Slideshow | Changing the education system through “sahbhagita”: Collective participation of a community, students and teachers practiced at Adharshila Learning Centre – Madhya Pradesh

This was my first visit and I will not deny that the experience was many times more rewarding than what I had imagined it would be. Creativity of the students – it is a primary school up to 8th class – is simply fantastic. That also explains why our Kakrana school teachers who were also trained for short periods though, in Adharshila, are producing good students much over the average in comparable schools in Alirajpur district.

To teach at an early stage that accountibility and a sense of responsibility must be accepted is a very innovative move.

The second part of the slideshow gives some glimpses of a stage performance event that lasted 3 hours from 4-7 PM on 31 March, 2016. It was varied and included items pertaining to local problems like alcohol consumption, the adventurous life of Tantya Bhil, the reporting by ‘Mantries’ (all students) of different departments like libray, and entertaining items. Yet another item was very impressive. Ishan had trained the students Karate exercise for only three days.

The stage performance contributed by Shri Dinesh Yadav, a teacher in Adharshila, was very good. The students staged a satire skit on this traffic rule violation. Most hilarious was the skit on traffic violation in rural tribal areas. I used to be scandalised by seeing the passangers overflowing hanging by sides and on roof tops of jeeps routinly.

Adharshila is a school with minimal facilities and staff. It welcomes prospective trainees and volunteers with expertise found to be appropriate for the students. Please contact Amit Bhatnagar before visiting Adharshila because too many visitors would compromise its teaching process:

Source: private message by Swapan Bhattacharjee (Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala, Kakrana, Madhya Pradesh) following his visit to Adharshila Learning Centre on 31 March 2016; photos courtesy Swapan Bhattacharjee.

Adharshila Learning Centre website: >>

The smart boy or clever girl who is deprived of the opportunity of schooling, or who goes to a school with dismal facilities (not to mention the high incidence of absentee teachers), not only loses the opportunities he or she could have had, but also adds to the massive waste of talent that is a characteristic of the life of our country.

Nobel Awardee Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian (Penguin Books, 2005), p. 344 | Find this and other books published in India | Tribal Children’s Right to Education | Video documentary on the Lifeworld of an Enlightened Villager | Related posts: Childhood | Childrens rights by UNICEF India >>

Adivasi Leaders with Adharshila children who showed them around.

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. […]

Hundreds of people participated in the construction work. […]

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. […]

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. […]

Source: Adharshila Learning Centre: Who Owns Adharshila ?
Date Visited: Wed Apr 06 2016 09:53:48 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Interviews and press reports on the Adharshila Learning Centre

Natasha Badhwar, Livemint, Nov 07 2015 | To view more photos and read the full article, click here >>

“The Adharshila Learning Centre is a collaboration in progress,” says Jayashree. It is evolving every day. This school is the result of sahbhagita, the collective participation of a community, students and teachers.”

Amit and Jayashree, who are known by their first names, met in the late 1980s in the Narmada valley, when both of them were looking for a meaningful way to work against injustice and oppression. Amit had studied at Modern School, Barakhamba Road, in Delhi and had begun studying architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture when he realized that his quest lay elsewhere. He quit studies and headed to Jhabua, to work with Bhil and Bhilala Adivasis along with senior activists. […]

“To change the exploitative social order and confront injustice, we have to hit at the base and change the education system,” Goothiya Naikda, a tribal activist, once told Amit.

“We learnt our first lessons about the critical need for quality education in those years in Jhabua,” says Amit. “We would meet teenage tribal boys who were studying in the state-run ashram schools and be startled by the fear and lack of confidence in them. Mainstream education reinforced in them the feeling that tribal language, lifestyle and culture was inferior and had to be rejected. They were embarrassed of their own families. Instead of empowering them, their experience of education seemed to have completely disempowered them.”

After their children, Revali and Sarang, were born, Amit and Jayashree moved to Sendhwa in Badwani district in 1997. They began to set up the Adharshila Learning Centre with the support of the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, a people’s rights organization.

