The Peoples institute
rethinking education and development
ANNUAL HIGHLIGHTS 2002
Jathe pota, vate rota."
Wherever there is cow dung,
that is where you will find your bread.
- Mewari proverb
We can easily forgive the child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." - Plato
Dear Friends and Co-Creators-
On behalf of all the learning activists from Shikshantar, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and to thank you for all of your support over the past year (and past 4 years). Your probing questions, generous donations, voluntary efforts, positive vibrations and strong friendship have been a really important source of energy and inspiration for us.
This has been a breakthrough year for Shikshantar. It started with a bang and ended with a bang with lots of fireworks in between. :) Today, after 4 years, Shikshantar is regarded as one of the leaders in educational innovations in India. We are actively sought out by those searching for creative alternatives for the 21st century.
I wanted to share a short update of important highlights from the past year:
w Co-hosted a conference on Unfolding Learning Societies for 60 leading thinker-doers from around India. International participants came from Mali, South Africa, Palestine, Australia, Canada, UK, UAE, Paraguay, and USA.
w Published third volume of the Unfolding Learning Societies series on Experiencing the Possibilities.
w Published third volume in the Resisting the Culture of Schooling series on Voices from Mewar.
w Published Vimukt Shiksha Bulletin on "Learning to Challenge the Global Economy".
w Published several articles in various magazines including, "Facing the Violence", "Reclaiming Our Creativities from a Ready-Made World", From Critical Pedagogy to Being Critical of Pedagogy.
w Initiated the Senior Citizens video series, beginning with videos of Dayal Chand Soni and Kishore Saint.
w Expanded website to include new references on societal learning, critiques of development and factory-schooling; new sections on Interrogating Literacy, Publications from the South, Stories of Unlearning; and links to many new partners around the world. We are averaging about 2000 visitors per month.
w Conducted unlearning workshops for Shram Niketan (Chattisgarh) and Abhivyakti (Maharashtra) as part of the Liberate School Project.
w Participated in Imagine Chicagos International Conference and shared work of Udaipur as a Learning City.
w Participated in World Jam, a gathering of young activists from around the world, in San Francisco.
w Contributed to the development of Multiversity Network in Penang, Malaysia.
Some of the activities we have been working on in Udaipur as a Learning City include:
w Hosted a two-day gathering, Samvaad ki Roshini, involving 250 families to discuss communal violence and rebuilding an atmosphere of trust and harmony in the city.
w Hosted a pre-Rakhee festival with 700 children with poster exhibition, street play, stalls on making your own Rakhee bracelet out of waste materials, making your own greeting cards, and playing cooperative games.
w Collected local stories, poems and songs; published Hukara de re Vagla book of local stories and Seekh Shariryo Upajaye coloring book on local artisans in Mewari language. These have been shared with over 4000 families. Also, published 12 issues of Aapni Vaat monthly magazine.
w Facilitated neighborhood workshops (on creative expressions and cooperative games) with over 400 children in Kharol Colony, Neemach Mata, Dewali, Neemach Kheda, Ahinsapuri, Pulla Basti, Rail Magra, Ganesh Ghatti, Sukher, Bhuvana, Chitrakoot Nagar, Badgaon).
w Supported children in publishing Popcorns Magazine.
w Facilitated several workshops with youth on Theatre and Self-Exploration, Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space Technology, Circle Dialogues, Community Wallpapers, Video Film Making, Computers and Self-Expression, Art and Local Artists.
w Supported youth in publishing 12 issues of Yuva Halchal magazine. Also, supported youth in publishing Martial Arts Magazine for local youth.
w Co-hosted film screenings and discussions with youth on "Many Faces of Madness", "Modern Times" and "Baraka".
w Hosted students from Hampshire College for one week as part of Yatra study visit.
w Initiated a process on Rooftop Organic Farming with 10 families in Udaipur. Continued growing organic vegetables (spinach, squashes, sweet potato, fenugreek, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, okra) in Shikshantar.
We have built strong relationships with several innovative groups across South Asia such as Abhivyakti: Media for Development, Manzil Learning Centre, Mirambika, Theatre in Education Trust, Other India Press, SIDH, Centre for Learning, Satyagraha Mimansa, Rupayan Sansthan, Jiva Institute, Samanvaya, Aide-et-Action-Liberate School, Sindh Education Foundation, and Institute for Development Studies and Practices-Quetta. We are also actively collaborating with international groups such as: Multiworld, Pioneers of Change, Berkana Institute, Learning Development Institute, Arab Education Forum, Communities of the Future, Coalition for Self-Learning, World Jams, ImagineChicago, Hampshire College, and UNESCO Collective Consultation of NGOs.
