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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.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Multiplying Incompetency...The Bottom Up view of Education

We are not anti reservation, anti free education or anything.. we just think there's a big farce going on out here in the name of education which is harming the prospect of getting educated leaders, thinkers from among the adivasis, dalits and other poorer sections of society via the education route. Of course social, economic and political situations throw up leaders and nobody is waiting for good schools...still we have this crib for whatever little education is worth. 

This story is about the tragedy of rural children who somehow manage to pass. More than 90% don't complete school. They enter the 'World Work Bank'. Very few are able to break this and get into good colleges or jobs.  

Chhaatra, the hero of this story studies in a village school. But Chaatra is able to go there only on special occasions like the New Dress Distribution Day or Cycle Distribution Day or to take the Chhaatravitti (a scholarship amount which has nothing to do with his being a scholar or not). The rest of the days he has to look after farm jobs, tend the goats/buffaloes, or some odd job at home. Not that the teacher comes every day. Still.

But don't worry

Thank the new law of education Chhaatra cannot be failed and he knows it. He can only be asked to study more in the summer vacations and give the exam again. But as this is an extra burden on the teacher, the chances that he or anyone will fail are bleak.   

Conversation with a 9th fail Chaatra-

    - Bete, how come you can't even recognise numbers till 20           having studied till 8th class.
    - Silence with head down.
    After more than a fortnight of knowing each other ....
    - Sir I never went to school till class 5. The teacher came         home and gave me the certificate. Then father told me to go       to school. But I couldn't read or write so didn't                 understand anything till 8th class. Went to school very           little.

In spite of all hahoo and Right To (Useless) Education.. the condition of such schools is pathetic to say the least. Any 9th class teacher will vouch for the utter incompetence maybe illiteracy too.

So the problem is that Chhaatra is 8th pass but almost illiterate.  

But dont worry. Chaatra got admitted to the 9th class in a nearby Middle School. The teacher cannot refuse admission. Then somehow he passed the Xth and took Macks(maths) like other students. Some friends took Bayo(biology). Vow! he has cleared the XIIth board exams. Thank the stars of education - guidebooks, 20 Questions and coaching classes. There are other options for the bold - cheating, finding the examiners and getting your marks upped etc.

Now our hero, Chhaatra is XIIth pass and that too with Science, Macks and English. He has bought a new set of latest style jeans and check shirts (only the latest is available on all local stores or thelas of the smallest town. Thank the martyr labor of China, Bangladesh and our very own too). He looks intelligent and smart but.. sorry to say, the problem is that he doesn't know anything. Any damn thing.. i.e. related to books, happening around, current events.

What will he do now ? Suspense !!

But not to worry. 
There is a local engineering college/ pvt. college/Ayurvedic medicine college/ B.Ed. college/ MSW college in your tehsil town. You have never seen it or heard about it. The names of these colleges usually start with World..., Global.., International...etc.
They came to Chhatra's school on their own, took a test and declared him passed and you won't believe it but our dear Chhaatra got into an engineering college. His other friends got into Pvt. Ayurvedic Medical College/ Bio-Tech course/B.Sc./Eng. Literature course/MSW. It can be anything..just anything, depends on the colleges in the town.

You are thinking......But private colleges have high fee. How can tribal and other poor people's children pay the fees? You think I am gassing ?

Dont worry.
They just have to pay a nominal fees. The rest the Govt. pays to the college based on the number of students enrolled. This is about Rs. 30,000/- or more per student. Just do a little math and you will understand the enthusiasm of the Private collegewallahs going around schools helping tribal students to get admissions. 

Met on the road the smart young, enthusiastic, boy. (conversation in Hindi)
   - Namaste sir
   - Namaste beta, so how are you / what are you doing?
   - Engineering sir.
   - Engineering ?(almost choked. i remember till 8th he was          generally struggling to read) Very good. Wah. Which branch ?
   - Blank look.
   - Which engineering course are you doing ?
   - Engineering sir.
   - ok. ok. But most engineering books are in English or very        difficult Hindi. Do you understand anything?
   - That is the problem sir. Some teachers teach in English. We      don't understand anything.

