atmosphereFirst-time visitors are usually struck by a couple of characteristics of the school. One, the school seems to be run by the students. They maintain the vegetable garden, clean the premises, organize the assembly, run the kitchen, manage the timetable, and so on. The children intimately connect with the school, and see themselves as active participants in deciding how it functions.

Two, processes here are broad and offer immense flexibility. For instance, though school timing changes with the season, on a rainy winter morning the school might begin a couple of hours later than scheduled, as and when the students troop in. Or if a group seems impatient with math, the teacher might launch into a story-telling session.

The students are grouped into four families. Each family has children from kindergarten to class five, and most of the school's activities - art forms, sports and physical work - happen in these groups. The mukhiya (head) of each family is chosen after collective and consensual decision making, much in the nature of the traditional panchayat. The mukhiya is a position of responsibility rather than power, and it is his or her role to ensure that every member of the family is productively and happily engaged.

A pervasive character of the Indian village is that work, festivals, song and dance, are all in rhythm with nature's cycles. Therefore, while learning local art forms, children also imbue the spirit of the land. Similarly, it is seen that all work is both purposeful and collective. For instance, for kinesthetic and physical development, instead of exercise, the children manage the vegetable garden. This not only keeps them fit, it also instills in them a respect for manual labour and teaches them the fundamentals of teamwork, thereby building a good work ethic.

Though the idea of personal and social development of the child pervades all school processes, there are specific modules to address these more deeply. For instance, Vyaktitva Nirman (character building) discussions focus dialogue around personal and social questions from the immediate environment - such as, why do we lie? Why are these village factions at loggerheads with each other? What has changed since the road got built? At the end of each school day, there is a wrap- up session 'Samiksha', which is a free forum for children and teachers to discuss the day - what happened, why, what was good, what was not, etc.

Parents play a large role in the school. They decide how to run the school and make decisions about how funds will be spent. They also make decisions about the cultural programs as well as attending the tours in which the children perform.


E newsletter