ANNUAL REFLECTIONS 2001
"Every life journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware."
"The mere formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution, which may be a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science."
- Albert Einstein
Dear Friends and Supporters-
I am pleased to share with you highlights of our activities for the Year 2001. This year has been a big one for the Shikshantar Andolan. We were able to increase the visibility and intensity of our role as catalyzers. On one hand, we continued to challenge and provoke those who uphold (and benefit from) the status quo and those who propagate outdated and stagnant reform models. On the other hand, we have been able to nurture and connect various individuals and groups interested in meaningful learning and real societal transformation. In the process, we have been able to learn a lot about ourselves and about systemic change.
There are several exciting activities to share from this past year. I would like to draw your attention to a few of these. First, our bulletin, Vimukt Shiksha, is sent to over 1000 people around India. Today, it is regarded as one of the leading education publications in South Asia. It, along with our other provocative research materials, has helped to spark many healthy new dialogues with organizations. Our website, featuring over 75 articles, has also proved to be a very useful resource for people. We are averaging about 3000 visitors per month to our website. Third, working directly with local families, youth and children in the Udaipur as a Learning City process has been important in keeping us conscious of diverse ground realities. These interactions and local efforts also continue to inspire us with new possibilities for learning and living.
We have built strong relationships with several innovative groups in South Asia such as Abhivyakti, Other India Press, Comet Media Foundation, SIDH, Centre for Learning, Satyagraha Mimansa, Jiva Institute, DEBATE, Samanvaya, Center for Science and Environment, Young Experimenters Group, Sindh Education Foundation, and Institute for Development Studies and Practices-Quetta. Many of these groups have started new (or modified existing) local experiments, having been inspired by Shikshantar's work. We are also actively collaborating with international groups such as: Pioneers of Change, Berkana Institute, Learning Development Institute, 21st Century Learning Initiative, Arab Education Forum, Mzizi Creative Center, Aide-et-Action, Coalition for Self-Learning, Imagine Chicago and UNESCO Collective Consultation of NGOs.
Finally, we continue to engage in our own in-house unlearning and learning activities. Maintaining the consistency between what we say and what we do, i.e. 'practicing meaningful learning in our own lives', is critical if we wish to keep generating new ideas, experiments and connections with others.
As you will read, the impact of our efforts has been felt in many different parts of South Asia. Other individuals and groups around the world have also been inspired and motivated by our work. Our challenges for 2002 will be to maintain the high quality and provocative nature of our work, to further strengthen the capacities of our young team, and to continue to increase the pressure on the system (without being crushed by it).
On behalf of all the Learning Activists in Shikshantar Andolan, I would like to thank you for your blessings and contributions. The violent events of the past year have made evident the 'crisis of the schooled' and have re-affirmed our belief in the need for radical change in Education and Development. Your support will be even more important in the New Year.
"Now, where do we begin to understand ourselves? Here am I, and how am I to study myself, observe myself, see what is actually taking place inside myself? I can observe myself only in relationship because all life is relationship. It is no use sitting in a corner meditating about myself. I cannot exist by myself. I exist only in relationship to people, things and ideas, and in study my relationship to outward things and people, as well as to inward things, I begin to understand myself."
- J. Krishnamurti
SHIKSHANTAR LEARNING ACTIVISTS
Dhapu Bai Prajapat
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS
Isaac Ochieng - Kenya
Dilip Sharma - Udaipur, RAJ
Dahlia Nayar - USA
Eron Sandler - USA
Selena George - Hyderabad, AP
Tania Meyer - Germany
Anna Chai - USA
Wasif Rizvi - Pakistan
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Vijay Singh Mehta
Catalyzing the Learning Revolution:
Selected Highlights of Activities
January December 2001
1. SYNTHESIZING RESEARCH FOR NEW VISIONS AND ACTIONS
2. UDAIPUR AS A LEARNING CITY
3. BUILDING A NETWORK OF LEADERSHIP WITHOUT FOLLOWERS
Catalyzing the Learning Revolution:
January December 2001
"You and your work continue to amaze me. I greatly admire your range, depth and spirit. Wonderful. Keep up your good work. If Shiksha changes, this country will change beyond recognition My theme resonates well with yours: trust people, listen to them, see their responses and creativity, put them in the centre of the process."