Most Govt. college students know that there are hardly any classes. They go to give CC and the semester exams. Many Govt. college teachers teach in the private colleges.

Some students look for side jobs while studying. One went to a small pvt. school for teachership. The interview was like -

   Q. What is the capital of India - Bhopal or Delhi ? ( Q asked       in MP)   ..
   A. Confused look.
      confusing hmm.
   Q. What is your name ?( asked in English)
   A. What is your name Subhash.
I'm not joking i have gone through this many times. The likes of Chhaatra don't know how to multiply or divide large numbers or even add or substract 10000 - 1. Forget decimals, fractions and company.

So now the problem is that Chhaatra and is friends are  graduate/ engineer/ ayurvedic doctor/MSW/ BEd. Most of them know almost nothing about the subject of their study. Who the hell is going to give them a job ? 

Frustration in the offing..Rebellion of Youth... Climax.. Now Chhaatra is stuck. His education is lousy and he has also lost the ability and interest to do farming or other manual labor work. What will he do ?   

No, no, not yet.. Don't worry.
The Govt. will give him some job..Contract teacher/para medical worker..(experience says good chance of becoming permanent)/panchayat secretary/ NREGA. Or some ngo on some mission will take him. Then there are the numerous Pvt. companies selling rabbits or emu eggs. If nothing else.. security gaurd. If nothing works in the village he is determined to go to the city or the Industrial Area. He has lot of contacts there. (His seniors in school and college).   

So now Chhatra has a job and it doesn't matter what he knows or doesn't know. He will learn the two three things he will be required to do on the job.

Mission Job Accomplished. Student happy. Family happy.
Govt. happy. Human Development Index happy.
Company happy.

So why bother about quality education in Govt. schools as long as you can complete the incompetency cycle with some job. Doesn't matter if it was previously done by a 5th pass now a graduate can do it.

And so no one has a problem. 

We have a problem because we want to see these tribal/dalit and other children from poorer families go up to take leading roles in society. 
At Adharshila we are trying, trying hard against many odds to change this story. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Annual Report Highlights 2012 - 13

Highlights 2012 -13

Some Numbers

No. Of students              85 boys and 12 girls
Teachers/Mentors           7 (6 women and one male, and the male is not the head)
Other Staff                    5
Volunteers                     2 for two months

Academic - 

§  Ex Student gets admission in BHU for Masters in Economics. He topped the MA Entrance test of DAVV, Indore. Came first in BA final in Sendhwa, Khargone region. Another ex student is working as trainee at THRIVE, Hyderabad - a company manufacturing solar lamps. Another student came in merit in BA final and got admitted to MA Hindi in DAVV, Indore.
§  High School topper of Chatli High School is ex Adharshila.
§  16 students were given scholarships by SRUTI. The students were from 10th – MA. They were ex students of Adharshila who were also contributing towards running Adharshila while studying.
§  One teacher enrolled for D.Ed and BA exam.

Student Projects -

§  Students installed drip irrigation on a vegetable plot.
§  Middle school children made 1000 liter bio digester with the help of a volunteer, and it worked. We can now cook daal for 120 people, once a day almost daily. They learnt a lot of Math, Science and English words by way of the gobar gas. We also realized why most of them fail in villages. The accuracy required in their daily maintenance is impossible in villages.
§  Documenting folk stories, traditional seeds and agricultural practices etc.
§  Methi plots maintained by children of 3rd – 5th grade.
§  Drip irrigation using used saline bottles.


Theater - About 25 children and teachers performed the play Bhanai  at the State convention of IPTA in Indore, Annual Conference of Ekta Parishad in Gujarat and 3 other places. Two theater workshops were held for the preparation of the play. Theater artists – Avijit and Aakash, held the workshops for 8 and 6 days respectively.
CGNet Swara Workshop – Participants from about 12 districts of MP participated in a two day workshop organised in collaboration with the CGNet Swara team and SRUTI.
Calendar – 1000 copies of a regular calendar with glossy photographs, highlighting the importance of local markets was printed. It was received very well amongst urban as well as rural settings.


