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.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Seventeenth Monsoon at Adharshila

July - September 2016

A brief report of activities at Adharshila Learning Centre in the first three months of the new session. We have only written about the activities that took place outside the regular class room study.
Please read, give ideas, and share with friends. Volunteer to implement your ideas.

Happy Reading
Adharshila Team

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Nai Taleem and More...Vinoba's Thoughts on Education

Excerpts from Vinoba Bhave, Thoughts on Education. Rajghat, Varanasi: Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, 1996 fourth edition.

 Chapter 6: SELF-RELIANCE AND FREEDOM 

Boys are taught various bits of information in school nowadays, but they are not taught how to acquire knowledge independently for themselves. Many people would agree about the importance of self-reliance in education. Self-reliance, for me, has a very pro­found meaning. It is not merely that the child should be taught some handicraft, some manual skill by which he may support himself.

There must of course be manual labour, everyone must learn how to use his bands. If the whole population were to take up some kind of handicraft, it would bring all sorts of benefits—class divisions would be overcome, production would rise, prosperity and health would improve. So that, at the very least, this measure of self-sufficiency must form part of educational programme. But self-sufficiency as I understand it involves much more than that.

It seems to me that education must be of such a quality that it will train students in intellectual self-reliance and make them independent thinkers. If this were to become the chief aim of learning, the whole process of learning would be transformed. The present school syllabus contains a multiplicity of languages and subjects, and the student feels that in every one of these he needs the teacher’s help for years together. But a student should be so taught that he is capable of going forward and acquiring knowledge for himself. There is an infinite sum of knowledge in the world, and each one needs some finite portion of it for the conduct of his affairs. But it is a mistake to think that this life-knowledge can be had in any school.

Life-knowledge can only be had from life. The task of the school is to awaken in its pupils the power to learn from life. Most parents are anxious for their boys to complete the school course so that they can get a salaried job and lead an easy life. This however is a wrong way of looking at education.

Learning has value in its own tight. The purpose of learning is freedom—and freedom is another word for what we have called Self-reliance. Self-reliance means freedom from dependence on others, or on any external support. A man who has true learning is truly free and independent. The first and least part of this self-sufficiency is that the body must be educated and made skilled in a craft. A second, and a very important, part of it is the ability to acquire new knowledge for oneself. There is a third essential element in freedom, and this also is a part of education. Freedom implies not only independence of other people but also independence of one’s own moods and impulses. The man who is a slave to his senses and cannot keep his im­pulses under control is neither free nor self-sufficient. Tem­perance, vows and service therefore have their place in education, for it is by such means that this third aspect of freedom can be learned.

Self-sufficiency, then, has three meanings. The first is that one should not depend upon others for one’s daily bread. The second is that one should have developed the power to acquire knowledge for oneself. The third is that a man should be able to rule himself, to control his senses and his thoughts.

Slavery of the body is wrong. The body falls into slavery for the sake of the belly; therefore a free man must know how to earn his living through handicraft.

Slavery of the mind is wrong. If a man cannot think for himself and teach an independent judgment, his mind is enslaved; a free man must have acquired the power of independent thought.

Slavery of the emotions and the senses is also wrong, and it is an essential part of educa­tion to overcome their tyranny.

Patents ought to keep these three principles in mind when thinking about their children’s education. The parents’ whole duty has not been done when the boys have got jobs and a marriage has been arranged. They will find their true satisfaction in seeing their children happy, skilled and respected by all their neighbours.

 Chapter 13: NAI TALIM A SEED THOUGHT, NOT A SYSTEM 

It is about fourteen years now since our country was given the great idea of Nai Talim. In one sense it is not new at all, since no truth of experience is new. Truth is eternal,. and the seeds of this idea have existed for many centuries. But when some aspect of truth is lighted up for our own times, it seems to us that we have got hold of a new idea, and for us it is new. Its newness lies in this, that we draw inspira­tion from it.

This idea of Nai Talim has been working stead­fastly among us for many years ; it has been tried and tested; its reality, its strength, and its abiding truth have been estab­lished beyond doubt. The time has come for this Nai Talim to stand up and summon the nation like a trumpet call. It puzzles and saddens me that three years should have gone by since we gained our independence, yet we have not found the courage to take a decision about this. What dearer proof could there be of our failure to understand the essentials, than that the very system of education. which was in use before in­dependence as a means to keep people in subjection, should be allowed to continue after independence has been won?