Kirtee Shah, Director, Ahmedabad Study Action Group (ASAG)
"I was delighted to go through Vimukt Shiksha from January 2001 devoted to the various strategies to thwart the schooling system and the psychological ethos that go with it. Every article was well chosen and the write-ups were short and crisp. Both me and my wife enjoyed each and every line of the special issue. To propagate your ideas and other similar intellectual ideas I am going to form a club or a forum in which about 12 of my well-known friends have agreed to participate. We will also try to get more people involved in this, hold periodic experiments, hold small group meetings, try to disseminate your ideas of alternative education, try to start a chapter of Shikshantar in Orissa and translate some of the articles into Oriya and publish them."
V.B Shastry, Retired Principal
"I have been receiving publications and information of Shikshantar on a very regular basis. I recently received the special issue of Vimukt Shiksha in Hindi (January 2001) on the System and Culture of Schooling. I think that this book is full of very interesting and thought provoking materials and articles. I will like to publish the editorial note and a few other pieces from this book in the next issue of 'Satygraha Mimansa' and also use some of the other material in my editor's note. . . I would love to help in whichever way possible to strengthen the movement."
Siddhrajji Dhadda, Eminent Gandhian Social Activist and Editor of
"I have enjoyed reading through some of the pieces in Vimukt Shiksha as well as your other essays. More importantly, these confirmed that there is a group of people who are interested in raising questions that are fundamental, especially when all we seem to care for is 'Access, Retention and Drop out', as if these are the be-all and end-all of education. . . I have always been on the look out to bring about a shift in our thinking, though it is anything but easy! The NGOs we support do not seem to be interested in doing anything progressive or different, but I have not lost heart!. . . I would like to know if you are interested in associating/dialoguing with us on education. Possibilities can be created to initiate alternative ideas in the work we do, though it may take some time."
Sheshagiri KM, Learning Coordinator, PLAN
"I have been a regular reader of the Vimukt Shiksha Bulletin - and have found it extremely insightful. The latest issue on Learning to Challenge the Global Economy is indeed excellent."
Shiva Kumar, Senior Advisor, UNICEF
"Your Learning to Challenge the Global Economy bulletin has been very helpful. It provides the major inputs to understand the issues raised. I congratulate the team of editors for producing such a comprehensive bulletin."
Jyotibhai Desai, Eminent Gandhian Activist
"Many thanks for sending your Vimukt Shiksha bulletin. You have been doing some wonderful work. . . I was impressed by your creative and critical thinking about education. . . I continue to experiment and propagate new ideas in education."
Norbert Menezes, Principal, St. Michael's School
"The special Hindi issue of Vimukt Shiksha (January 2001) is very thought provoking and inspiring. Congratulations! We think that the questions that this book raises are very welcome and timely. We are with you in this movement. As a starting point, we will try to disseminate as many materials and ideas as we can with our readers through our Sarvodaya Press Service."
Mahendra Kumar, Editor, Sarvodaya Press Service
Indore, Madhya Pradesh
"We have decided to bring out a weekly newspaper for circulation among a selected group of readers. A page is being devoted to Vimukt Sikhsya. All of your past copies are now with the editorial team. They will translate the matter into Oriya and one page will be devoted to it. By the time I return to Bhubaneswar the issue might have been released. The name of the weekly is Janatantra."
Suddhir Pattnaik, Activist
"We are regular readers of Vimukt Shiksha. We have been greatly inspired by the material of the special Hindi issue, especially the article on 'Ten Lies that My School Taught Me' by Manish Jain was very strong, which would get anyone agitated. We have already translated the piece into Marathi and have printed it in our July issue Palakneeti bulletin. We are also translating your paper 'If Not Schooling, Then What?' into Marathi and printing it in two parts in our next issue of Palakneeti. Our bulletin is circulated to teachers and educators all over the Marathi speaking region. We are sure they will appreciate the articles as much as we have. Please keep sending us your material, it is very useful."