Local team runs Adharshila on its own. We take a back seat and provide special effects and planning meetings. Volunteers also spent about 2 months at Adharshila. Then it needed more intervention from us, mainly interpersonal problems. Also many parents were not convinced that local teachers that too women (they look like girls even when they wore sarees) could do a good job.
A team of about15-20 student karyakartas assist the adults in the various daily tasks like looking after sick children, kitchen, evening assembly etc.

Organic Farm

Students learn organic farming by working on the farm and seeing the results. They learnt to make Jeevamrut, organic pesticides and a magic potion which promotes branching in plants.  We got to eat veggies for about 5 months and daal for two months. This is a considerable feat considering that 15 years ago the land was almost barren.

Tree Plantation

Like every year, we planted about 100 trees on the campus. In all there are about 1500 trees of app. 5o varieties. We are trying hard to collect more species and more fuel wood trees.


A poultry was set up under the leadership of two senior students who had gone for training last summer. A team of six children raised the number from 6 hens to 80. Recovered the costs and some profit but could not manage viral infection. They also did the masonry work for setting up the 6’ x 10’ cage. The poultry was a favorite sitting place for the smaller children who watched the small chicks, counted eggs, fed them, grew medicinal plants and generally kept themselves busy.

Bulls and Cows

It’s never easy to guess what strikes them and no amount of care or medicine helps. Anyway many children saw a vet for the first time though they learnt the word in Book 1. In spite of a lot of effort we couldn’t save the bull. We have 5 animals. The main benefit is the dung for the farm. We also sold one bull and got some cash. Everyday


§  An Adharshila project chosen for EIFI award from more than 800 applications.
§  Discovered that Adharshila inspired some young people to start a similar school in Tamil Nadu.
§  Women leadership training, Satna.
§  Collected folk stories related to the Holi festival from various districts of MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat for a booklet. Couldn’t be printed due to delay in getting material. Maybe next year.

Exposure tour

Senior children - Mandu Fort and Dinosaur Museum
Juniors – Badwani and Sendhwa.
Teachers and senior students – Organic Farm of Vandana and Vasant Phutane


Seed festivals in Hyderabad and Nagpur.
IPTA State Convention, Indore
Azadi Bachao Andolan meeting, Indore
SRUTI Saathi Milan, Rajasthan.
Adivasi Ekta Parishad, National Convention, Gujarat
Adivasi Sammelan, Pansemal.
Adivasi Sammelan, Burhanpur.


Harin, 2nd year student from Azim Premji Institute.
Christian, Engineer from the US. Taught the children to make the Gobar Gas plant and install solar lights. Also taught the theory.

 The Naatak India Company and the Calendar

Last year it was Yuvaniya, a magazine written, read and distributed by adivasi youth. This year we freaked out on the Naatak India Companies production – Bhanai and the Haat Calender.
The Play, Bhanai is a satire showing the pathetic condition of schools in the adivasi villages and how they were a dead end and no go for adivasi students.. How the school system belies the hopes and aspirations of the parents and children, who ultimately become factory labor or are trapped by criminal elements.  The play goes on to show an interaction of people with the Minister who says that the Govt. school system is irreparable and hence proposes privatising the whole system which the people oppose.
The Naatak India Company was invited to stage the play Bhanai at the State Convention of IPTA – the Indian Peoples Theater Association- in Indore. It was a great honor for the NIC and Adharshila. The play had the audience applauding and laughing for one hour and was given a standing ovation.
The same play was invited again at the annual function of Jan Vikas, Indore, an NGO working with slum dwellers and rag pickers. Later the play enthralled adivasi audience in Pansemal and Gujarat at the Adivasi Ekta Parishad conventions. After the play was staged most speakers based their speeches on the play.
It was a great educational experience for the children who also got to visit new places.
Theater, we once again realised was a great hit and a very potent method of communicating ideas. In spite of the mobile, TV trying to dominate the entertainment industry, theater is theater and is still very relevant in villages as well as cities. Especially in the villages where we could share the critique of the education system with an audience who was mostly illiterate. There is a hoard of literature and glossy reports which is circulated amongst the intellectual and already convinced group of people. It is of no use for most laboring people. Theater holds the key to communication in a rural setting.
The Haat Calender was an attempt to take alternative ideas to the homes of people living mainstream lives.