A: I don’t know, but my observations from the last couple of days have made me think about it:[singlepic id=19 w=620 h=480 float=center]
Today’s crowd at Hunar Ghar
Today was Republic Day, and what a splendid day! After all the teachers’ planning I feel like we had an excellent event. Lots of people came, the children put on some excellent performances, and afterwards all the people who had come went to visit our library and the classrooms. Ok, we bribed them in with tea and mithai, but still Gopal and Rajkumar managed to catch about 30 people and give a presentation about our teaching methods and what the children had learned, and Neha managed to do to the same with some women, except about women’s issues.
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Rajkumar talking to parents and community members about what it is to learn at Hunar Ghar
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Entirely unexpectedly one of our first teachers, Nanadlalji, took to the microphone and gave a fantastic and passionate speech about Hunar Ghar. Seeing him do this speaks volumes for the internal changes that have come about in our staff, and that are the bedrock of Hunar Ghar: they haven’t only learnt to be better teachers, they have also discovered something in themselves and in their relationship and opportunity at the school that excites them, and this motivates them in ways that pay, praise and punishment do not.
Another example: Yesterday I overheard some other teachers talking, Ajit S, Ajit B and Shantilal, as they were making invitations for the local dignitaries for today’s events. They were discussing what address to put. When Ajit S asked what to put, without a second thought Shantilal immediately said “Hunar Ghar, Bakhel”. What’s so significantly about that? A couple of years ago or even last year he might answered “Bal vidya mandir, Andat”; the first three words meaning ‘Children’s learning temple’ which is a typical name for every school in the area, and ‘Andat’ being the name of the hamlet of our school, while ‘Bakhel’ is the village. The change in describing the school and it’s location shows a change in thought. They too can now see their school as different from the other schools, and so call it differently. And by giving the name of the village instead of the hamlet it suggests that some of the petty-minded territorialise that used to be present is perhaps no longer there, or at least much weaker.
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Some of our girls and boys dressed up ready for their performances
Nandlalji told us about both these aspects in his speech. He focussed on the two words in our name ‘Hunar’ – meaning skill – and ‘Ghar’ – which means home. He described how once there weren’t skills here and it wasn’t a home, but it as come to have and become both, and that everyone in the village should know the school by it’s proper name – Hunar Ghar. He then went on to say what the village is, naming Andat, Ratnat, Kharivali, Dholimagri and Degri – all the 5 hamlets of Bakhel.
All this is interesting to me because I want our teachers to care about our school in a deeper way, and it appears they are starting to do that. Why is this interesting to the casual reader? Because in deeply rural areas such as this normally just getting a teacher to stay in a school is a challenge. We have a staff of 14 who are there every day, learning every day, and developing their own school. In this lower-class community whom are often thought by the outside in very negative ways they are creating a special relationship that so many upper and middle-class learners in India lack. For me, this signifies a change in thought about how development can be carried out, because it suggests that communities can be perfectly capable of defining their own growth without, they just need the support, belief and patience to discover it for themselves. Everything else that is going on at Hunar Ghar at the moment – tree and seed distribution, drinking water bleaching, women’s health meetings, educational and health research, learning from the environment, Scheffler solar cooking, solar electricity, compost toilets and all that before we even get to the pretty decent classroom environment – only goes to support this.[singlepic id=20 w=620 h=480 float=center]
This writing says ‘Hunar Ghar, Bakhel’