Education: Bridging worlds
Youth Education and Training project, funded by the European
Commission, benefits four Auroville schools that provide education
to children and young adults from the nearby villages.
In February 2001, a strangely synchronised moment brought Greta
Jensen, a development consultant to Auroville International UK,
across my path. We discovered we had a common friend - a
wonderfully inspirational art teacher in the same Waldorf School
where I had recently completed my teacher training. From this
meeting, an opportunity arose to coordinate an IT link between New
Creation School and Sedlescombe Primary - a school in a village in
the UK. Promoting global awareness and celebrating diversity in
education through a sharing of various classroom activities
between school children in England and India - it was a perfect
match for my own skills and interests, and just what I had been
looking for. The Development Awareness component of a much larger
partially funded European Commission (EC) project, it was to be my
first initiation into Auroville.
Auroville had been
something of a surprise - not exactly like the India I knew and
cherished, but not exactly like England, where I had been brought
up. Auroville intuitively felt like a bridge between both worlds
and cultures, located deep in the south of India, yet receptive
and open to an emerging consciousness, where new ideas can unfold
and bear fruit and the right people always seem to miraculously
appear at just the right moment.
A few months later, having returned to the UK, I again met Greta
and also Martin Littlewood of AVI-UK (the Project Managers). As we
enjoyed a morning coffee by the Thames, Martin asked me if I was
interested in supporting all the E.C. project holders by writing
reports and doing some coordination. It seemed a good opportunity
to deepen my connection to different people and ideas within
Auroville, so I agreed.
Now in its second year, the Auroville Youth Education and Training
project has gone from strength to strength. With in-depth
workshops given by Greta on various aspects of project management,
from log-frames to report writing, all the project holders have
learnt not only how to communicate more effectively, but also how
to truly appreciate and reflect on their determined efforts.
Drawing together four
different educational establishments from within Auroville, it is
essentially a human resource development project, building on the
combined experiences and knowledge of some truly amazing
individuals. Visiting Isaiambalam School, for example, and meeting
Subash and his team of teachers, is clear proof of the benefits of
value-oriented education. The 'Rishi Valley method' is only one
example of many innovative teaching methodologies employed there,
with children following an individual progress system, with an
in-built assessment process, as they work through various learning
cards for different activities. These include a variety of
creative pursuits - for example performing small plays/songs,
games, story-telling, collage-work, puppetry for language learning
- as well as the regular study of subjects like maths and
Subash commented that
a noticeable benefit of this project was that it had enabled all
those involved to work in a really focused manner in a daily
context where everybody is co-operating and growing together.
Work at the Life
Education Centre (LEC) is again different, providing a supportive
and therapeutic community environment for abused young women to
learn life and vocational skills. Recent input from professional
educators like Hannah (UK), who initiated a self-awareness
photography project, and Desarea (Sweden), who facilitated group
discussions exploring the role of women in society through the use
of evocative games, songs and exercises, helped to deepen
self-confidence and understanding amongst the young girls.
Zerina, the overall
coordinator, expressed appreciation of two aspects of the project.
Firstly she had learned to compose succinct reports with relevant
supportive data (Greta's voluminous guidance must be acknowledged
here) and secondly, and perhaps most importantly, she now felt
truly connected to the other schools involved with the project.
The work done at
Ilaignarkal Tamil Heritage School is somewhat different again. The
project funding enabled the construction of a new and much needed
school building, substantially enhancing regular school
activities. This is a school where great emphasis and pride in
Tamil culture is expressed through the development of innovative
educational materials. Overall coordinator and youth counsellor
Meenakshi emphasises that much of the work being done at
Ilaignarkal is to encourage youth to strengthen self-esteem and
manage economic/lifestyle affairs independently.
The existence of the
completely new New Creation Vocational Training Centre reflects
the need to provide learning opportunities for non-academic
children, enabling school-leavers and young adults to earn
livelihoods locally. The completed woodwork and electrical
workshops already benefit children attending New Creation School
André, who has been
responsible for holding the vision for this centre, stressed the
crucial need for supporting the progress of the people surrounding
Auroville in order that they may also participate properly in the
development of the township. He also commented that this project
is another reflection that there are many people throughout the
world interested in Auroville's growth and all that emerges here.
Without this support and commitment, Auroville would never have
been able to flourish into the rich and diverse learning
environment it is today.
Overall, the EC
project has helped to facilitate a practical understanding of
unity in diversity amongst all those involved. Working with this
project has been a true celebration of common purpose as we share
a dream and an intention to serve our children through helping
them to grow and develop with joy and self-confidence.