Finally, this year has also brought with it the birth of our baby girl, Avanika, who has become the newest learning activist with Shikshantar.
So despite all the chaos and turmoil taking place around the world, we open the year with a lot of enthusiasm and hope. Our major challenges for the upcoming year will be in strengthening our young local team and in deepening the relationships and self-organizing activities between our growing network. We have several activities planned as part of follow-up to the Learning Societies Conference.
Thank you for being on this roller-coaster journey with us. We hope that the new year will provide us with many new opportunities for mutual learning, discovery and growth. We look forward to your continued involvement in our work in 2003.
SHIKSHANTAR LEARNING ACTIVISTS
CORE TEAM - LOCAL VOLUNTEERS
Dhapu Bai Prajapat
Sunil Gang - Accountant
Isaac Ochieng - Kenya
Neesha Noronha - Mumbai
Jyoti Jain, Surat, Gujarat
Ritu Jain, Surat, Gujarat
Parvez Taj - USA
Zaid Hassan - UK
Alok Singh - UK
Maria Glauser - Paraguay
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Vijay Singh Mehta
Manish Jain, Executive Trustee
SOME SPECIAL VISITORS
Sangeeta Kamat, Univ. of Massachusetts
Vivek Bhandari, Hampshire College
Tom Pruiksma, Shansi-Oberlin Foundation
Praveen Mittal, AID-Minnesota
Gunjan Doogar, Development Alternatives
Rajiv Vora, Gandhi Peace Foundation
Shovan Negi, SIDH
V.B. Karanth, National School of Drama
Raj-Preeti Chauhan, ASHA for Education
Shubhu Patwa, Journalist
Prem Mehta, Kaniya Open School
Suresh Pandit, Journalist
Nidhi, Down to Earth Magazine
Sheshagiri K.M., PLAN International
Walter Peter, Theatre in Education Trust
Bliss Browne, Imagine Chicago
Michael Hermann, Open Space Technology
Nesar Ahmad, Indian Social Institute
Ravi Gulati, Manzil Service Society
Komal Kothari, Rupayan Sansthan
Sonam Wangchuk, SECMOL-Ladakh
Jayendra Shah, Gurukulam
Sanjoy and Damyanti, Gurukulam
Lisa Aubrey, Ohio University
Nitin Paranjape, Abhivyakti
Anita Borkar, Abhivyakti
Munir Fasheh, Arab Education Forum
Claude Alvares, Other India Press
Sudhir Pattnaik, Social Activist
Mitali Purohit, Dil Kush School
Special thanks to Shri Dayal Chand Soni and Shri Kishore Saint for their
continued inspiration and guidance.
Reclaiming Control Over Our Own Learning:
Some Feedback on Our Efforts
January December 2002
I just wanted to thank you all for the wonderful and nourishing experience that you provided me during my short stay in Udaipur. I've decided that every experience is a life-changing one in some way or another, and that some are just more dramatic than others. Shikshantar was definitely one of the more dramatic for me, and I'm sure that the perspectives Ive gained through my interactions with all the great people there are going to be important in much more than just my studies back here. I would really like to be able to return to Shikshantar for a longer stay. Thanks again for a great and transformative time.
Trent Moyer, student, Hampshire College, US
You will be very happy to hear that I have introduced a new course for my students here, in which the idea is to learn from the common wisdom of people as well as from the teacher within ourselves. I am working within the system and trying to expand space for liberated learning, but I admire your efforts a great deal and please be assured of my support. I am with you always.
Anil Gupta, Honeybee Network, IIM-Ahmedabad, Gujarat
You guys are producing great stuff, and I truly feel it will deepen our resolve and enrich us as we act to free ourselves from the monopoly of recycled knowledge, which rarely contributes to our understanding of our life's real purpose as human beings. I have grown through navigating leads on your site to an extent that I think we could possibly begin a formal collaboration on the learning between my city and the learning city of Udaipur. The purpose would be to get a face-to-face discussion on learning, de-learning, de-bureaucratization and many taken-for-granted assumptions. Now this is what I envisage, and note that we need to co-create a good learning programme around this theme of mutual learning. One of the elements of collaboration could take form of a learning mission by people in my city to your city, and months later we could have agents of transformation from your city coming over here to share.
