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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, December 29, 2011

The past 6 months

June – November 2011

     The academic session started with the first hand experience of rubbing shoulders with the regular school system. We were trying to admit our son in the 10th class, who was in Adharshila (an unrecognized learning centre) for the first 9 years. The papers, affidavits and all. We experienced the anguish of the hapless adivasi parents who have to run for the various certificates from panchayats to tehsils for months to get their children admitted. The photocopy shops make a heist. In this month farmers are running in search of two things - seeds and loans for the farm and certificates and hostels for the kids.

     Even though the rains tested every body’s patience the meeting for new admissions was a moral booster. New, excited children and parents. Nice way to forget those who have decided to leave. Even more encouraging this year was the group of people who wanted to open a new centre in Roshmal. Kukna an AMS activists mobilized parents of 3 villages to start a Centre in their village. He listed 35 parents, keen to start the new centre, formed a committee to manage the school and brought them to Adharshila for a one day meeting with us to understand the philosophy and structure of Adhrshila. Ultimately this didn’t work out as they couldn’t find anybody to run the centre. But it resulted in two young boys and girls coming to Adharshila for the teacher training program while studying for the 10th exam from open school. We hope they will be able to run such children’s centres after one or two years – a future plan. The children of Sakad village took lots of vegetable seeds and some tree plants for their homes.

     The 4th issue of Yuvaniya, a magazine for youth came out. We established a good rapport with the workers of Muskaan, an NGO working with Gond children in Bhopal slums who came to help in typing and editing the issue. We are currently working on the 5th issue, a special issue for the Adivasi Ekta Sammelan to be held in Rajasthan in January. We are after the main leaders of the Ekta Parishad to write for the issue. Through Yuvaniya, 4 writing workshops for adivasis were conducted from where most of the material for the magazine was generated.

     Ex students – one of our oldest stars, Majali did us proud by agreeing to go to Bomliya paat a settlement (not a recognized village) in Burhanpur 200km away, to help the community and Adivasi Ekta Sangathan restart a school  which they had started three years ago. Another oldie, Kamal has taken a six month gap after graduation to visit organizations in other tribal areas. He went to Jharkhand and stayed with Arvind Anjum for 3 weeks. In the Adharshila Scholarship program one student of class 12th is being supported.

     Children are encouraged to participate in social and political events in the area. The Adharshila children’s song and dance troupe performed at two adivasi sammelans in Maharashtra and MP. Right now also they have gone to Zoida village in Maharashtra. Maybe the Naatak India Company will get to perform in Rajasthan. We are still trying to get sponsors ( hint for SRUTI ). The children performed a play in the school on 15th August, depicting the story of Independence. The senior students participated in two rallies held in Sendhwa and Pansemal. Two teachers also attended programs of an adivasi organization in the Pati block.
     Adharshila has been taking up the role of training teachers of community schools. In the first half this year 5 trainings were held. Two in the Kakrana School in Alirajpur district. Two boys from Burhanpur stayed here for a month for teacher training to help in the Burhanpur School. One training cum meeting was organized for adivasi teachers of five schools run by adivasi sangathan/communities. 15 teachers from the 5 schools participated. A great feeling of camraderie was felt amongst the teachers. Some common programs were decided – drawing workshops and folk story documentation. About 50 folk stories were collected in these schools in 3 districts. A Kahani Marathon was conducted at Adharshila where about 60 children, age 8 years – 18years and some villagers narrated stories for about 4 days, two hours everyday. About 15 children made illustrated books out of their stories. Hopefully we will be able to print a collection of some of these stories by the end of this academic year.

     In this vein three student teachers from Adharshila volunteered for a month at a remote school run by Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan in Barwani District. We too were invited to take a course at TISS, Tuljapur to do an Educations Skills course for the final year BSW students. It was interesting to compare there infrastructure with ours both for 150 children. Jayashree conducted a women’s training for the Satna group voluntarily.

     Lot of work on basic curriculum development was completed. Most of the math curriculum for the primary and some modules for the middle schools were made thanks to Mansi. Work on English and Hindi language primers also went ahead. Jayashree tried her hand at illustrations quite successfully. Two interns from TISS, Mumbai, doing Masters in Elementary Education helped document two social science modules one each in Geography and History.

     Vibhore was with us for 3 months intermittently, under the Adharshila Fellowship Program. While volunteering he was engaged in thinking about the question of bringing social change through education.     
     This year a poultry was started by the two students who went for training in the summers. So now we have an organic farm, cattle shed and poultry, looked after by the children under the guidance of adults. The poultry has more than 50 birds, starting with 7.  the organic farm has given us about 4 quintal veggies uptil now. This year we also have a papaya plot. These activities are important for us as one of the basic premise of this educational program is that we – adults and children - should engage in the activities that are done by the villagers. One group has made a potato plot for themselves. Another group developed a herbal garden which lasted for 4 months. 

Students and teachers constructing the hen cage
Our newest residents

Field preparation
Group fertilizer preparation
     Many inhouse workshops were conducted for and by children on Origami, craft, math, story writing etc. Children of one group have become avid bird watchers. There is an origami group. At least 6 children have tried there hand at violin. Two are still persisting. Two parent meetings were conducted where the children presented what they had learnt. And kabaad se jugaad is happening always. First there was the kite fever – kites being made from plastic, then there were the plastic balls, bhingris etc.

     Some friends insist on coming to Adhrshila and they claim that they get a lot of inspiration. One such group is INSPIRE who bring NRI children to see the ‘real’ India. People from two NGOs also visited us. A group of villagers who wanted to start a school also stayed for a day. Some businessmen from Indore visited the ‘Sakad Ashram’ through some other friends. And lastly these days we have the annual visitor the Wagtail from the Himalayas.
     Construction of a kitchen extension shed was done and the mess hall was partitioned to make two rooms.

     We are 100 children and nine adults. A group of 8 senior children help Shevanta, Shanta and Badri bhai manage the show. This year almost all the day scholars have vanished due to the RTE and the stipend being given to children.

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.

The pedagogy of social studies

     Sayonkia and Kuldeep, two master of elementary education students from TISS-Mumbai, each spend 2 weeks with us for their field attachment part of their program. Both of their backgrounds are in the social studies- history and geography, respectively. They stayed and documented projects, taught classes, shared their skills, and got a small taste of Adharshila life.

     Sayonika taught ancient civilizations to the elder students, engaged the Krishna-Brahmputra groups in a local and family history project, and documented some of our history modules. She is also a talented artist, and took some drawing classes focused on developing perceptual and observational drawing skills.

Jewelery Artifacts
The 'dancing girl' of Mohenjo Daro

Indus Valley Civilization
      Kuldeep engaged with the students over Project Map- which involved students learning about direction, space planning and measuring, map reading, and local, national, and global geography.

Students observing and drawing a
brick-made floor plan map

 Using maps and atlases
to understand where we are

A student's rendition of their own house
with accurate measurements and direction.

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 ……….

End of year goodies!

2011 is winding down...

but we have a few posts to be back-tracked.