Tribal schools project, Jharkhand.

A report by Sandesh Sawant

The beginning
The Art of Living tribal schools project in Jharkhand state of India was started by Shri Brij Bhushan Chawla in 1999. Mr. Chawla initiated on this project after a discussion with the founder of the Art of Living Foundation His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji, regarding the need for such schools in the tribal areas of India. The tribes benefiting from this project have been secluded from the mainstream development in the nation. They have been ignored for centuries and have hardly received any help from government so far. The tribal schools project in Jharkhand is run under the Sri Sri Vidya Mandir trust by a small team of Art of Living volunteers from Kolkata (viz. Mr. Chawla, Mr. Bakshi, Mr. Ghosh, Mr. Mahajan) with help from the local coordinators in the Ghatshila town (viz. Mr Arindam and Mr Ashok banarjee). Today we have ten tribal schools in the area run throughout the year by around twenty local teachers trained by the project coordinators.

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Kesharpur. 2 . Girl to boy student ration has increased to reach 50-50%. regular medical checkups for all. Names of the tribal villages covered: Kalchiti.Project Fact file All over India. including midday meals facility. Efforts going on to setup a local vocational training institute for the students. studying in 20 schools in Jharkhand. Hendaljudi. Today around 2500 students. more than 7500 tribal students studying in 86 schools run under SSVM trust. Haludbhani. Chatridanga. Totally free education to students. Adult education for parents of the students. from 60 villages.

Initially the parents were reluctant to send their children to school. the volunteers noticed that most of the children were mal-nourished and therefore they were susceptible to falling prey to various diseases. Therefore program to provide nutritious food supplements including milk was started in every school that was established. there were no roads. People are getting access to regular medical assistance at medical camps by our doctors and medicines are made freely available for the patients. Their entire families are getting uplifted. Primary source of income for these tribes is farm cultivation and its associated works. This lack of infrastructure prevented sufficient and timely medical help from reaching these far-flung tribal natives. The tribal areas chosen to setup the schools were draught-prone and the natives found it hard to make the ends meet. Before the project started. It is not only the students who are getting benefitted from this project.The challenges The first and foremost challenge faced in setting up these schools was the lack of proper connectivity to these remote tribal areas. The team had to work hard to get the electricity lines and the roads built to reach these places. Today the regular supply of medical help by our volunteers has minimized the death tolls. and no proper water supply in the area. no electricity. When the project was started in 1999. The volunteers had to convince the parents the importance of education and make all the necessary arrangements for the kids to attend the schools. The rising spread of Naxalism in the surrounding area was also a matter of great concern. Today. When the project started. The teachers provide counseling to the villagers and adult education program is also underway. Today cases of child labour and child marriage have reduced significantly in the area. Comprehensive upliftment of the tribal population As of today. They also facilitated clean water sources by installing hand water pumps at every school and by digging wells for the villagers to solve the problem of safe drinking water. looking at the good work that has been happening over the past decade in this area. The area is at times troubled by elephants passing by that destroy the crops. 3 . All the educational expenses of the students are taken care of with the help of donations received from numerous donors most of whom are the Art of Living devotees in various parts of the country. there is no threat or trouble from the naxalites to the running these schools. The students are provided with nutritious mid-day meals at all the schools. The number of parents seeking admissions for their kids in these schools has increased in spite of government schools being nearer to their homes. The attendance in most of the schools is about 95% which is rare at schools in tribal areas. there are around 1600 students are being imparted education in these schools. This at times resulted in deaths in emergency situations. malaria was rampant in the area and child and mother mortality rates were pretty high. This is because the children were otherwise taken to work by the parents or were left at home to look after the babies in the house.

In Guruji’s words.” This is very much visible when we look at any kid studying at our tribal schools.. Such pleasing personality is what is the main aim of this education. “Every parent would like to have a child whose personality shines wherever the child goes.Holistic approach for stress free education The schools impart education in a holistic manner as per the philosophy of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji. It is the personality that is appreciated everywhere.. 4 .

Each group is assigned a leader to encourage the leadership qualities in the students. 5 . This helps them in imbibing human values such as sharing and helping each other to grow. Fruits and vegetables are cultivated using zero budget natural farming. The students learn the value of teamwork and hard work while toiling in these gardens.A glance at the teaching methodology  Progressing as a team Group-based learning is instilled in the students. The garden is maintained by the students themselves. Each tribal school has its own garden in the vicinity of the school structure.

The classroom walls are fixed with blackboards which are used by the students to draw paintings of their choice. When we look at the paintings of these kids. it is unbelievable to learn that there is no teacher appointed to teach them drawing and painting! 6 . All the charts put up inside the school are either prepared by the teachers or the students themselves. Fostering the hidden potential The tribal kids are found to be very good at arts and their creativity is encouraged by giving them opportunities to make craft and decorations at the school.

7 . The culture of the tribes is maintained by encouraging the children to perform dances and dramas in their own traditional language and costumes. Fine balance of indoor and outdoor activities Sports activities are made an integral part of their routine at the school and sports events are regularly organized where students from all the schools get a chance to come together and interact with each other.

 Expanding the horizons of the tribal mind Once in a while excursion tours are organized to give the students exposure to the outside world and expand their thinking horizons. This facility provides the students access to quality educational material available in the form of edutainment CDs. Taking advantage of the technology There is a well-equipped computer lab with solar power as well as complete battery backup in the middle school. 8 . Today these kids are developing the ambitions of becoming doctors and teachers to go back and serve their own native population. etc.