Linda Mzombambi, City Planner, Durban, South Africa
I have been referred to you through the UNESCO Institute of Education. In Cape Town, South Africa, we are very actively involved in processes of developing the Learning Cape as part of the provincial economic development plan. I believe that you are very much involved in these issues and we are keen, in particular, to meet people from other middle income countries, grappling with this ambitious vision.
Shirley Walters, Div. for Lifelong Learning at the Univ. of Western Cape, South Africa
I am grateful to you for sending me a copy of 'Unfolding Learning Societies' (June 2002). I found it to be a priceless edition containing some really insightful contributions to the educational debate. Although the educational debate in India has a long history, we seldom seem to go deep enough into the matter. Perhaps in our rush to find 'solutions' to educational problems, we gloss over the more fundamental task of generating truly novel and effective perspectives on education. I have also seen your website in which you have generously provided many resources on education and learning. Needless to say that I have been impressed with your perspective on education-work. As a fellow citizen interested in shaping the learning practices of tomorrow, I hope to benefit from your experiences in this area and continue learning from you.
D. P. Dash, Professor, Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, Orissa
Our library is enriched by the two Learning Societies volumes of Vimukt Shiksha. By reading the contents in the volumes, we found our wavelengths matched, and the team became more catalyzed with the innovative and revolutionary material in your publications. In Haryana, we are struggling the same way as you are in Rajasthan. Hope to join hands to work together for a better society.
Anju, Utthan Institute of Development & Studies, Haryana
I've been really inspired and excited to learn about your work. I hope to find out even more. Amongst the great wealth of thought and feeling within your material that I have on my desk at home (actually on my chest of drawers in my bedroom...very few books make it to that place!), one essay in particular, 'The Process of your Life Should be the Process of your Education' by Dayal Chandra Soni - has really jumped out at me and is resonating with my own experience of working outdoors, in a small rural education centre run by an anthropologist, for school children called the Ancient Technology Centre (www.dorset-cc.gov.uk/OutdoorEd). Which projects of yours are especially focused on the ideas expressed by Soni?? I'd love to find out more about education projects in your area which draw on his wisdom and view of learning and the role of manual, craft and traditional work. I think the UK has a great deal to learn from these ideas: this position of respect for human experience and the practical benefits of a learning system more in tune with smaller, localised and community traditions.
Ben Koralek, School Works, UK
You are SO wonderful to take the time to work with us on this article that we are writing for Vimukt Shiksha Unfolding Learning Societies. It turns out that this has been a most useful, cathartic, reflection and healing/forgiveness experience. I would add that your urging to focus on the Jackson Community work and make it more explicit has been/is most helpful in understanding what we did and learned. Your most recent questions, in particular, about the link between the Jackson work and our new work about learning democracy is most helpful. For a number of days, I've been doing a lot of thinking about that. So, again, thank you, for asking in the first place, for continuing to inquire, and to work with us on the article. I think the whole experience is one that will turn out to be of great service to our own work and lives in the future.
Carole Schwinn, From the Four Directions, USA
I was delighted to see your web site and read your articles. I have known about Shikshantar but suddenly distance seems no barrier. I am from the Krishnamurti School in Chennai and our struggles and many of my questions are echoed in the writings in the latest journal of Vimukt Shiksha. Can I obtain a full series of your material on education?
Gautama, Krishnamurti School, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
I found Vimukt Shiksha quite interesting and would like to subscribe to it. It would be a valuable asset, as I see it, for the users of my community library.
Mahesh Gavasker, Deccan Educational Library, Belgaum, Andhra Pradesh
I just finished reading your latest bulletin: Learning to Challenge the Global Economy, and I really enjoyed it. It read quite differently from the others in having a lot more, much shorter excerpts and articles. I read them all, enjoying very much how they spanned a variety of areas and themes within the larger theme, and being particularly good at informing me about interesting and relevant initiatives, websites or books to take the exploration further. One thing that I am thinking a lot about these days is exactly how to bring these thoughts, and this kind of analysis to the rural people I will soon be working with in Zimbabwe. I will be sure to share my experiences with you.
