Introspection And Self-Learning

by | Apr 23, 2019

My fellowship coordinators Rahul and Anupama, kept on saying throughout the training period that this year is all about self-learning, getting more confused, falling in love with yourself and with the community. I thought I understood this, but kept on pondering over it from the day I heard these statements. I wanted to understand the in-depth meaning of the term ‘self-learning’.

Since I remember, I have always been result-oriented and want to do everything systematically; I have always known what I’m doing and have done things as per my own interest, be it education or job or anything else. If I say that I have been happy about my decisions, it isn’t an overstatement. But all of this didn’t happen on 6th March 2019, when me and Bhagya* (a colleague at Quest Alliance) started our day at 09:15 am to visit one of the government schools in Mahisari Cluster, Ujiarpur block of Samastipur district, Bihar.

I didn’t know why we were going and what we were supposed to do there. When I asked Bhagya about the purpose of going to this school, she said that it’s a new school that Quest Alliance has taken over and hence, we are going just to observe what’s happening there. I was annoyed and disturbed by this answer.

For a moment, I thought it was redundant to go there without a concrete objective; I thought that we should rather focus on our approach, have a defined objective and find a way. My mind kept on repeating this to me. It was a ceaseless thought-process, primarily due to the fact that I did not want to develop complacency within myself, but looked for diverse prospects of perceiving what we are supposed to do.

Suddenly, I remembered Anupama telling us during the training, “Sometimes, if you are not sure what to speak, a good idea is to ‘KEEP QUIET'”. I told this to myself, to my mind. I had to step back and know that it’s OK if I am not sure what will happen, to enjoy the day, have fun and acquire information as the day evolves.

It was a two-wheeler ride. What can be more ecstatic in a village than a bicycle or a motor bike ride! It became more exciting and interesting along the way as we had to take the road which ran alongside Burhi Gandak river. The water was so clean that it reflect sun rays. It looked beautiful. As the road narrowed, there were alley of trees on either side with red flowers blossoming and swaying towards the road, their branches touching each other. From far away, it looked like a canopy of eternal green arches over a straight path. Fresh air flew on my face and above my hair. The street took a curve and then started farmlands, where wheat and maize were grown in abundance. There were trees in the middle of the farm and children were playing in the shade. Huts, covered with straw, lined along the roadside.

Cows and ox were tied in front of the houses. Lumps of hay were kept to feed these animals. Goats were grazing grass. Dried cow dung cakes were piled up while the fresh ones were stuck onto the trees and on the walls of the houses. Old people were lying on cots outside, and women were carrying traditional pots to carry water from the nearest hand pumps. It was all so scenic.

Just when I was completely delighted with the surroundings, we reached Desuva Government School. It was 09:45 am now and the Chetna Satra (Morning assembly) was about to begin, as shown in the image above. Children stood in a straight line. Assembly leader, also known as Prime minister held a mic and was instructing the students. Parliament is formed in each government school, where students become ministers of different verticals, and they elect a leader who is called Prime minister. This structure is named Baal Sansad.  They began with prayers and then, one of the students read newspaper headlines. Education minister asked General Knowledge questions and children were keen to answer them. The best part was assembly leaders going around to see if everyone is wearing the uniform with tie and clean shoes. The most tidy boy and girl are given a hat like a birthday hat. They call it Sooraj ka Topee (Sunshine hat).

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After this, children started moving in line to their respective classrooms while singing

Ek do, ek do, Badhte kadam,
Ek do, ek do, Badhte kadam,
Shiksha ke hain sainik hum,
Shiksha ke hain sainik hum,
Ek do, ek do, Badhte kadam,
Ek do, ek do, Badhte kadam,
Bharat maa ke bachche hum,
Bharat maa ke bachche hum,
Ek do, ek do, Badhte kadam,
Ek do, ek do, Badhte kadam.

When I asked one of the students what it means and why are they singing it, she proudly said that they want to ensure they don’t discriminate among each other in school, and so the students have composed this poem that everyone sings together to create an echo that every student here is same.

Post attending the assembly here, we headed to Mahisari Government School, the one Bhagya had mentioned earlier. There, we met children studying in different grades. We called them for a Baal Sansad meeting in which ministers took time to open up. They were timid. So, we played games to ensure an effective interaction. When we asked them about what they find best about their school, each one had a story to tell. Next, we tried to find out the things they considered problematic. Their responses were quite shocking to me, not so much to Bhagya. They said they don’t have toilets, there was no compound wall built around the school, due to which animals enter inside and children have to shoo them away; there are not enough teachers, and classrooms don’t have electricity.

Later in the day, we asked teachers about the problems students face. They told about the lack of concentration in children, no sports equipment, and students not coming to the school regularly. One of them pointed out that girls usually drop out more from the school. I was eager to know the reason behind, and got to know that lack of toilets was a major concern due to which they drink little water and only go to pee either before sunrise or after sunset, outside the village. As a result, they are not hydrated properly and their metabolism rate drops after certain age. When we talked to the Head Master, he said that the school has improved a lot in terms of infrastructure and bringing back the dropped-out students.

We were then leaving, when children came running to us and gave us a packet of Samosa and Rasgulla. They asked us when will be come back so that they can play with us again and take part in art and craft activities that are conducted in other nearby schools.

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Students (Baal Sansad ministers) during a group activity along with Bhagya at Mahisari Government School, Samastipur, Bihar.

As the day was about to end, I asked myself what is it that I have learnt today. I listed it down and have tried to be as genuine as possible:

  1. I had and still have much higher privileges than those of children I met in the schools today.
  2. My parents had forced me to attend the school while these students are eager to learn but don’t have enough teachers and/or facilities.
  3. I was proud that I was able to do things as per my interest, but never realised that there were no inhibitions or social impediments unlike these children have, to stop me from what I wanted to do.
  4. It helps to trust the process and have an affirmative attitude towards people and the methods they have been following to obtain results.

I learnt about myself, not because I had to. But because, it is what I am.

*Name changed to protect identity

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Half Half None

The following blog has been co-written by co-fellows Daraab Saleem Abbasi and...

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3 Comments

  1. Nikhil Kanakamedala

    Nice writing style Karthik. I can totally imagine Anupama’s line in her voice 🙂

    The organisation I’m with, Centre for Social Action is the Maharashtra State convenor of the Bal Sansad program funded and formulated by UNICEF. We are gathering children in hamlets to form parliaments across the state and in some villages, Bal Sansad members have raised issues with their DM and brought change.

    Reply
    • Karthik_Yadhati

      Very happy to hear that Nikhil. Its very hard to run the Bal Sansad program effectively and if you say they have brought changes, that’s really amazing.

      Reply
  2. jainumangblog

    Nice blog Karthik, specially the way you have written your realizations. I could relate. Looking forward to read more about Bal Sansad from you. Sounds exciting.

    Reply

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