Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Challenges of Home Schooling

A friend after reading my previous post about the Sonejis, where I had described how Subhadra and I had, unlike the Sonejis, decided to move to a city to educate our son Ishaan in a school, commented that this was a very unradical admission on my part!! This has prompted me to do a detailed post on home schooling and why we couldn't do it ourselves.
Home schooling is undoubtedly the best way to educate children to grow up to challenge the present destructive system. However, it requires a tremendous commitment and discipline from the parents if this is to be done properly. Either one or both the parents have to give time to schooling the child. In our case this was not possible. Primarily because both of us were activists who did not have any fixed working hours and also frequently went to jail. Once Ishaan was born Subhadra had to give up on activism for some time to tend to him and I had to shoulder the responsibilities of our organisation and also earn money. Moreover, Subhadra who was a high school pass out only decided to use the opportunity of tending to Ishaan to begin her graduate studies through distance education which was a huge challenge for her. Just a few months after Ishaan was born there was a massive crackdown on one of the organisations with which we were associated which hiked up the legal expenses tremendously necessitating me to do greater consultancy work to earn money. So unlike the Sonejis who had stabilised their agricultural lifestyle on their farm and could both give enough time to teach their children, we were in a very topsy turvy situation ourselves and so we decided to move to the city and opt for traditional schooling for Ishaan. Of course this schooling is of a very low standard and does not impart a very good education. So both of us have given our inputs in Ishaan's education over and above that he has received in his school but we could not have done only home schooling.
There was another aspect that Subhadra pointed out. She said that when it came to earning money through consultancies I had to fall back on my school and college education and the brand value of being an IIT graduate. Even the work that we do is recognised because of the publicity that I have succeeded in giving to it and this would not have been possible without the skills that I gained through my formal school and college education. This is an important point because effective activism cannot be carried out without adequate funds. The Sonejis were concerned with living off their land at subsistence levels and were not into activism that requires mass mobilisation, legal action, publicity and the like. At that point of time we did not have any such agrarian plans and neither did we envision that our son would take to a rural lifestyle like we had done. Thus, we shifted to the city and opted for school education for Ishaan, supplemented by our own inputs.
Our colleagues in the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, Amit Bhatnagar and Jayashree Bhalerao, decided to start a residential school for Adivasi children in Sakar village in Barwani district in 1996. They brought up their two children, Revli and Sarang, along with the Adivasi students of that school which was an innovative one in many ways. So in a way they were home schooled!! Their school was only upto class eight. After that the students joined traditional schools with a few continuing in the Adhaarshila school as teachers while studying for their secondary and higher secondary level examinations. After class eight both Revli and Sarang opted to go to traditional schools as they said that they wanted to see what that education was like. That was the end of their home schooling.
Our son Ishaan has seen our work and life at close quarters and he knows that we are anti-establishment people. On most days the discussions in our home are anti-establishment with the American neo-imperialists coming in for the severest of critiques regularly. Yet he has decided to become a computer scientist and one from an IIT at that. Thus, he now has no time for a broader education and is solely focused on getting a good rank in the IIT entrance examination one and a half years hence!! The value that the IITs had had in our time when one got the best technical education at a dirt cheap price has become considerably eroded because even better education is available free online while the IIT education has become prohibitively expensive. However, this argument doesn't seem to hold water with Ishaan and he insists that he doesn't want to follow an anti-establishment path like we have done. So instead of reading Hemingway and Marx like I did in addition to science and maths when I was in high school, he spends his time solving math, physics and chemistry problems only!! This is what made me comment in the earlier post that possibly home schooling would have been better for him. However, Revli and Sarang, despite being home schooled in a bucolic environment have been influenced by the strong consumerist socio-economic trend of the world in general to opt for a life in the mainstream so the challenge of preparing our children for an anti-establishment outlook, given the strong consumerist propaganda that is being beamed at them is a big one.
The Amish community in the USA is an agrarian community which has schooling only upto class eight as it feels that is all that is necessary to lead an agricultural lifestyle. They have an astonishing retention of 95 per cent and only a very few opt out of the community to join the mainstream. The Amishes of course are a religious sect and have a strong belief sytem backed by a self sufficient economic base. So unless we have a strong belief system and a self sufficient economic base to back it up it is difficult to retain children in an anti-establishment mode once they grow up. The Sonejis, have such a system albeit only for their own household. Whereas, Amit and Jayashree don't have one as they are dependent on donations and funding and so are we. In my case, I am even more of an anomaly as I earn most of my money by doing consultancies which are dubious from the point of view of anti-establishment doctrine!! So it is not surprising that our children have given short shrift to our anti-establishment life styles and chosen to pursue careers in the establishment!!
This brings me to the content of the education that is being provided in the schools we run for the Adivasi children. This is mainstream but with a smattering of anti-establishment critique in it. For instance the children grow their own vegetables on the farm in the schools as shown below. 

The curriculum has a strong link to the local society and economy. But at the end of the day we have not been able to produce many anti-establishment proteges from these schools. Primarily because we have not been able to set up a system that can challenge the mainstream in all these years of activism. We had started off with such a dream but it did not materialise because we didn't have the strength to establish an alternative socio-economic system in the face of the powerful consumerist capitalist onslaught, which through direct to home television and mobile content propagation has reached every nook and cranny of this world.


Sadanand Patwardhan said...

A very candid assessment, Rahul. It also illuminates why it is difficult to maintain an anti-establishment soul while living in the midst of the establishment body. Incidentally, did in two cases the parents moved in one direction and the children currently at least in the opposite because the latter closely witnessed the struggles and difficulties the former faced?

Rahul Banerjee said...

No Sadanand in both the cases it is I feel a result of a realistic assessment by the children that anti-establishment work doesn't pay!! they just want to enjoy the fruits of being part of the looting class!!!

Sadanand Patwardhan said...

by "...doesn't pay", do you mean fruitless, leading nowhere?

Rahul Banerjee said...

no i mean in the sense that there is no money in it!! my son is particularly sharp and he tells me that i do all kinds of consultancies to earn money and fund my activism with that. it basically reflects the serious crisis of society that people who are anti-establishment face a major livelihood crisis.there is no sustainable economic support system for such people.