Shubda Joshi, Palakneeti Parivaar
"I receive 'Vimukt Shiksha regularly. We also have regular dialogues on Shikshantar Andolan in our center 'Samvaad'. The myths that this system of education is spreading all over the country is something that Shikshantar has to work on very seriously. Your Hindi special issue of Vimukt Shiksha is one of the best collections on education. I am willing to spread the work of Shikshantar in Madhya Pradesh. The work of Shikshantar is even more crucial in this age of Globalization."
Jayant Verma, Journalist and Activist
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
"Recently I had the opportunity to go through your January issue of Vimukt Shiksha published in Hindi. I was very touched and highly impressed with the quality and the contents of it, which were very minutely and realistically depict the problems of contemporary society. Somewhere or the other, I identify with the approach of the book and your work. Since I am working in the areas of education and done my Doctorate in child psychology from JNU, I want to be associated with you."
S.M. Haider Rizvi
"Thank you for the copy of
"Unfolding Learning Societies" (April 2001). It puts to shame our poor
efforts to 'envision a world without schools, and create a world of learning communities'.
It not only puts 'deschooling society' in a different more active perspective, but
also answers the question, not asked before the book was written: 'How do we eliminate
terrorism?' I think we should explore how we link the work of your group with ours. As a
first step: How can others get copies of this publication? Could we include it on our list
of books we may sell from our website?"
Bill Ellis, Coalition for Self-Learning
Rangeley, ME, USA
"Recently, I wrote about Shikshantar and translated essays from Unfolding Learning Societies for Uri (=We)-Kyoyuk (=education). Uri-Kyoyuk (a monthly journal for teachers published in Seoul) had asked me to introduce Shikshantar's activity. And I had decided to write a series of three themes: Education for What?; Education or Learning?; What is the Learning Society? Today, Uri-Kyoyuk asked me to e-mail to Shikshantar for some pictures which will show Shikshantar and its learning city to the readers of the journal. I said 'yes', and then I'm writing this letter If you say "OK" about all these matters and help us with our attempt to introduce the alternative 'educational' activities to the Korean readers and teachers, I will be very, very grateful."
Lee Seong-min, Educationist
Seoul, South Korea
"I have read through your first issue of Learning Societies, and knew I was with kindred spirits in wanting people to notice what's going on, and take the future back into our own hands and hearts. . . I also would love several copies of the journal to pass around to staff and colleagues. Also, I'd like to post a few of these articles on our website. . . Many blessings on your essential work."
Margaret Wheatley, Director, The Berkana Institute
Provo, UT, USA
"I read the special issue of April, 2001 which dealt with learning society Some of my friends in U.S.A. did send me all the works of Ivan Illich long back. I had gone through them and have been utilising his concepts in my work. Similarly the development, as a panacea, always created confusion. Some of the books had also come in my hand. I would have been lucky to talk about how are you tackling your very serious concerns in the field. I could see the Mewari thrust, could see folktale, proverbs, riddles as source and your desire to go deeper into them I am happy to have met you. Next time I will learn more from you. Can I invite you to Jodhpur whenever you find time?"
Komal Kothari, Director, Rupayan Sansthan
Borunda, Jodhpur, Rajasthan
"I completed reading the book on Tagore written by Shilpa Jain, and was quite impressed with it. In fact, I found out that it touched the values I hold for long but was struggling to articulate it, about learning, about relatedness to others and nature. We would like to collaborate with you."
Nitin Paranjape, Director, Abhivyakti Media Group
"I just want to thank you for the report "The Poets Challenge to Schooling" you have sent me. I have been reading it again and again in the past days and have even cited few lines in my writings here and there. . . But for the time being all my heartfelt greetings at having undertaken such a study."