If you still feel that our new education is as yet in the experi­mental stage—it is still cooking, it is not ready to be eaten, and we will eat it only when it is properly cooked—if that is your idea, then I must ask whether we are to eat bricks and stones in the meanwhile? Are such things fit to eat, or fit to be thrown away? Where would have been the harm if you had thrown them away at once, and then said to us: “We have not yet considered what the new pattern of education should be. It will take us a few months to think this out, and for that time we will stop all schooling.. As it is urgently necessary to increase production, all the children will go out and work.”

But we do not feel so keenly about our national edu­cation as we do about our national flag; that is what I mean by our failure to understand the essentials. We have named this education “basic education,” but we do not understand the meaning of the word “basic.” We imagine that it mcans merely the first stage of children’s education. It means far more than that.

It means that this is the found on, the base, upon which the whole of our education, from beginning to end, has to be built, whether you call it primary, or middle, or higher. It will not do to have one kind of education for the villages and another kind for the towns. It will not do to have one kind of education for the first four years of school life, and afterwards some other kind that is quite unrelated to it. It will not do to regard this as an experiment to be tried out on refugees while the rest of the country has something else. We have a right to use the word “basic” only if we are agreed that the whole education of the country should be built up on the foundation of Nai Talim.

Many even of those who are engaged in educational experiment, when asked what plans they have made for the towns, reply that this education is not intended for the towns, but for the villages. Nothing, in my view, could be a greater mistake. This education is for all, and in it there is no dis­tinction between town and village. If we are content that the atmosphere, the mental attitudes, which now prevail in our towns should continue, India will have no peace. The town must interest itself in the service of the villages on whose support it stands, and must educate its children with this end in view. It will not do to bring up village children to serve their country while town children are brought up to loot their country! Such a thing cannot happen in this country because the nation has awakened, and a wide-awake nation will never allow differences of that kind to arise. This then is the meaning of Basic Education.

I wish now to utter a word of warning about some of the dangers which confront us. Many people nowadays think of Basic Education as a new kind of system, method or technique of teaching, on a par with the various other teaching “methods” which have had their vogue in the past. This is a mistaken view. I am very much afraid of systems, especially in edu­cational work ; a system can make an end of all education. What a student receives from a Nai Talim centre such as Seva­gram is not a system to be practised but a compass to show him the direction. He is given a suggestion which he may keep in mind and think over, but he must make his own independent judgments and try out his own independent experiments in his own place. Nai Talim is not a. system, it is a far-reaching educational idea, it is a seed-thought, like the Brahma-vichar which was formerly so widespread in India and in which so many different systems of thought—advait, dvait, visisht-advait and so on—were all rooted.

I was once talking with a friend, and explaining to him that it is a fault in the western system of education that it lays so little stress on learning great lines by heart. I said that children ought to learn plenty of well-chosen couplets, and I cited my own case as an example. I said that I had got much benefit from it, and that it had stood me in good stead at a number of critical periods of my life. It is good that the exalted experi­ences which are recorded in our literature should be stored in our minds. Our traditions in this matter differ from those of the west.

The point of view of western scholars is analytical they break up the world into fragments and divide it into various “branches” for study; but we look upon the world as one, and study it as an integral whole. In this our approach differs from theirs, and for this reason there is in our tradition a place for the learning of great passages of literature. Other traditions give the foremost place to the intellect.

The im­portance of the intellect is recognized by all, but one must not ignore the feelings and emotions. The heart of man needs nourishment no less than the mind, and it is right and necessary to provide it by storing the memory with thoughts of truth. The friend to whom I was speaking agreed with me, but be at once had a question to ask. “The thing appeals to me very much,” he said, “but how can it be correlated with craft?” 1 said, “I too will ask you a question. Your children spend every night asleep in bed—what has this sleeping got to do with craft, I would like to know?” “It has this to do with it,” he replied, “that after they have slept they are fresh and ready for work, so that they come to the craft with the necessary eagerness.” “Very well,” I said, “look at it like this. Man has a soul, and it is only when the soul of man is strong that the nation can be strong. Strength is not merely of the body; a body without a soul is not a body but a corpse, and can be correlated with nothing but the burning-ghat. It is only when the body is informed by a soul that it has the strength for action. In my opinion, the learning of great passages of literature is a necessary aid to the maturing of the soul.”