This helps in building qualities such as respect for one’s own culture and patriotism in the minds of the young ones. The chants and prayers recited help cultivate moral attitude in the children. After this activity students wash their hands and feet and then stand in rows on the ground besides the school for the prayers. Their day at school begins by cleaning the school campus.A day at a tribal school Every morning the students arrive happily at their respective schools. During the prayers session students chant Sanskrit shlokas and sing patriotic songs. 9 . The kids are self disciplined and do not require much governance from their teachers. This imbibes qualities like responsibility and cleanliness in the students. Those students who reside far away from their school are provided with bicycles to come to school. This activity is followed by fetching water from the hand pumps and watering the plants in the garden next to the school building. A school containing 100-200 students is easily handled by 2/3 teachers.

The teachers impart the education in a manner that makes learning an enjoyable experience for the students. The teachers then guide the students to do breathing exercises and meditation. These techniques help in improving the student’s concentration levels during the studies and keep them fresh and peaceful throughout the day.After the prayers. The smile and enthusiasm exhibited by the students sitting in the classrooms show that the education is a stress-free and fun activity for them! 10 . students give attendance and go back to their respective class rooms.

dancing. to boost their confidence. etc. 11 . they greet the person in front of them with coridality and enthusiasm. When the students encounter visitors.The students are encouraged to participate in various activities like singing. The education is imparted in the national language Hindi as well as English to ensure that the kids are competent enough to face the outside world. storey-telling. While doing this stundet’s touch with their native language which is Santhali is also preserved.

12 . and a piece of dry wood while coming to the school. The wooden sticks are used as the fuel to cook their meal and the vegetables that they bring are put in the rice cooked for their meal. This instills a sense of contribution in the students.g. a tomato or a brinjal. The parents take turns throughout the year to do this seemingly small activity. Every day the midday meal in the school is cooked by a parent of one of the students in the school.Every child brings along a piece of vegetable e. but it goes a long way in building belongingness for the school among the parents.

This is achieved effortlessly at the trials schools near Ghatshila! 13 . At the end of the day the students should go back home happily with no stress whatsoever. For example how to calculate area of a circle is taught with the help of the circles painted on the archery board. This make learning subjects like mathematics an interesting exercise for the students. A lot of importance is given to practical learning rather than the rote learning approach.There are ample amount of outdoor activities happening at the schools.

The ropes are prepared in large quantities and sold in the nearby villages to earn a living by many. All the uniforms worn by the students are stitched by some of the students and their elders at this center. 14 . Also students prepare decorative crafts items that are sold at the nearby town. A vocational training center is set up to allow the students to learn skills that can help them earn their livelihood. They have taught the villagers to prepare ropes from a particular type of grass available in abundance in this area.Providing Vocational Training The volunteers running the project are paying particular attention to the development plan for the students when they will grow up. The volunteers keep coming out with innovative ideas like converting students’ drawings into greeting cards that are sold on a small scale through the volunteer network throughout the country to raise funds for the schools. The project coordinators have also fund a source of income for the natives.

The reason being the local teachers understand the mentality and culture better than those coming from outside. twelve students from the middle school have been enrolled into a rural vocational training program at an institute named “VigyanAshram” near Pune in the state of Maharashtra. Also language is not a barrier for them and therefore the students can connect to them with ease. 15 . With this vision in mind. etc. electrical and masonry work. mechanical workshop. At VigyanAshram the students are imparted practical training in the fields such as agriculture. They are trained in tasks such rewinding and repairing of motor of water pump which would be helpful for them in farming and save them of dependence on city visits for such chores. The one year diploma program that they are undergoing will empower the students to learn the tools and trades required to earn a living in their native land.Vision for tomorrow The volunteers are well aware that the tribal kids moving to the cities and metros in search of employment will not be the right kind of solution. Generating quality teachers The team responsible for running these tribal schools firmly believes that the locally trained teachers are much more suited for these schools than the teachers brought from the cities. The project coordinators firmly believe that the students should be facilitated with the skills that will help them to earn a living while residing in their own native places. Because this model leads to issues in the cities like poor living conditions in the slum habitats and exploitation through cheap labor work. The project organizers plan to build a similar training center with the help of the pilot batch that is undergoing the course at VigyanAshram. animal husbandry. use of natural energy resources. Periodic teacher’s training workshops are organized to generate quality teachers at the local level.

visit http://www. We need to impart this education . "Knowledge and spiritual awareness should go hand in hand with social and political system. For more information on the tribal school of Jharkhand. 16 . irrespective of their religious and cultural background or age group.at the levels of schools and colleges. one can truly fell that this vision of the founder is becoming a reality in this nation with the dedicated efforts of the volunteers of the Art of Living under his inspiration.Epilogue His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji says. Only then can justice prevail in the society and there be a sense of belongingness with everyone in the world. He can be reached at +91-9423076562. contact Mr.com About author: Sandesh Sawant is a faculty of the Art of Living foundation and works as software engineer at Cisco Systems in India.aoltribal.org/ For more details or contributions. Brji Chawla +91-9433259464. The author enjoys working on social causes and visited the tribal schools in Jharkhand prior to writing this article. bbc108@yahoo." After visiting the tribal schools in Jharkhand.

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