Asha Kachru, Womens Activist
"This has reference to your article Exposing the Illusion of the Campaign for Fundamental Right to Education. We have gone through the same and found it very interesting, informative and useful too. It gives new dimensions to our thoughts. We would like to have more information and material for our understanding and intervention. We are a state level broad based network of active voluntary organisations in the state of U.P. Mainly involved in the activities of networking, lobbying and advocacy on the issues affecting the voluntarism and public in general. We hope for interactive communication."
Sanjay Vijayvergiya, Director
Uttar Pradesh Voluntary Action Network (UPVAN)
"Congratulations to you and the team on your counter campaign for fundamental right to education. So very vital. Must disseminate your work and rope in more people."
David Selvaraj, Director, Visthar
"Thanks very much indeed for the article and the longer statement on the fundamental right to education. I have passed the latter to one of my very bright graduate students working on the BPEP-isation of basic education in Nepal! . . . I thought I might refer to your initiative in the upcoming issue of an aid policy bulletin that I edit called NORRAG NEWS (NN)."
Kenneth King, Professor of International Education,
University of Edinburgh
"You sent a booklet on the fundamental right to education to one of our youth members which I have had a chance to read. The booklet is really excellent. Our organization BICPAJ runs a Conflict Resolution Centre, where we have discussions and run courses on Alternative Education and also on Peace Education. Your booklet is therefore very useful to us. May we have a copy for our office?"
Brother Jarlath D'Souza, BICPAJ
Navin Ramakutty, ASHA member, University of
Madison, WI, USA
"Our visit together was such a huge gift to me. I have talked about it and your work with just about everyone I have met since I saw you. You and the work of Shikshantar have opened up many new possibilities in my own heart. I look forward very much to staying in touch."
Bliss Browne, Director, Imagine Chicago
Chicago, IL, USA
"I am from an institution
called After School. After School is about experiential learning whereby we hope to create
systems where students can directly see the implications of their training through hands
on work. I read about Udaipur as a Learning City (ULC) in the Avehi Newsletter. We
are certainly interested in knowing more about this experiment. Could you tell us how we
can get more information on their work? Also, is it possible to connect with the people
involved in this project as well the community which is being affected through this
project? I think ULC is a brilliant idea and most of our communities need this kind
of an initiative."
Zainab Bawa, Founder, After School
"We have got very interested in the material we received from Shikshantar on the process of Udaipur as a Learning City. It is a very stimulating and different. For people in Auroville who are working on developing a city on very different principles and visions, it gives us great encouragement and inspiration to find other like-minded organizations and individuals. We are very interested in expanding our area of work and network with organizations and learning cities like yours.. . . We would like to send a group of 8-10 young and old Aurovillians to Udaipur in the near future to develop an exchange and mutually nurturing sharing process."
Jaya and Min, Center For Research on Human Unity
Auroville, Tamil Nadu
"The instigators of the Learning Park project have based it on solid research from the neurosciences, studies in human development, and effective learning strategies and are clearly focussed on creating an educational project that is very different from traditional schooling I am impressed with the way in which young people involved are encouraged to solve their own problems, find resources to do their projects, follow their awakened curiosity and take responsibility for their own learning and their own actions. The Learning Park seems to open limitless possibilities for the youngsters that go far beyond the physical confines of the location and involve the whole community in support of the learning process."
Dee Dickinson, Eminent Educationist and Director of
New Horizons for Learning
Seattle, WA, USA
"Thanks always for the interesting read on Learning Parks in Udaipur. I have forwarded it to some friends of mine who are in the teaching profession in Korea. It is always interesting to get a different perspective on things especially sitting here in UNESCO."
Min-Jeong Kin, Information Officer, UNESCO
"The Earth Carfree Day discussion (organized on April 19th 2001 as a part of Udaipur as a Learning City) was not attended by many but the very idea of even reflecting on cars and conservation in our lives is of utmost importance to all of us. We, as concerned citizens of Udaipur, have to take on some very concrete steps in this direction. I feel that even if it starts with a few individuals the message will get passed on to many and its importance will be enacted not only understood. I think that we as citizens of Udaipur who are concerned about its future and environment have to do something about it. I am willing to give a few hours a week to do something about it."