I have described this incident because so many people are trying to turn Nai Talitn into a system ; and if this idea gets imprisoned in a system, it will be killed. If that should happen there will be no room for initiative, and people will spend their time contriving how this piece of knowledge can be correlated with that activity. We must steer clear of that kind of thing.

Nai Talim is a philosophy of living, it is an attitude to life that we have to bring to all our work. People talk of the growth of population in India, and there is no doubt that this is a serious problem and one that demands attention. But for my part I do not so much fear the growth of population as the growth of an unmanly population. If our people are manly, hard-working and skilful, I feel confident that this earth will be able to bear their weight. But because we lack the spirit of self-discipline, an unmanly and spiritless population is increasing in numbers. The books that are being writtea man to disaster ; it cannot profit humanity. Strength by itself is vain ; skill by itself is vain; they have value only when they are used for human welfare. Not enough attention is being given to this aspect of education.

When people discuss Basic Education, they simply recite this slogan of “education through craft” as if that one phrase described it completely. That is an entirely false idea. Our plan for education is a plan for discipline ; its main-spring, that is to say, is not self-indulgence but self-control. Our chief aim should be that our children should learn from their earliest years to keep their senses, minds and. intellects under control. Their speech must be imbued with the spirit of truthfulness ; we must train them to express their thoughts clearly, and to choose words for their fitness, not for fashion. I would like to invite your attention to this difference between fitness and fashion. I have one thing more to say. If we are to carry out this task of creating a spirit of discipline and self-control, basic education must be entrusted, so far as is possible, to women, and women must be trained for this work We ought to be keeping in touch with all organisations and institutions for women in India, and inducing them to come forward for this service.

The education of little children should be entirely in the hands of women. As the Upanishad has it, “matruvan, pitruvan, acharyavan” — education is to be received first from the mother, then from the father, and lastly from the teacher. That is the true order of education.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Newsletter: January - March 2016

We are happy to share pictures of various activities that happened at the Adharshila Learning Centre in the first three months of 2016. 

We also take this opportunity to thank you for your good wishes and support. 

Please scroll down to see all the pages.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

'Farming' Calendar 2016

ART INSTRUCTION

 

Dear Friends

Hullo. As many of you know we publish a calendar every year to raise funds for the Adharshila Learning Centre, our residential school for adivasi children, in Madhya Pradesh.

We know you will be saying – "Calendar ?!! Now ? It’s February. You guys are real late."
Well yes. We are late, I guess. But better late than never, we thought.
The theme of the calendar this year is ‘Farming’. So we have an excuse – the monsoons were late and farmers are in real bad shape !!

OK. The ‘Farming Calendar 2016’ in it’s seven pages with colour photographs brings out the various major themes of concern related to farming – loss of traditional seeds, role of women in farming, erosion ofbiodiversity and it’s impact on our food and environment, struggles of farmers and the new innovative initiatives being taken up to improve the health of the farm sector and the importance of festivals around the agricultural cycle.





Besides being a delight to the eyes the calendar is a very good educational tool for workers of NGOs, school children and villagers
as it has short writeups on each theme in Hindi and English.

We are looking forward to you to distribute these calendars in your areas. The cost is Rs.100/calendar plus postage. Minimum order is 20 calendars. For less they are available in Delhi, Bhopal, Indore and Pune.
The images of the pages are attached. Regards and awaiting a positive response. Hope you will overlook the time taking into consideration the importance of the topic.
Jayashree and Amit
for
The Adharshila Team




Sunday, January 31, 2016

What We Were Upto - October – December 2015


Rooting the school curriculum in the local adivasi culture has been an important concern for us. Use of the local Bareli language for smaller classes, the freedom to talk in their own language, singing folk songs are a routine part of school life of children here. Anniversaries of adivasi freedom fighters are also celebrated to re-enforce a sense of pride in the children about their society. This is important because the text books hardly tell anything about adivasi history.
Birsa Munda Jayanti
Children participated in the Birsa Munda Jayanti celebration held in Sendhwa. Acquainting children with Adivasi history is part of the formal and informal curriculum at Adharshila and is one of the key themes of the education programme. In school also children sing songs and enact stories based on the lives of Adivasi Freedom Fighters.