Marianne Knuth, Kufunda Learning Village, Zimbabwe
It was quite enlightening to read the write-ups of Shikshantar. Many ideas expressed in the article titled Exposing the Illusion of the Campaign for Fundamental Right to Education by George and Jain were quite interesting. This has stimulated me to know more about the organisation and other write-ups I share most of your concerns with regard to education. I presume beyond theoretical discussion, you are also working in the field. I would be interested in knowing about the details of the activities that you might be doing in the field. Looking forward to long term association with you.
Jayendu Krishna, student, Jawarhalal Nehru University, New Delhi
It was a pleasure to read your article Exposing the Illusion of the Campaign for Fundamental Right to Education. I think it is a very strongly argued work, and some very complicated ideas have been expressed very cogently and lucidly. I am involved in a very humble capacity with some educational programmes in West Bengal carried out by some NGOS. My own ideas are largely influenced by that of Rabindranath Tagore. It would be useful for me if I could know more about the work Shikshantar is doing.
Debraj Bhattacharya, Kolkata, West Bengal
I read your article on Creativity reprinted in Nasik Industries & Manufacturers' Association News Bulletin. I wish to further interact with you. I agree with you that we have to promote creativity and innovations. Do you recommend some good books for these two topics? I am principal of an Engineering College at Nasik.
V. D. Barve, Nasik, Maharashtra
This essay on Facing the Violence is by far the most sensible analysis of the problems we face in India. I commend the writer(s). Thank you for including me in the dialogue.
Arun Gandhi, M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, Tennessee, USA
Firstly, let me tell you that since last week I have been visiting sites, discussing with people, conducting massive research works and all for peace initiatives, but your idea, feelings, what is responsible for violence was so different than everyone else. That I never found anything like your article on Godhra anywhere else. From 3pm to 1am, I tried to understand many aspects of your article and add in some of mine. Thank you so much for that wonderful article.
Ankana Daga, student, Delhi Public School
The school culture is getting worse and the trend seems irreversible. The educated parents who patronise and support such schools want to build the career of their children, not to enrich their life as human beings. The big question before us is how to challenge the practice in reality when the whole establishment is your enemy. I would personally like to know the size and nature of your network and be part of it.
Satyabrata Barik, Rural Education Committee, Mayurbhanj, Orissa
We have received a copy of your publication Voices from Mewar. Is it possible to send us the electronic version of this book as this is very useful for our indigenous education programme?
Aveline, Asia South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE), Mumbai, Maharashtra
Congratulations for your publication Voices from Mewar. I can only say that I feel really so good about the fact, that at last someone has so authentically, from personal experiences, spoken and written against the vicious role of our teachers, parents and leaders in steering the lives of our children, youngsters and future citizens of India.
Asha Kachru, Strainata, Bangalore, Karnataka
Just had a visit to your site. Glad to see the updates. I also received the Voices from Mewar pamphlet, which I enjoyed reading greatly. I imagine you might have seen the program we are working on for Global Education for a Sustainable Planet. In this initiative, I was hoping to build a framework to address global education, and to get people thinking about how we wind up with the kind of problems we face at different dimensions, from local to the greater society. I was hoping that I might be able to send you some things for critiquing. Work is in its very nascent stages and it needs some fertilization and structuring. And further, your comments always keep me grounded.
Steve Rudolph, Jiva Institute, Delhi
We would like to introduce ourselves as bookshop/ecoshop having materials exclusively on alternative literature, organic products. We are interested in distributing your publications to our friends and other scholars/groups working in these fields. Through our network we hope to deliver your material to its deserving destination point.
Anil, Altermedia, Kerala
Why not think of your doing a couple of workshops in the South on some of the concerns you have consistently and eloquently raised over the years?
David Selvaraj, Visthaar, Bangalore, Karnataka
I have been following your positions on education in this last year and now the time has come when the IIC wants me to coordinate a discussion on the issue of Learning Without Chains. I was hoping you would help me identify more like-minded friends who could organise this meeting with some exhibition material on the trials of schooling and the need for no textbooks except that which the teacher and the community recognise.
Kamala Menon, Mirambika, Delhi
I am writing to thank you for your website which, as I travel through the world wide web for perspectives on education in India, has been an enriching source of information. I am currently writing a critique of India's National Education Policy and would be very grateful if you could point me towards additional web or journal sources which I could explore.