Vijay Joshi, Coordinator of The Study School
"I received your letter and copies of Kaani Ke Re Kagla. It is very impressive and eye-catching. I have read the whole book with great interest. The translation of the stories is very good. I feel that this book and others will be greatly appreciated and welcome in villages of Mewar. . . I sincerely hope that I can be of help in this process of regenerating and strengthening Mewari and its parampara."
Vijay Dan Detha, Eminent Writer and Story-teller
"The work of Shikshantar is unique. I have yet to come across any other organization which is really doing something about local languages and knowledge systems. Stories, poems, lok geet, reeti riwaaz have always been an integral part of our life, but mainstream education and schools are very effectively destroying them. As a result of which individuals and communities are losing their ingenuity and diverse identities and being uniformly homogenized into a common mainstream agenda. We are even losing our individual capacities to feel and relate with other human beings. The Mewari story book Kaani Ke Re Kagla is a great step in making us reflect on these issues. I too have plenty of stories, geet, poems on traditional marriages, festivals, reeti rivaaz, etc. in Shekhawati (where I am from). I feel inspired to do something with them. I could share them with you or we could think of someway to work on them collectively."
Geeta Sodhani, Teacher
"I was most delighted to come across the first issue of Yuva Halchal. It gave me a lot of satisfaction and hope. I really think that this effort is very appreciable. This is the first time I came across a youth bulletin which is so different. Most other bulletins for youth cover issues like fashion, film, modern living, etc. What we really need is that youth try to understand their own importance and plan their life accordingly. I feel Yuva Halchal will provide a direction for this. If this is the first issue, I really think it is very good because it portrays a whole new mature vision."
Kamlesh Sharma, Student
Badgaon, Udaipur, Rajasthan
"I felt very happy to discuss on the workshop of critical media. They are good people. They asked us such good questions that never our parents asked us. This is the only time when we expressed our feelings in front of others. We played so many games not only for fun and each game has some morality or some purpose. It is very important and useful for us. Only in this age can we learn all this. They taught us that without unity we cant do anything. It is very good and enjoyable activity we are having in our school. My parents are also happy with this because we are learning some good things."
Neha Sisodia, Student, Age 12
The Study School, Udaipur
"My son, Daksh, really enjoyed the theatre workshop that was organized with Tania Meyer. The week-long interaction really helped him to develop his self-confidence and expression. I see a healthy change in him. He is writing poems, very thoughtful articles and wants to do new things. I would really appreciate it if he gets more opportunities like these."
Veena Gaur, Parent
"I wanted to make sure to thank you all for all your help and the program that you put together for us when we were in Udaipur. I really appreciated it and I thought that was definitely the most valuable part of the trip for me."
Mako Hill, Student, Hampshire College
Amherst, MA, USA
"Many thanks for sending along notice of your wonderful Web site. I've just added a link to it in the Changemakers Library in two collections: Education/Learning and in the regional collection Asia. All the best to you in your fine work!"
Karin Hillhouse, Ashoka Innovators for the Public
Washington, DC, USA
"We are the two School of International Training interns from last year. We just want to say how deeply our experience at Shikshantar has changed our lives. Now we are living out our ideals by travelling around America working on organic farms. We are learning about our place, and surprisingly finding some cultural roots in America that have nothing to do with McDonalds and Nike."Tim Desmond and Rebecca Reeder, Students, School for International Training
"It was a very warm and nourishing experience to have met you, and to share concerns with spirits grounded in compassion. I really appreciate the methods you all adopt to re-work our world. I am very much looking forward to visit and be a part of your activities at Shikshantar in Udaipur. I am enclosing as an attachment a brief programme on our upcoming workshop, and will also try and post you some materials of interest. "
Prashant Varma, friendsoftibetindia
"It was with great excitement that
I recently explored Shikshantar Sansthan's website. What Shikshantar is doing I believe to
be of fundamental importance. I agree that schooling has become an enemy of learning
and of the many other creative activities which are at the heart of living well and
regenerating self-reliance and I am glad to learn of your efforts to create spaces where
people can flourish. You have my admiration and my very best wishes
I am also
writing, because I have been asked by a fellowship organization to search for an
organization in India with which it may collaborate. I feel that there may be excellent
possibilities for doing so with Shikshantar and wanted to know whether such collaboration
would be of interest to you."