Indal
Indal is an adivasi ceremony performed by an individual or village on completion of a vow. The ceremony lasts the whole night. Branches of the Kadamb tree are erected and the village pujaara performs the rituals. Goats and hens are sacrificed. Villagers from many villages come to participate in the ceremony.
For the last three four years the stated machinery and Hindu religious organisations have been trying to change the Indal ceremony by saying that this is the Indra devata and no animal sacrifice should take place. They bring Brahmin purohits who do havans. This year they declared a big programme to make a temple of the Indra devata where the Chief Minister was also coming as the main guest.
The Adivasi Mukti Sangathan and other adivasi organisations held a meeting to raise awareness about the issue. The adivasi children from Adharshila prepared a play to show how the actual ritual is supposed to be performed with songs for the meeting.

Shivirs
Shivirs of senior children are a regular feature to discuss general interest topics, subject topics and art and craft. It has been seen that children become free in workshop mode and like to change the classroom format of learning.
·      History Shivir – The main purpose of this was to counter the mainstream narrative being spread about Muslims and to avoid misinterpretation of the history lesson on Mughals.
·      Kheti Shivir – This was four day shivir. The children went around the village talking to elders and farmers. They understood the importance of maintaining biodiversity in farming. They also learnt about traditional practices and seeds which are now lost.
·      Portrayal of women in children’s stories – The children were asked to critically examine the portrayal of women and girls in school texts and also other stories from the library. They also reflected on the status of women in their society during the shivir.
·      Lantern Making



A lantern making workshop was held before Diwali. This is gradually becoming a tradition as this was the third consecutive year. The senior children and teachers transfer the skill to the younger children.
Craft and Drawing Workshops
Many other craft and drawing workshops were conducted - Origami Workshop, Rangoli Workshop and Drawing Workshop
Nasha Mukti Diwas
A two day programme was held wherein each class did different activity – learnt songs, did a survey in the village to find the expense on liquour, heard stories of struggles to stop liquor shops and learnt about the ill affects of habitual liquour consumption.
World Food Day
Discussions were held around the theme of food security. Children were shown various types of millets. A lesson was made about millets in Hindi and English. Children took interviews of elders and came to know that people dont have most millet seeds.
AshramWork
Children are involved in all the work of the campus. Cleaning, cooking, farm, tending the cows and bulls, maintaining the gobar gas plant, cleaning solar panels, masonary repairs. Mainly this term children were involved in farm work. Some groups made their own plots and planted methi. The older children constructed steps on the entrance slope to stop the soil erosion.
Ten groups have been made and assigned different duties. There is a long list of ‘mantrees’ to look after various.

Farming Calendar
We reaped a bumper harvest of Louki. >5quintal froma 3 guntha plot
Worked on the calendar for 2016 on the theme of Farming. It became very tedious as we were not able to get good photographs. Many photographers didnt respond. At one point we left working on it as we were not sure about its sale as we decided that this year we will make it only if we get assured orders. It is still under the process and not sure if it will be printed. ..




Theater
Exercise-Play at Naatak Shivir, Pushkar, Rajasthan

The Naatak India Company directors were invited to do a theater workshop with youth in Rajasthan on the theme of child marriage. We conducted a seven day workshop during which the youth narrated their experiences through skits. The issue of child marriage was explored from various viewpoints and finally a play was made.
We are developing a new pedagogy for exploring real life issues based on the experience of the actors through theater – Explorations Through Theater.


Meetings
·        Attended the SRUTI meet in Uttarakhand
·        Two day meeting to frame a response to the New Education Policy being promoted by MHRD. The meeting was organised Nayee Taleem Sangh, Wardha

Pro Reservation Rally
Reservation is a big issue for adivasi students. After the anti reservation stir in Gujarat and other places the adivasi students and other organisations took out a pro reservation rally in Barwani, the district headquarters. Teachers and ex students participated in  the programme.

