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.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Anti Duffer Unlimited

When I first came to Alirajpur in 1985 to work among the Bhil Adivasis, I started off by teaching young children in a government primary school in the morning and conducting an adult education class in the evening. Both activities did not last long as I got involved in mass organisational work to build up a trade union of the Bhil farmers and labourers. However, ever since then, I have been involved with education of Adivasi children off and on. The striking thing that I first noted all those years ago was the abysmal standard of teaching in government schools in the Adivasi areas and their huge difference with the standard of the books that were prescribed. The main reason was that there were not enough teachers who were capable of teaching the prescribed books. In most cases there are single teacher schools with the teachers themselves being products of these schools and so unable to understand the books they were supposed to teach.
When we did get down to running some schools of our own we came up against this major constraint of lack of capable teachers. Whether it is the residential Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala in Kakrana or the single teacher schools in Vakner, Bada Amba and Chilakda, the basic education that the teachers had received when they were in school was so poor that despite being trained periodically they were not able to teach properly. Often I have gone and taught in these schools for a day or two to find that the children in a particular class were at a level of a few classes further down. There is no solution to this problem because it is next to impossible to get teachers in Adivasi areas capable of teaching the prescribed texts.
One of the programmes of the newly set up centre of the Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti at Pandutalav village is to improve girls' education standards. What we have planned is that we will provide coaching classes to the girls studying in nearby schools at the secondary level from classes eight to twelve on weekends. For the past few weeks considerable publicity has been done in the nearby villages that Subhadra and I for starters, till others from Indore and elsewhere too decide to chip in, will provide coaching to girls in all subjects on saturdays and sundays and so they should come for this. The first class that was held under this programme had only four attendees as shown below!!
Why, despite the publicity done for the programme and the credibility Subhadra and I have in the area, did so few girls turn up? Thereby hangs a tale. We asked the girls which subjects they found most difficult and they said in one voice English and Maths. So we started with English only to find that even the girl in the twelfth class did not know a word of English. We started off with some basic sentences and as we worked through them we talked to the girls about how they were taught in class. It appears that after learning the alphabet in English they had never read or written anything in class. The teachers come and tell them to read as they themselves are unable to read the texts and just sit like dodos. The students then go home and do other things and don't touch their books at all. That is why most of the girls had not turned up because they didn't have any conception that there could be a teacher who would teach!! What is the point in going to a coaching class and sitting there all day without being taught after having done that through the week in school. This was a shocking revelation to us that students in adivasi areas can't believe that there can be teachers who can teach and make studying both a fun and a learning experience. The same was the situation with maths. Apart from tables up to ten or so and some rudimentary addition and subtraction the girls didn't know much. We had to spend a laborious few hours trying to make them understand how to multiply and divide. For the first time they had filled up their exercise books with so much writing and were enthused enough to say that they would go back home and practice what they had written and read.
One is left wondering about the farce that is being enacted in the name of education in Adivasi areas. The prescribed texts are of a high standard and unless they are taught well from the lower classes, the backlog of knowledge that builds up is near impossible to address in the higher classes. Since there is a no detention policy upto class ten when the first public examination is held, students are promoted through to class ten without being taught much. They come to accept that teachers do not teach and they need not learn. In the end what we have is a huge lot of young people who have been turned into duffers by an inappropriate education system. They are all very intelligent children who do a lot of thoughtful work on their fields and in their homes but when it comes to learning at school its just a waste of time and effort. So while the children of the rich go to schools where teachers do teach and they go on to become important cogs of the capitalist system, poor adivasi children are deliberately turned into duffers as they are NOT TAUGHT, due to lack of teachers, the same prescribed texts as the rich children.
In recent years there have been many projects to groom a few underprivileged children who have somehow learnt something in poor schools and help them to enter elite institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology, with one of them being very famous by the name of Super Thirty. They do a laudable job by helping these few children put a foot into the edge of the closed door of opportunities in the capitalist world. But eventually these few children become part of the oppressive building and the door remains firmly shut for the vast majority.
Without some rudimentary education it is not possible for the Adivasis to forge a mass movement to break down the capitalist door and create a more just world. There is no need to become super intelligent in the paradigm of education designed by the rich in order to challenge their hegemony but at least the adivasi children must not become duffers. That is why instead of the super thirty we have launched a programme to ensure that we counter the invidious conspiracy of the capitalist state of converting adivasi children into duffers and have named it - Anti Duffer Unlimited.

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