As an outcome of SSOA author, Geetha Waters’ efforts as an education consultant in India, our organisation gives moral support to The H2 Apparels Community School in Palamaner in rural Andhra Pradesh. The school for the children of local women factory workers has been running for a year, and the challenge that the Principal Mr. Nagabhushanam faced was not just starting from scratch but also the problem of how education is perceived by the community.
In the minds of many, ‘good education’ equals high marks. How does one begin to challenge this outmoded perception with a more user friendly approach where learning together is seen to be the key to ensuring life-long learning? Bhushanam began with exploring the concept of ‘Comprehensive Curriculum Evaluation’ which is recommended by the state education system of Andhra Pradesh. This proved to be a surprisingly effective lead into explaining the role of holistic practices that the H2 Apparels’ School espoused. By evaluating what children are capable of, teachers are able to determine where they can focus to improve learning. The teachers were able to see the benefit of learning about the children’s needs as actively informing them in their practice and this gave them space to use more creative approaches beyond text book measures.
Starting the school with this orientation helped teachers keep up an ongoing dialogue with the parents as well as each other, about the learning which was progressing in the school. In spite of the financial difficulties India has faced during Prime Minister Modi’s currency modification last year, the staff and students of the school were optimistic in their outlook for the future. There was an ambience of people working together towards the upliftment of the community in the face of great difficulty, which they had the resilience to face. Starting a school requires finances for sure, but where the success of such ventures are determined arises from the great commitment and trust between members of the community working together to provide the best they can for their children. As the children ran about in the playground while we held a staff meeting, it was evident that they enjoyed being at school. This must be such a relief for the women who work in the clothing factory. Although most of them grew up only dreaming of an education, they can now ensure that their children will benefit from literacy and numeracy while enjoying the benefits of collaboration in learning together. Building a healthy sense of community is one of the cornerstones of holistic education for very good reasons. The real challenges in living and learning together are used as a backdrop to encourage children to reflect and discuss daily with their teachers and their parents.
Article by Geetha Waters, author of ‘Road to Rishi Konda’.