Tom Pruiksma, Oberlin Shansi Memorial
Oberlin, OH, USA
"I have been visiting the Shikshantar website off and on for the past few months, but its only now that I am writing to you. It is heartening to come across organizations/ movements such as yours' aimed at decolonizing the mind. My ongoing doctoral work here at the Center for Energy and Environment policy, University of Delaware, as also my experiences from working with a few grassroots non-profits in India over the past two years, is leading me to appreciate the urgent need for such a decolonization of our minds especially in the context of 'globalization', and efforts to come up with 'alternatives' to the tyranny of industrial capitalism and the Nation State."
Venkatesh Iyer, Graduate Student,
Center for Energy & Environment Policy, University of Delaware
Newark, DE, USA
"I work on education with about 80 boys and girls from financially
constrained backgrounds, children of uneducated housemaids & cooks & electricians
& barbers, ranging in age from 6 to 22 years, bubbling with energy & completely
lacking direction. Besides the dubious education that they get in their schools, I am also
concerned, like you, that the 'education' one gets in the present system is really limited
to rote learning and exams, and doesn't touch the wider, philosophical sense of the
word...I am keen not only to meet you myself, but also to get my students to meet you. One
of the things we do during school holidays is go on educational trips to different parts
of our beautiful country. If possible, I would like to bring them to Udaipur."
Ravi Gulati, Non-Formal Educator
"I spent a number of years in Japan working with individuals and groups committed to developing educational alternatives and establishing an alternative university system. I am presently living in Hawaii, working with a group of like-minded colleagues in creating a research institute with goals very similar to those of Shikshantar I donšt have any specific thoughts in mind at present as to possible areas of collaboration, but perhaps our institute here, when we get it operating, and yours might explore opportunities for collaboration in efforts to assist local communities in the Asia Pacific area in developing capacities for sustainability and local self-reliance. That could be exciting. "
Dayle Bethel, Director, The International University Asia Pacific
Honolulu, HI, USA
"I work with an organization called Open minds. We are working towards setting up a place for children in the age group of 5-15 yrs. where their creative processes, lifelong skills which are not a part of school activities will be catered to. We are not a play school, and all the sessions will be based on various well-known and tested theories and techniques, like multiple intelligences by Dr. Howard Gardner I found your website really interesting and helpful, it will be great if I can get an opportunity to come and visit you and understand your role in detail, since i feel there a lot which we can share with each other."
Richa Bahl, Phoenix Technosystems
"I heartily accept your invitation to join your effort in changing the Indian schooling system. I am also equally frustrated at the present Government's schooling system, which you rightly pointed out to be business-oriented factory schooling system. I am highly eager in doing something constructive at Agartala, where I am posted now. I shall require your guidances."
Goutam Mukherjee, Technical Director, National Informatics Centre
Agartala, Tripura (W)
"Thank you for all your contributions at bal vividha 2001, it was terrific having you over! Your interactive corner was one of the liveliest at the fair, and it had the kids agog. The amount of energy coming out of the activities there was fabulous. Your taking the kids out of the tent was a very good ideait kept the outside space alive and gave the kids the freedom which they didnt have in the tent As you know the public response to the festival was overwhelming and our true reward was in the expressions of the children who came to the fair We have been swamped with offers to take bal vividha to different venues including places outside Mumbai. We hope to make this a reality and would like to know if you would be interested in such outreach."
Chandita Mukherjee, Director, Comet Media Foundation
"I must congratulate you for your sincere endeavors, which you are making through your organisation for raising awareness, interest and accountability in the minds of people. At least there is someone who is constantly hammering the gong on the authorities, practitioners and institutions."
P.S. Sodhi, Director, Gram Vikas Trust