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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Organic Tomatoes and Shit in a Bucket

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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.


B said...

This comment is long overdue, as I went to visit Adharshila this past February and have only now sat down to write how I truly felt about the school. At the time of my visit, I was an Indicorps fellow (www.indicorps.org) working with the voluntary agency Shashwat in Maharashtra to try to further improve the quality of learning in a private, residential tribal school that Shashwat had set up. I wanted to visit Adharshila to see how another school in a tribal area was approaching primary education. Though our school had made much progress in its few years, there were still things to be improved upon: rote learning was still the main method of teaching, what was taught was completely determined by the state board curriculum, there were debates over how to discipline children, etc. Though I absolutely loved working there, it was frustrating at times to be facing so many different areas to improve upon. My visit to Adharshila was meant so that I could borrow ideas, see how things might be done differently, and get reinspired in a way.

Adharshila was a breath of fresh air, to say the least. When I arrived in Sakad, an NRI volunteer who had been working at Adharshila for several months, Sameer, showed me around. I could not communicate too much with the students, knowing very little Hindi, but I was able to learn a lot about the school’s philosophy from Amit and Jayashree as well as from simply observing the children while they were in class and out. I could feel how free they felt and how open an environment the school provided. I had visited a couple of other schools before Adharshila that had impressed me, but they had never been in tribal or even rural areas. The schools I had seen had had massive facilities and tuition fees to match; they were all English medium. In Adharshila was a school that was meant for tribal kids, in an environment familiar to them. And though classes were taught in Hindi, the importance of their mother tongue Bareli always seemed to be reinforced.

I found many ideas from Adharshila useful: from the original poems and curricula they used to the idea of having a farm on school grounds. But the thing I found the most inspiring, by far, was just the philosophy of education that the school works under and the environment provided to the kids - the freedom given to them to learn at the pace and in the way they want to. The school’s vision is clear: to develop social leaders within the tribal community…to use education as a means of empowering tribal children to become who they want to become. I think that may have been what I appreciated most about the school – the clarity and beauty of the vision itself.

I am back in the U.S. now but I cannot stop thinking about India and more specifically, about the children I grew to care about so much in Maharashtra. Where will their education take them? I want them to have confidence, to dream big, to reach for their goals while knowing that there is no reason why they should not succeed. I want them to understand how proud they should be of their own culture and that success does not just mean a job in Mumbai or Pune. When I think of Adharshila and its vision, I am inspired that this can happen if other schools follow its example. Though I know Adharshila is a work in progress and has been for ten years, like I said before, what I respect most is what the school is working towards. Adharshila, with its goal of making tribal children the masters of their own destinies, is a place from where the Indian education system could learn a great deal.

Rahul Banerjee said...

finally the blog is moving again. it is indeed heartening to learn that the agriculture experiment is bearing fruit literally. congratulations. amit has always been a great folk musician and i am sure the kachaat band (what a misnomer) will produce music and not kachaat. however as a die hard cynic i find the exaggeration of the numbers at the khandwa rally a bit jarring.

Anonymous said...

Go India! Keep true to your own way of doing things and you may save the rest of us.