Recognition of Work
The year end was an ego boost time. We were awarded the Mary Patil Smriti Puruskar by Mukt Shabd Prakashan, Mumbai and the Nayee Taleem Samiti, Wardha. It was an honour to speak in the same hall where Gandhiji held the first teacher training of Nayee Taleem teachers in Wardha.

Publicity
An article was published in LiveMint in the special Giving Issue on Diwali - http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/hrgTu2CmdYZERoR1TaBc0M/The-school-on-the-hill.html
As a response to the article Adharshila received almost Rs. 1 Lakh in donations.
Another article was published in the Deccan Herald - http://www.deccanherald.com/content/517100/brightening-lives-tribals.html
News reports of the Award functions were published in Marathi newspapers –

Volunteers and Researcher
Three MA Education students from Azim Premji Institute. Besides teaching English, Math, Social Science and Science subjects they engaged the senior students in discussion on depiction of girls and women in stories which led to a general discussion on women in adivasi society. Another volunteer was teaching the Mughal Invasion chapter in History. We realised that the chapter was adding to the mainstream anti muslim narrative . This led to a lot of discussion and a workshop on the issue with children and the volunteers.
Another researcher stayed with us for a month to observe the behaviour of children for his PhD.
A friend from Sendhwa is helping in English teaching in the primary classes.

Visitors
·        Rekha and Anil Kumar, Patna – to understand the Adharshila model before starting a school in Bihar.
·        Adivasi Teachers from Bhagwanpura tehsil of Barwani district to buy adivasi literature.
·        Friends from Gwalior
·        Rakesh, filmmaker from Barwani

·        Adivasi activists from Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Who Owns Adharshila ?

Adivasi Leaders with Adharshila children who showed them around.

The main question that confronted us at the beginning of the 2016 session was - 
Who owns Adharshila ?

Adharshila Learning Centre was started in 1998 with a very clear understanding that it has to be built and run with the support of the community through Adivasi organisations in the area. It was seen as part of a larger struggle of the Adivasis to improve their lives. We were clear that it could’nt be just a 'project' on the NGO pattern with it's life linked to the life of the project proposal. 

The beginning was made with very concious particiapation of the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, an adivasi rights organisation, which decided to work for the education of adivasi children.   A Society by the name of an adivasi freedom fighter – ‘Veer Khaiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan’ was registered which comprised mainly of adivasis.

Though money was sourced from outside to buy land but the materials for the initial buildings was collected locally by  the, Sangathan. People from many villages were mobilised to do ‘shramdaan’ to build a hall, kitchen and a house. Hundreds of people participated in the construction work. The people of Sakad, the village where Adharshila is situated, worked at night to dig the foundations. Khumsingh a senior kaaryakarta of Adivasi Mukti Sangathan stayed at the site for almost a month to overlook the construction.

Meetings were held to discuss the curriculum which ‘Our School’ should follow. Most people felt that farming, animal husbandary, primary health etc. should be part of the curriculum. That children should learn about adivasi culture and be allowed to use mother tongue in school were other concerns. These discussions happened at a basic level and did’nt develop to deeper understanding of educational issues as the regularity of meetings was an issue.

The people who put their children in the first year were mostly kaaryakartaas who had a clear understanding that this was not going to be a normal school. Children will be allowed to learn at their own pace, learning while exploring the surroundings and definitely not confined to classrooms. They also said that we will not put our children in Govt. jobs. These children will grow up to work for the upliftment of the society. Idealism was high.

One thing was very clear that this was an Adivasi School being built by adivasi and its curriculum will also be different taking into account the life, culture and problems of adivasis. A curriculum for social change was key to the concept of the school.

Over the years we made many attempts to involve the community leaders and parents in the running of the schools. As we have said in the beginning most parents were kaaryakartaas or community leaders so they were motivated to do something. Though many committees were formed and consultations and meetings held but no proper system came out of it. The relationship of the karyakartaas with the sangathan affected their relation with the school. Coming for meetings regularly from long distances was a problem. The main thing was that nobody had any experience of running a school. It didnt occupy an important enough space in their minds to make extra efforts. They thought that running the school was for the literates and what could they contribute to it.

