The educational initiatives of SRISTI have three major objectives. They aim at inculcating curiosity, respect and commitments among children towards nature and environment; involving students from multiple disciplines undertake research and documentation of grassroots innovations and traditional practices with specific reference to women and building a sustainable network of partners who are interested in developing innovative pedagogies and learning processes for children.
Following are the major activities that have been undertaken in the past by SRISTI to further the objectives of educational initiatives.
INITIATIVES FOR EDUCATIONAL REHABILITATION
While undertaking relief activities, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Kutchh district in Gujarat, SRISTI observed that education is often accorded a displaced priority. This even became more pathetic due to the poor socio-economic condition of the people in many of the talukas of the district where majority of the people used to migrate.
Besides the routine problem of low attendance and high drop out rates among the school going children, the earthquake had created some sort of aberration in the academic environment of the region. Realizing the importance of the issue in the region, the seventh Shodh Yatra that was organized in the Rapar taluka of the Kutchh district, was named as ‘Sikshan Sodh Evam Shram Arpan Yatra’. Effort was made to impress on the parents to send their children to school.
Understanding the importance of long term institutional engagement, SRISTI organised several workshops and consultative meetings involving many noted local teachers, faculty members of Ravi J Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation, IIM, Ahmedabad, state government officials from GCERT, Gandhinagar and a few local NGOs. What came out from the above efforts was the beginning of ‘SRISTI Bal Gram Shala’ in form of a concrete ‘school project’.
The project has been able to establish 19 alternative schools in the areas that lacked any kind of schooling infrastructure in the Rapar taluka. SRISTI helped to set up a separate trust called ‘Centre for Research and Social Development’ (CRSD), which is currently looking into the educational initiatives. For more on the ‘school project’ initiated by SRISTI and currently run by CRSD, click here.
One of the major guiding principles of SRISTI behind the educational innovations has been to inculcate a sense of appreciation, care and concern towards the environment and nature. This has been done by organizing bio-diversity contests among the children. The concept of biodiversity competition implies that children in a village school are informed about the competition a few weeks in advance.
Each child is told to bring on the appointed date, a list of as many plants as they can find out, identify their uses after talking to their grandparents, neighbours or whoever, and collect samples in the case of plants which are not endangered. They are given points on the basis of each criteria and are also quizzed to find out whether they remember some of the things that they have written.
The top rankers are given prizes and social applause. Such competitions invariably lead to a process of knowledge churning in the village.
In the past bio-diversity competition has been organised by SRISTI in the Rapar taluka of Kutchh district and in Banaskantha district.
In Kutchh, bio-diversity competition was organised in nine schools with 336 children. Out of them at least 33 children could remember the names and usages of more than hundred plants. The participant, who was awarded first prize in the bio-diversity competition, could remember the names of 728 plants, out of which he wrote the names of 572 plants and could remember the use of 156 plants. In another bio-diversity contest held in the Banaskantha district, a total of 364 students participated from nine schools. The participant, winning the competition was able to name 612 plant names, out of which, he wrote the names of 265 plants, could remember the use of 258 plants and got the samples of 89 plant varieties.
DISSERTATION ON LOCAL KNOWLEDGE AND INNOVATIONS
In a meeting held with the Principals of the Gram Vidyapeethas in Gujarat, it has been decided upon the fact that three students from each Vidyapeetha from three different subjects (Agronomy, Extension and Veterinary) would conduct dissertation on the themes like organic farming, understanding traditional practices for increasing milk productivity among cattle and exploring the traditional knowledge among rural women.
In the past, SRISTI has been involved in assisting undergraduate women students of a rural college study the animal husbandry practices of local women. The aim of the exercise was to enable the students to learn from the practices of people through a critical process of inquiry. Over the last four years, more than 100 dissertations have been produced.
HOW CAN YOU BE INVOLVED?
We are planning to assist CRSD to streamline and expand its educational initiatives. There are proposals of starting residential schools for the children of migrating labourers, initiating more and more innovative teaching and learning material for making education more enjoyable for children etc.