Anthea Gomes, student, Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA
This list of new publications on your website looks excellent. I shall make a point of visiting the website regularly - and I look forward to receiving more information!
David Archer, Action Aid, UK
Thank you for introducing me to your very interesting group. You do have a very well put together home page on the web. I am informing others about it too.
Professor J.G. Krishnayya, Systems Research Institute, Pune, Maharashtra
I would like to express my appreciation of the fine work that you are doing, and in the future when I have more time I would like to join in some of the discussions on your website. I am currently doing my undergraduate thesis on non-coercive schools. I envisage a true learning society eventually.
Victoria Serda, student, Ontario, Canada
We will post information on your new publications on the next electronic issue of Edulit Infowaves. I do not know whether I told you earlier that I came to know about you from Lalit Kishore of Bodh (Jaipur), and he was the one who passed on a copy of the publication Vimukt Shiksha. We were really impressed with it. We have wished to meet you since that time.
Parag, UhelpIndia website
I was able to make my way to Shikshantar and was inspired to see your work. I read one of the issues of Vimukt Shiksha and it really opened my eyes and changed my perspective of education. I revisited my education days and compared it with my cousins who are right now in 10-12th grade. I noticed that our education days were exactly the way you explained. It is sad to know that the state of education is getting worse. Nowadays, there is even less freedom for children. They are becoming less innovative, mainly driven by getting a position or getting admission in a good college, and then getting a good salary. I have shared all the Shikshantar publications here in our chapter with 1-2 people so far. I will be talking to more as time permits.
Praveen Mittal, AID, Minnesota, USA
I just received a copy of Hukara de re Vagla. I think the book is excellent and very timely. This kind of work is a must for deepening our roots in Mewari. With god's blessings, this effort is going to grow and millions of people are going to appreciate and benefit from it. Aapni Vaat should also continue, as this is the only way to keep the treasure of wisdom and knowledge of the Mewari village folk alive. I too have a couple of publications in Mewari which I would like you to read and share with others. I am with you till my last breath in this great work.
Padmashri Laxmi Kumari Chundawat, Jaipur, Rajasthan
I have been receiving all your publications in Mewari and just yesterday got Hukara de re Vagla followed by Aapni Vaat. After reading all of them, I realize that your intentions and efforts in the field of Mewari are very honest. A lot of people just publish their own writings to show off their greatness, but what you are sharing is everyone's. I feel that today most people are busy copying others and therefore speaking less Mewari. For me, copying is the fastest way to kill one's own common sense and wisdom and to cut oneself off from the land. I will continue to write and speak in Mewari only. I am sending my work to see what you can do with it.
Kamla Kant Sharma, Bhilwara, Rajasthan
What you are doing in Mewari language is a matter of great inspiration. Hukara de re Vagla has touched my heart I was delighted to see it. Mewari is a wonderfully soothing language in which people like Meerabai and Chatursinghji Baavji have done wonders I would like to congratulate you for your great work in Mewari and in appreciation am sending you some of my Mewari bhajans and stories... I know that the more we use Mewari the more it will grow and strengthen peoples' confidence and thats what will keep us alive.
Vinod Somani, Ajmer, Rajasthan
I just felt like writing to tell you how moved and happy and hopeful I feel! What you and people with you have created is amazing and very hopeful. It shows so well in the energy and love in all the emails we have been receiving in preparation for the Learning Societies conference. It is phenomenal.
Munir Fasheh, Arab Education Forum, Palestine
I am just back from the Shikshantar conference on learning societies held in Udaipur. It was pleasantly stretched over 5 days. What was most refreshing was the structure of the meeting which was different from any other meeting that I have attended in the past (and prefigures well for Multiversity discussions). There were no formal papers, except a formal opening speech. Most of the time was given to group discussions, one-to-one encounters, music, drama (theatre in education) and singing. No one forced anyone to do anything, you took the initiative to exploit opportunities available We learned an immense deal, but much through non-text, non-verbal methods. Claude Alvares, Other India Press, Goa
It was great to have on opportunity to overlap our circles! We found it so inspiring to hear about your work and I hope we continue to keep the information flowing between our projects.
Carolyn Cushing, Spirit in Action, Massachusetts, USA