Adivasi Mahasammelan held at Manpur in the Banswara district of Rajasthan on the 13th-14th Jan. 2012.

Like always we made a grand plan, this time for a special issue, without thinking about what it will take to do it, meaning how much headache it will give us. It was decided to source articles from all the senior adivasi leaders of Maharashtra, Gujarat , Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Then it began. Starting out by contacting these leaders for articles. The Maharashtra people were very excited and promptly agreed to write and also ask others to write. Some said we have never written but will try. We suggested that they just talk like in a mike and ask somone to keep writing. Though there was a deadline but we were reminding people and later begging them to send their articles even two weeks after the deadlines. One or two recharge cards later we were not dissappointed.Guess what - many people said they had written or were writing.

Next thing was how to get those articles to reach us. No there was no time to send them through post. You must remember that most of our leader writers live in very remote villages of remote areas of the country. So we tried every way. One article reached us through the driver of the only private bus that came to our area. We chased the bus and driver for three days to the last station only to discover that the article was with a guy we knew, but he had forgotten about it. This guy is also leader.

We tried to tell some writers to send via email. They too got excited at the prospect of becoming part of the e revolution. They got hold of someone who knew about email etc. We sent our long id. And after the usual speed breakers of file not opening, different hindi fonts etc. we were able to get some articles. Of course some supporter at their end had to trudge two three times to the market centre from the village to do it.

Some people had hand written. So they sent a scanned version. This too after many phone calls, file not opening etc. The best was the fax machine. The fax machine is in a photocopy shop in a town 10 km. away. The fax machine works only when there is electricity. Remember alternate days. The other end is also similar electric situation. So to find a time when there is electricity at both ends. Then the fax machine has to give a fax tone. Then they could send it. Someone went to collect it. But we realized that some pages were lost between sending and reaching. Again go to town.Match timings and send. Collect.

Now editing which mostly meant rewriting. Typing. Laptop discharged. Battery discharged. Editing. The printer said its too late. Cant be done. Never mind. We will do layout. But wait. Computer crashed and of course we had some back up of first drafts. Run to Pune. Data recovered. Page Maker not loaded after recovery. Never mind we will do it on Publisher. Done. Now lets print it. Who knows how to print a booklet. No one. Not at least on this program. Trial. Trial. Electricity gone. Wake up friends in the middle of night. Finally at 4 am we have a printout. The team is leaving for the Mahasammela around 11 am. Now we are just one step away – photocopying and making at least 50 copies. But the shop opens only around 10.30. Phone. Convince. Convince. Finally the photocopy guy reaches shop after his bath, temple routine. 50 copies made. Back to Sakad. Now for the stapling.

What a great pleasure to turn the pages of the special issue of Yuvaniya. It has everything. Cover design, artwork, headings, poems, editorial and looks like a magazine.

The 50 home made copies were sold out. We have orders for 300 more copies and best of all – Yuvaniya was released in the Mahasammelan with other books by a Minister.

And just as we were preparing to sleep over the weekend, our friend from Mumbai called to say that he was ready to come for the sound/song recording...

( I am not editing this long story. Only spell-check.)