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Published by: adharshila_learningcentre on Dec 30, 2011
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Progress Report7 May 2009By Roshan
Background and Project Vision
Adharshila Shiksan Kendra(Adharshila Learning Centre-ALC) was founded by Amit andJayashree Bhatnagar, who believe that true education:Is community-minded, preapring the child to contribute to societyIs linked to tradtition, the land and livelihood as much as to academicsPrepares children to engage social issues and think of solutions to themClasses are run democratically. Beyond the basics, students choose the topics they areinterested in, and learn through a combination of books, activity-based learning, andconsultation with the local community. Organic farming on the six-acre plot iscompulsory for all students.Sakad is located in Barwani district, a district which is majority Barela-an adivasi clanthat traces its roots back to the Bhil tribes of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The communitieshere have not been traditionally linked to mainstream society. As revealed in a survey bymy eigth grade social science class, as recently as forty years ago, there was no casheconomy here. This means many children being educated are the first in their families notto be trained in a trade or farming, but the paucity of work opportunities leaves eveneducated youth looking for opportunities to migrate as wage labor.Older rural youth believe themselves to be, in their own words, powerless. In my roles asteacher on campus, and rural youth facilitator, I hope to help youth see themselves ina broader perspective, and help them to think of solutions to reduce the exploitation of them and their communities in the future.
Project Goals and Future Plans
My project goals for the coming months involve older youth, both within and outside theschool. The ‘graduating class’, the first batch of students at the eleven-year-old school tocomplete the twelfth standard board examination, are a group of intellectuals committedto action. They have collectively done everything from win a National Science Congressaward for a report on the link between malnutrition and biodiversity loss to starting arural theater troupe. I intend to structure a summer program for them to fully explore their interests. In addition, working in the villages of some older students home for thesummer, I plan to start a network of discussion groups and local libraries, and make themsustainable by involving local youth. I will also use these months to finalize thealternative curricula in Math, English and social science I have been working on.
Project Implementation Progress and Future Plans
The nature of the days at Adharshila, defined by the interests of the students and the
many visitors, have seen so much activity that cannot easily be categorized neatly as projects. I developed, along with Amitbhai and Jayadidi, a document on Adharshila’seducational philosophy to start an alliance of alternative schools that is now comingtogether. Singing Bareli songs about daal and unity, I collected three varieties fromfarmers from surrounding villages with the intention of starting a hand-processed daaland organic produce cooperative. After selling about forty kilos, we decided that the needwas not for marginal price increases shared equally by farmers, but for a social unity thatcooperative processing could not bring. This has become my focus going forward,working especially with older youth who have disconnected themselves from their landand traditions in the hopes of escape not soon forthcoming. My social science classwanted to know about the market, and a week-long discussion of the progression fromhunter gatherers to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange ended in a survey of thesurrounding villages which revealed the absence of a cash economy here as recently asforty years ago.Working with Amitbhai, I continue to work on English and Math curricula that balancedalternative methods with practical requirements. Working with student teachers wediscuss the nature of alternative education, and the impact of what we are doing here.There are also ongoing projects-building a soak pit for the boys bathroom, organicfarming every day, and weekly discussion with Ferozebhai, the shopkeeper in Chatli, twokilometers away, about the changes in the area over the last few years. I am allowed sevand eclairs without having to ask.
Detailed Goal-setting & Implementation Planning
Over the next few months, I intend to:Finalize a summer training and discussion agenda for the graduating class of 2009 andmake the necessary arrangementsContinue discussion with local rural youth, and convert questions into actions.Specifically, creating local libraries and education programs to address the sources of ‘powerlessness’ within the communitiesCreate a plan for summer discussion groups and detailed goalsRecruit rural youth for discussion groupsFinish out the academic year and complete development of academic trainingmaterials
Sakad has been an eye-opening experience for me. The perspective I have gained herehas shifted the way I think of what development is. Meeting the many inspiring peopleand groups working in the area, I also see what is possible when people decide they wantto better things for themselves. In the children I see what real social change looks half ageneration before it happens. Every Wednesday evening the older students, betweentwelve and fifteen, get together and discuss a topic of their choosing from magazines and periodicals. There is something dumbfoundingly inspiring about listening to children half 

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