The Sangathan leaders also somehow did’nt undrestand the importance of this work in their larger work of societal change. Hence they kept themselves at a distance. Partly it was desired also that they dont meddle in the daily affairs as we were wary that it might develop into an employer – employee relation with the teachers and other staff. But the expectation that they will keep in touch with children and devise an institutional sysem to manage the problems of the school didnt happen. Whenever there was a problem we approached the kaaryakartas and mostly the problems were solved. It worked at this level but a system didnt evolve where in regularly the kaaryakartas would meet to discuss the problems of the school.

Running an institution means lot of dirty work like collecting fees, mobilising more funds. Looking for teachers was also one main agenda as we realised that most adivasi students who had passed school did not want to stay in the village and the renumeration that we were giving was very low as this was seen more as working for the society rather than a job. Mainly their participation was sought in financial matters after the initial meetings about the philosophy of the school, curriculum etc.

The admission process was totally done through the kaaryakartas. This was one thing where they could exercise some power and participated enthusiastically. But refusing a child became a presige issue sometimes.

After the first three four years we somehow abandoned this process as it was not taking any real shape. But once a year we insisted and got the Sangathan Karyakartaas to stay the night with the parents on the Annual Day. They saw the work of the students through a very elaborate exhibition and also saw children perform on the stage. The school year, problems, challenges ahead were discussed. It became a general body meeting where everybody voiced their concerns heard the report and left the school to us and the teachers.

Another aspect of involving the community to run the school was to develop a team of adivasis who would run it – teaching, administrative, fund raising, everything. This by and large is happening, though there is a lot of scope for improvement. A lot of effort has been put in into this. Due to lack of funds we function with very skeletal staff and this means that there is a lot of load and diverse responsibilities on the same people. It is difficult for them to do multitasking with diverse types of things ranging from class preparation to farming, to looking over the kitchen, health etc. But the school runs on the shoulders of this team. Fund raising is one thing which they are not doing on their own though they have tried their hand at it.

One great thing that has happened over the years is that children are fully involved in running the school. It is not just the weekly newspaper or fortnightly 'swashaasan' meetings where they freely air their views about the problems in the school but they do a lot of work required to keep the school going on a daily basis from cleaning the campus, rooms, cooking, farming, looking after the cow, operating the floor mill, maintaining electricity and myriads of things that come up.

Inspite of the active role of children and teachers in running the school the question of the ultimate ownership of the school hangs in the air. This year we revived the discussion of ownership with the local adivasi organisation.

A meeting of Adivasi leaders was convened at Adharshila in April 2015 to discuss the question. About 25 leaders from Maharashtra, Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh came to attend the meeting.
After a tour of the school activities given by the students and observations by various leaders associated with Adharshila Learning Centre it was resolved that –
  •         Adharshila Learning Centre could serve as one of the models to develop Learning Centres for adivasi children.
  •         That there is need for centres like Adharshila Learning Centre
  •         It should be upscaled so that more children can benefit from the effort.
  •      Funds for running the school should be raised primarily through friends in the community and outside.
  •         The number of children should be increased by 25 every year.
  •        A committee to look after the work of Adharshila was formed by the name of Adharshila Vikas Samiti
  •         The Samiti would raise a fund of Rs. 5 Lakh for doing additional arrangement for increased number of children.
  •      Two more meetings were held with the committee members to get into the habit. Some small efforts at fundraising have been started by individual members. It has been decided to suggest to the organising committee Adivasi Mahasammelan to donate  the  that extra food material and fuelwood to Adharshila.


The Challenges Ahead
  •    To routinise the meetings of the Adharshila Vikas Samiti
  •    To involve ex students in the school committe and other programmes.
  •    Establishing the Samiti as the main body responsible for the growth of the school
  •    Create a sense of ownership amongst members of the Samiti and the team at Adharshila.
  •   Create awareness amongst the committe members and Adivasi leaders about the issues involved in the Education Debate and defining a curriculum.
  •     Strengthening the team at Adharshila – teamwork, innovation and creativity, total involvement in work, taking hard decisions.
  •    Get some experienced people to stay at Adharshila.
  •   Fund raising through these committees.