Jayashree tells the story from this end of the timeline. “At Adharshila, tribal children first learn to read and write in their mother tongue, Bareli. They come from a rich oral culture and are natural storytellers. We don’t want to disrupt their expression by intervening with a new language, grammar or sentence structure. We offer simple teaching aids and minimum intervention in the early years. I will ask eight-year-olds to write the story their grandmother told them, or to write about what they did in the holidays, and each one will hand in three-four pages of creative writing in Bareli. Trust is built. The children become convinced that their teachers are interested in their life and experiences. Their confidence grows.” […]

“When we started to build the classrooms and hostel, everyone from the community contributed what they could. People would gather at dusk after their work in the fields was over and, overnight, we dug foundations and began to build this school.”

The same barren land now not only produces grain and pulses but also record levels of vegetables. Over the years, the soil has been nurtured with organic manure from bull dung. Jayashree and her team have learnt about soil and seeds and used drip irrigation to grow enough food to sustain the school kitchen for at least eight months in a year. “All our students are children of farmers,” says Jayashree. “Their years in school must enhance and reinforce the traditional knowledge and skills of their community. We don’t need to teach them about the dignity of labour. Every child contributes in farming and tending to the animals with innate enthusiasm.” […]

The curriculum includes learning and building on the Adivasi students’ own culture, history and unique identity.

Professor Sujit Sinha, who teaches the master’s in education course at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, regularly sends his students to intern at Adharshila and invites Jayashree and Amit to lecture at his university. “The National Curriculum Framework recommends that children should examine local issues of livelihood, production, health and environment first and then link it to history, geography, science and environmental studies,” he says. “Adharshila is one of the best examples in India of this way of learning. It is transformational. It is critical for everyone in education to learn from this initiative by Amit and Jayashree.” […]

At Adharshila, “aapi-aapi” has become a teaching methodology that has been a win-win. Senior students regularly teach junior classes, and, in the process, discover that their own concepts have become clearer. “What is unique about our experience is that we were both students and teachers while we were at school,” explains Kamal Dudwe, an alumnus. “We studied harder and more carefully when we had to teach a class.” Dudwe, who is from the first batch of students of Adharshila, has completed his master’s in economics from Banaras Hindu University and is preparing for his Public Service Commission entrance exams while completing his PhD from Allahabad University. […]

The Adharshila theatre group is called Naatak India Company. They travel and perform many original plays and are regularly invited to tribal rights sammelans (meetings) and education seminars. Their most popular play is a 90-minute performance titled Bhanai, in which the students demonstrate the nexus between corrupt political parties, religious organizations and the market. “The children perform plays that question the privatization of education, media’s role in society and patriarchal family structures,” says Jayashree.

Students of Adharshila bring out their own newspaper, conduct surveys and review meetings and upload their podcasts on SoundCloud. They have the confidence to ask questions and the rigour to look for answers. […]

Adharshila is a people’s institution that sees itself as part of the larger struggle towards a secular, just and egalitarian society. Its pedagogical tools and practices are simple yet powerful. Humility and a constant readiness to learn and reinvent are not the least of them.

“These are meant to be the best years of our students’ lives,” says Jayashree. “Love, freedom, happiness—you don’t need a lot of money to give this to our children. We need ideas. Creativity and will. That’s all.”

Source: The school on the hill – Livemint
Date Visited: Sun Apr 03 2016 12:32:41 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Anup Dutta in Bhopal, Deccan Herald, December 13, 2015 | To view more photos and read the full article, click here >>

“We simply  didn’t want to disconnect them from their language, lifestyle and culture. School or a learning centre should focus on ensuring health, productivity and joy. And these determine a community’s future. The Bhil/ Bhillalas (tribal) children come from a community culture that has deep roots and has many things to tell the world about themselves. They are the real sons of the soil and their traditional knowledge on weather, soil, trees, herbs and skills of their community helps us to know more  about our natural heritage. We simply did not want to disconnect their expression by intervening with a new language, grammar or sentence structure. We tell them to read and write in their mother tongue, Bareli, till they do not show interest in taking up another language,” says Jayashree. […]

The founders of Adharshila believe that about 50 per cent of the school’s financial needs should be met through fees and the remaining part through an informal network of friends, individual donors and community support. The centre welcomes volunteer teachers and artists from India and abroad to stay on campus and teach for months on end.

Source: Brightening the lives of tribals
Date Visited: Sun Apr 03 2016 12:49:57 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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‘Kaathadi’ is a YouTube channel collectively built by students and teachers from the tribal communities in the Nilgiris

The full story with more pictures | New Indian Express >>

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