We understand in order to create a peaceful and collaborative society, without competition much less conflict, we must learn to see each other as an inter-connected part of the whole collective of humanity.
We strive to provide a holistically nurturing environment for children, youth and young adults to develop not only curiosity driven exploration towards both independent and co-learning, as well as creativity, but also to foster their own mental well being and abilities to live harmoniously and self-sustain-ably in communal settings of large collective families, ultimately empowering them towards cultivating positive relationships that expand beyond their immediate household, not only with one’s neighbors and greater society, but also with their surrounding natural environment.
Scope: the issues that concern us the most…
First and foremost, considering the livelihood of our area mostly thrives on farming and trekking-tourism, as well as the fact that each monsoon season is prime time for potential natural disasters (as we have seen during the 2013 Kedarnath Flood), having a greater concern for the environment and its sustainability should be a major focus in our community. However much our center has already since its inception maintained its own self-sustainability systems such as: organic farming, trash, compost, recycling management, and more recently solar energy; generally outside the boundaries of our campus, awareness of the importance of such systems are still lacking. Only a few months ago the Government has finally provided the schools in the Kedarnath Valley area with bins for trash and compost waste.
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…
And we recognize the older generations who grew up tossing naturally biodegradable leaf plates and clay cups on the ground, are the ones who may remain carelessly tossing the plastic in which food and drinks are packaged today. At the same time we recognize we have a chance to make a real difference in the minds of the younger generations who are due to inherit this “dev bhumi”. Thus we see the need for a comprehensive environmental / self-sustainability curriculum, that not only promotes: solar energy vs. damns and powerhouses that reroute our rivers and displace those who live on their banks; organic farming over the use of genetically modified seeds or pesticides which are in fact injurious to our own health; a “leave no trace” low carbon footprint concern for the lush nature that surrounds us, by refusing to use plastic bags still offered in the market, reducing the amount of trash we produce, but also inspires creatively re-using various recyclable items, that until now get tossed in the ditches or streams and invariably end up washed away into the Mandakini River by landslides every monsoon, ultimately poisoning our farms and water supplies.
Secondly, it is common practice throughout India for students in primary schools through the university level to seek out extra assistance in their learning via enrolling in tuition centers. In order to keep up with the fast pace of pushing through a curriculum, of which their teachers’ main goal being to merely to complete, students spend their time after school and on weekends stressfully cramming for exams, in attempts to memorize and regurgitate information (often poorly presented to them in the classroom in the first place), most of them without fully comprehending the material. Disregarding that the need for these centers disenfranchises those unable to pay the extra fees, the fact that such tuition centers are even necessary to insure students’ passing marks, shows the inadequacy of the teaching methodologies in the standard school system.
In the last few years after the Kedarnath Flood, Space for Nurturing Creativity has been conducting surveys to assess the situation for students in our local schools. In such we have found that despite the various training opportunities and resources at their disposal (and in some cases the lack there of), the government schools have failed to provide a truly holistic learning environment for the overall development of each child, which ideally should include emotional wellbeing, self confidence, collaborative teambuilding, as well as especially curiosity and enthusiasm about the subjects to which they are exposed. In standard schools the pace of the curriculum is set, with its completion taking priority over students’ fully grasping, comprehending and more importantly actually making any real connection with the material, so that time is not allotted for students’ questions much less participation in dialog. In affect this actually stifles students’ all of the above mentioned aspects to their overall development. So much so that, they move on from school into the modern world with an insufficient maturity that would usually come with having the self-confidence needed to articulately express their ideas and emotions in both creative and healthy ways.
Furthermore we have found the standard Uttarakhand Board curriculum, however much improvements have been made since Uttarakhand was separated from its original larger Uttar Pradesh, still lacks in its ability to present content that is truly relatable to children in the rural mountains. And thus often times the children of our Kedarnath Valley area grow up with distorted notions of life’s generalities. Instead these curriculum books often leave the impression on the child that life would be better in the planes, in a more metropolitan city, and thus after completing their education, many strive to move there, however much they may lack the maturity, qualifications, proper skills or experience necessary to sustain such an urban lifestyle, of which they have no realistic notion.
This is compounded by the fact that there is most likely a television in the majority of homes, which many of these children spend their after school time watching. Often with merely a basic pack of mass media channels geared towards common people, despite a few locally based programs, their exposure is limited to biased news aimed at instilling fear in the public, advertisements trying to shape them into a cultural idea in which they naturally do not fit, or pop music videos, Bollywood movies and dramatic family serials, often showing a distorted view of how life should be, or could be if we moved from the rural mountains to the cities. Then rural children, having not been given the critical thinking skills to be able to deconstruct the media they are expected to consume, are found imitating cultural phenomenon they don’t fully understand. From this parents and grandparents often complain that their deeply rooted traditional culture is getting lost, blaming their children’s misbehaviour on foreign, Western or modern influence. As global exposure providing internet access is gaining momentum, even in our rural mountain communities, this issue will only continue to be compounded, unless strategies are taken to implement a comprehensive Media Literacy and Production curriculum that begins in the primary schools.
Another issue we have found is for various reasons and circumstances, far too often many parents remain disengaged in their child’s education, placing all such responsibility upon the teachers and schools. Be it their own lack of education, economic situation, other societal responsibilities, these parents are either too busy, disinterested or incapable to be deeply involved in their children’s education on a daily basis once they have stepped out of the classroom and returned to their home environment.
Moreover increasing numbers of parents, (having nearly lost faith in the government primary schools’ ability to provide quality education for their children), as soon as they gain the means to provide the required school fees, quickly pull their children out of the Government Schools and enroll them in local Private Schools. Whether or not the quality of education is actually better is often not as important as the superficial status symbol of having children in private school itself. Over the years as the numbers of students enrolled in Government Primary Schools decrease so does the morale of the teachers, whose fixed salaries are independent of their enthusiasm or competence. On the other hand private schools, in which teachers actually receive much less salary than those of government schools, the fact that school fees are required provides the motivation for parents to make the teachers more accountable for their children’s development.
All these factors have contributed to a great imbalance in the qualities of education throughout Private and Government schools. However this is not to say that there are no teachers within the standard Government School system interested in finding solutions for these issues. Actually we have met several teachers with these concerns in mind, with whom we have already begun to collaborate. We hope to provide local School teachers, students, their parents and other concerned citizens, the resources, the training and inspirational support they need to begin to address these aforementioned issues.