Youth Program

Welcome

Located in the Tribal Block of Jaunpur in the vicinity of the tourist destination Mussoorie but geographically a part of Tehri district of Uttarakhand, ours is a collective initiative where in team members with special skills and interest work together in a mutually supportive way in the same geographical area but with different target groups and areas of intervention. Each lead their own initiative as a collective of committed social change leaders. Two prime areas of all our interventions are Youth Development and Quality Education.

Under Youth Development we have been working with the Community Youth to enhance their understanding of Self and Society through providing and generating learning opportunities.

Quality Education is disseminated through a school which we have been running successfully for 10 years now. A classic and rare example of community supported and participatory learning, the school caters to the need of local people by preserving their cultural identity and language.

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Milestones

The teachers initially worked without a salary. Different members of the community contributed in their own way: one person provided space, another offered food, someone donated mats for sitting on, a person managed to bring some teaching-learning materials, and so on. The sparse tuition fees didn't cover expenses however, and often the teachers had to seek funds from friends.

Villagers come into the school to teach the children about subjects concerning the village i.e. its history, local customs, dress, folk dancing etc. These sessions with the villagers inspired the cultural program to be born. The committee decided to start the cultural program which began in2007.

annualday

Another significant role played by the community was to organize the Annual Day Event for the first time on 10th April 2010. The day was marked as a celebration and recognition of Swajan Shiksha Samiti's journey over the last eight years and included an exhibition of children's work. Many State and Local level Ministers attended the program and made announced contributions in the form of scholarships for students and towards school development.
Over the past 3 years the school has made significant advancement in its capacity and quality of teaching learning. Various training programs have been organized in the school to build the capacity of teachers. Simultaneously the team also got opportunity to attend learning programs outside the state to enhance its capacity.
The school often takes volunteers who come and work with the children on a range of subjects. During the last few years Ghati school welcomed a range of volunteers young and old, teachers and students who spent two to eight weeks working with the children teaching English, Music, Arts, Dance, sports and other academic subjects.  

Disha India is a national education institute based in Delhi that works on education issues and conducts capacity building programs for teachers.
Sanjay of Ghati School visited a Disha India workshop where people from all over India were in attendance. Sanjay represented the school and had an opportunity to talk about the school to an audience there and raised the name of the school amongst those present. He is also showcased in their poster for 2010 - 11 leadership building program.

Azim Premji Foundation is an organization working in Uttarakhand on Education. The head of the organization Mr. Anant Gangola inspired the team to run the alternative education program. Sanjay met him a year ago and he has since visited the school on several occasions.

Woodstock is an International school in Mussoorie that is very reputed internationally. The head of the school visited Ghati School. Mr. Nagarwala from Woodstock also visits (head of programs) He invited Ghati school to perform at the school during their annual fest.

Max from the USA visited the school with his daughter in March 2010. His support has inspired the school to continue its work and he also raises a great deal of funds for the school.

Changelooms learning journey –Sanjay and Mukesh were a part of the support program from 2010 to 2012. It provides youth led organizations with learning, financial and organization development inputs so that they can realize their vision for change. As a part of the same, a five day teacher training and appreciative enquiry process was conducted with a group of 10 teachers in Ghati by Pravah a youth development organization in New Delhi. During the course of the year long program various workshops were attended by the teachers, some collectively others individually. These were all aimed at teacher skill development at various levels. The final workshop on completion of the program was attended by Mukesh and Sanjay in Delhi during November 2012.

Atmosphere

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.

The story

sanjayIt was July 2002 when Sanjay (with over 10 years of experience as a primary school teacher in SIDH) decided to have his own school and choose Ghati for that purpose as villagers were demanding school there. Community also responded with over whelming support and provided everything needed for running the school i.e. rooms, mats, teaching material expenses, food and room for Sanjay and Vikram (another local youth who joined as a teacher). 35 kids enrolled within a week. Right from the initial days, it has been a struggle to make ends meet. Yet, though the school has always had a hand-to-mouth existence, the teachers and the community have never let resources become a real hindrance in the learning of children.

With time, the school's reputation began to grow. Children began to come from the other proximate villages of Takarna, Bichchu and Pujaldi. In 2004, a social organization, Zindagi India, donated Rs. 3.8 Lakhs for the construction of a dedicated school structure. This again brought all the neighbouring communities together - Bhoomi daan (gift of land) by village Takarna and of a few members of village Thapla; six months of Shram daan (gift of labour) by older students from the next-door government school - under the supervision of Sanjay, who himself learnt the skills of a mason, and worked on constructing the buildings. This collective effort meant that a six-room structure - with classrooms, an assembly hall, teachers' lodgings and a guest room - was built at a fraction of the real cost. This community support has continued with same enthusiasm over the years.

Today, Swajan Shiksha Samiti (renamed in 2006) is a well-established primary school with six teachers and 93 children from seven villages.

Glimpses

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