“Everyone wants to learn”: School programmes devised by expert members of the Santal community to facilitate development from within – West Bengal

Boro Baski with some of the children who attend the school he helped to found near his home village of Bishnubati in West Bengal
Photo © Rosemary Marandi/Al Jazeera >>

Boro Baski was the first in his village to receive a formal education and now he is making sure that others do too. | To read the full story with more photos, click here >>

[…] “Everyone wants to learn but the problem is atmosphere, the medium of teaching and the method of teaching, besides the facts of economics. It is the reason why tribal children find it difficult to integrate with the mainstream.”

Another factor is the cost of schooling. According to a 2015 report by the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development, the annual secondary school drop-out rate among Indigenous children in India is just above 40 percent compared with the national average of about 25 percent. The ministry lists “economic” issues as the biggest reason for the dropouts – families just cannot afford to keep their children in school. […]

“Our idea of development is based on a very old idea taken up by many great minds such as Mahatma Gandhi and [the poet] Rabindranath Tagore,” Baski explains. “It is about development from within. Development through the strength of the community’s own.”

In 1996, the NGO went one step further, opening a day school – the Rolf Schoemb Vidyashram (RSV) – close to the villages of Bishnubati and Ghosaldanga (Vidyashram means the “house of learning”).

The school, which offers free education, also provides hot meals to encourage poor parents to send their children. Its ethos is one of community, with programmes devised and implemented by members of the community rather than by outsiders who might not be familiar with the strengths of and issues faced by local people. […]

Baski, who holds a doctorate in education and a master’s in social work from Viswa Bharati University, says he is happy being an educator. He has become a strong voice of the community not just in India but elsewhere, writing articles and books, and representing his community at conferences.

He is also dedicated to preserving Santhal cultural heritage.

In 2007, GASS built a small museum in Bishnubati to preserve some 100 artefacts, including weapons, musical instruments, photographs and medicinal herbs, that represent the community. Most of the artefacts were donated by tribal elders from across the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. They include silver jewellery once owned by Baski’s mother.

“The idea is to tell the world that we are not just happy-go-lucky people, as perpetuated by the mainstream media,” he says. “We have held expertise in hunting and fishing tools, in sophisticated music and medicines, for generations. It is just that this expertise was never spoken about.” […]

“What I do yearn for is for our children to be proud of their cultural heritage and preserve the traditions we hold so close.”

As if to demonstrate, as the sun begins to set, Baski takes his flute from his office drawer and plays a traditional tune.

Source: “The Indian school where Indigenous children are ‘never outsiders” by Rosemary Marandi (Aljazeera.com Education, 10 February 2020)
URL: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/indian-school-indigenous-children-outsiders-200128131128144.html
Date visited: 18 July 2020

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“A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame.” – Rabindranath Tagore, poet, social reformer and composer of India’s national anthem who founded Santiniketan amidst Santal communities >>

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