Saturday, April 1, 2017

Newsletter: April 2016 to March 2017

          Hello friends, old and new! As you know, NIRMAN has the Southpoint School, as well as research and arts projects outside the school. Here is a brief chronological account.

            But first, a few words about what is happening around us. We are an organisation set up to enrich the lives of children and youth, to work for the arts, environment and global exchange, and to analyse and address Indias modernisation creatively.

            Modernisation? In this last year there was a spurt ahead in consumerism and the promotion of consumer goods and services. There was state and private development of flats and malls, highways and communication. But there was little change in the absence of quality education, of the arts and of environmental concerns for children and youth. The independence of behaviour seen in choosing goods and services and displaying the use of them was not matched by increased skills in research, analysis, creativity or productivity.

            Our work at NIRMAN is therefore particularly necessary, valid and useful. And more challenging by the day. We believe that history is made by people and that to not act is also to act.

April 2016      We went through a rigorous selection process to be given the status of Changemaker School by Ashoka, an international organisation to support change-making in the world. Our self-selected team of change-making representatives included students, parents, teachers, staff members, friends and ex-students. We met to plan what we could do individually, in groups and as a team. It would be wonderful, indeed, to bring change to Indias educational system.

May                In May we had a series of debates in school, Career Counselling for the higher classes, and a party called TYTW, or The Year That Was. The school closed for the summer on 15th May.

            We launched into the shooting of a feature film called ShankarsFairies. It is on our favourite themes: the importance of stories and the imagination; the education always present from different sources; the clash (and also companionship) between childrens and adult worlds. It was planned, auditioned, set up and then shot in Lucknow from the end of May to the end of October 16. A terrific experience! It was made in the memory of our oldest Board member, Suniti Kumar, who passed away on 16th January of this year.

June                June saw Teachers Training for some fifty hours at the Centre for Postcolonial Education. Our topics included: the child in India; the culture of schooling; teachers; curriculum; hidden curriculum; the family; integration; our vision, our techniques and our specific aims. The goal is to incorporate intellectual work, practical work and the arts, all the time addressing actual teaching problems and modelling classrooms.

July                 School reopened at our two campuses, Nagwa, in the city, and Betawar-on-the-Ganga. There were Freshers Parties, as every class visited the class they had just left, and in turn was itself visited by the next higher class, to hear about how their seniors experiences had been. We had the first of our four Parents Workshops of the year. What we cover in these Workshops is interactive advice to parents about how to treat the child at home, what discipline should mean, how much internet and TV should be permitted, and how best to deal with homework. Typically, teachers give examples of everything, often by acting out scenes of daily life.

August            On Independence Day we have flag hoisting and the national song and anthem, and then an Open House. Parents and visitors may walk around the whole school and see everything we work at and do.

September      Teachers Day on 5th September is organised totally by children. We also had a day of cooking, called Food Without Fire, and a Day of Islam when children learnt about Islam from practising visitors. Similarly, scattered through the year are Days of Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Secularism.

October          Dasehra and Diwali are two big festivals in this month, which children are educated about and celebrate in planned ways. In October we were visited by students of Jesus & Mary College, Delhi, who were interested in learning from an innovative school.

November      We had another set of visitors from Delhi, this time from Gargi College. Our Research Centre kept busy organising lectures, workshops and class visits for the college students. Our Arts Studios had some other wonderful visitors in the form of Celia Dufornet, who performed a solo piece on Snow White. She and Davis Saul, under the guidance of Irfana Majumdar and Gaurav Saini, NIRMAN artistes, did classes in theatre and mime with students.

December       Two big eventsone, our annual Fair on the subject “Maharaja Vibhuti Narain Singh, Dr SomMajumdar, and Banaras.” We scripted and designed an entire performance to show who was the late Maharaja and how he had gifted the present site of the school; who was Som Majumdar and how he found himself embroiled in education in Banaras; and what was special about the city of Banarasyes, we showed scenes of akharas, galis and Banarasi music.

            The second was our Art Camp at the end of the year. We lived in Betawar for three days, cooked, cleaned, walked, and learnt how to weave, garden, make murals, do mime, write and conduct and organise.

January 2017             On Republic Day we hold our Sports Day, a day spent outside under tents and the sun on the banks of the Ganga, full of races and sports activities. Its a perfect combination of the right weather, the right mood, and the right activity.

February        We had the last of our three-piece Fair (Open House, Performance and Fete) and our theme was Traditional, Healthy Foods. Children set up stalls featuring their own dishes or made with the help of parents, and judges gave prizes to the best, based on value, both nutritional and cost. Items ranged from bati-chokha to creative fruit juices. There was time reserved for music by Eric and story-telling by Gaurav.

March             March was a month of evaluations, paced out and thorough, and of farewells and parties. Meanwhile, Eric taught little children American songs and rhymes, and did a class for children 2-8 years and their parents every Saturday in our Cafe which was much enjoyed by all.

                        Our Southpoint Cafe deserves a special mention. It is an international cafe specialising in tea and cakes, though its sandwiches, pasta and thalis are equally popular. Its staff is trained through NIRMAN programmes and their children are thus enabled to study. We plan a forthcoming year of Saturday activities for childrenclassical music, puppetry, theatre, storytelling, books and movies.

                        What also happened this year was some nice development of the nine or so acres in the villages of Betawar and Chitauni. The already existing school was spruced up to be a model school, bright and beautiful. Winter flowers were planted generously all around. Tree planting was doggedly worked on and gheras made of bamboo and thorny bushes put around each plant. We had vegetables almost throughout the year: onions, garlic, eggplant, squash, okra, tomatoes.We completed one little cottage and our solar panel and pump is doing well, thanks to Surya devata, as our villager neighbour puts it.

                         Our biggest plan this coming year is to build a lovely campus in the village for Ecological Literacy, or how to live in perfect transaction with the surroundings, learning from and teaching villagers, doing research, working on the arts, and building everything with our hands. If this sounds good to youwrite to us and join us

                          Lots of pictures on our Facebook page!