Welcome to the Multiversity Underground, an exciting new network for those interested in challenging the dominant system of education and taking their learning back into their own hands.
Multiversity Underground draws its name and inspiration from the Underground Railroad, a spontaneously evolving, informally organized network in the 18th and 19th century. Neither "underground" nor a "railroad", in the literal sense, this network of black and white Americans assisted enslaved African-Americans in escaping to freedom. It occurred when the slave trade of Europeans and white Americans was at its height, in a time when it seemed impossible to break its stranglehold on African people. Yet though the risks were high and the penalty for getting caught was death, still people had the courage to resist the dehumanizing institution of slavery. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 enslaved people escaped in the 100-year-old existence of the Underground Railroad.
Today, we are need of a similar level of courage. Young people in India (and around the world) stand face-to-face with another kind of brutal slavery: the mental, physical and spiritual enslavement promoted by factory schools and colonial colleges. The constant onslaught of competition, pressure and violence, coupled with the hopelessness of the global economy, have left many young people frustrated, angry and/or depressed. Though some have had the strength and support to ‘walk out’ of such bondage, they are looking for places and relationships to ‘walk in’ to. It is to support such ‘freedom seekers’ in their struggle — to know themselves, to set their own learning paths, and to make beautiful contributions to their world — that the Multiversity Underground has been launched.
Just as the slaves' flight to freedom was made possible by the courageous men and women who believed in the right of all humans to be free from bondage, so too does the Multiworld-Underground consist of ‘sympathetic resistors’. Spread throughout all corners of India, working in all fields of life, these individuals (and their organizations, if applicable) are willing to nurture a young ‘freedom seeker’. Together, they will generate and commit to project(s) of learning of their choice, which will be of mutual interest and benefit to both. The minimum duration of time together will be six months, with an option for both sides to extend for another six months, if so desired.
The freedom seekers will self-select and apply to work with whichever sympathetic resistor s/he would like. Since Multiworld considers degrees, certificates, and examination marks to be useless, freedom seekers will have to demonstrate their questions and learning interests through creative expressions and strong recommendations. An interview may also be held to finalize the match between freedom seekers and sympathetic resistors.
The Underground will be enhanced by an orientation and periodic interactions among the freedom seekers, in various locations throughout India. These will strengthen their processes of self-learning, de-colonizing, and also enable them to expand their learning landscape. The Underground will also have an annual meeting among all the sympathetic resistors, freedom seekers, and Multiworld associates, to learn and share their experiences with one another. Such co-learning and continuous feedback will be a vital aspect of the Underground, and will set it apart from other existing youth internship or fellowship programs.
The Underground Railroad was every route the enslaved took, or attempted to take, to freedom. It was a vast network of paths and roads, through swamps and over mountains, through the woods and fields, river crossings, boats and ships, trains and wagons. We anticipate the Multiworld Underground to be just as diverse and vast, full of adventure and well worth the risk. Addressing the crisis of our young people today calls for nothing less than such courage and conviction.
We invite you to join us as a sympathetic resistor, freedom seeker, a well-wisher, or in whatever capacity you see fit.
Claude Alvares and Shilpa Jain
Multiworld Underground Coordinators