Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Scrap Collector! The Flute player!

This Monday was unlike any other day for me as well as for the residents of Tilak road, Nal stop and Nav Sahyadri society. For these people saw today a scene which they had probably never seen before.

An unusual pair was walking down the streets. There was a scrap collector with his handcart, wearing his usual rags and along with him there was a well dressed youth shouting, “Scrap collector, waste papers…” just as the ragged old man shouts!

Why is this nice young man behaving in such a strange fashion? He appears to be from a good family from the look of his clothes and from the way he talks! Then why is he collecting scrap? These were the questions arising in the minds of the watching people…

And the answer? Only one.. Deepa Tai’s email! Because that youth was me! I was highly influenced by the film ‘Tomorrow’ which we had seen in Gadchiroli just like everyone else. I had read Deepa Tai’s mail around 5th or 6th of August and decided that I’ll spend 16th August collecting scrap with the scrap collector. But for some reason the 18th dawned. Anyways…

After reading the title of the article you must be wondering at the connection between the flute player and the scrap collector. It was the afternoon of 28th July that I was returning after posting a letter near the Nav Sahyadri post office when I heard some very melodious notes of the flute. When I reached the source of the sound, I saw that the scrap collector was sitting under a tree and was playing the flute very beautifully! The flute was broken in several places. He had apparently repaired it and was playing some very melodious songs. On asking him, I found out, someone had given off that flute as scrap some 5 to 6 years back which he had picked up. He
repaired the flute and started playing it… Over time, he quite liked his new pastime and developed it as his passion through diligent practice and perseverance without going for any music classes. Today he can play around 20 songs on the flute, new and old alike!

I met him on the 13th and asked him if I could accompany him on his rounds on the 18th. Accordingly on the 18th of August, we set off on our rounds at around 1 in the afternoon and walked for 8 to 10 km till 5.30 in the evening. After walking so much, our profit was 130

The scrap collector earns Rs. 170 to 220 on an average per day, after walking for almost 10 to 20 km. in such a meager profit, I wondered how he managed to raise his kids, pay the rent for his home and spare money for all his other expenses. Hesitating a little, I asked him this question. He told me he had a small farm in a village near Ahmednagar. However, he could not depend on this farm as his sole means of income and so he shifted to Pune. In the evening, I brought him home and gave him some snacks. And then he played some 7 – 8 songs on the flute foe all of us at home, my mother, my father and my grandmother. I have even done some video shooting on my mobile!

I still had some questions in my mind but didn’t have the courage to ask him… I did learn a few things though!
  1. I had completely lost my shame (not that I had much in the first place!).
  2. I experienced his life of endless efforts.
  3. And I learnt to find the silver lining for every cloud!
--- Siddharth Prabhune

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ramesh Panse's work

Ramesh Panse kaka is working on बाल शिक्षण (early childhood and elementary education) since last 23 years. He underlined the importance of improving baal-shikshan. It is one of the most important education and one of the most ignored in our country. Early childhood is the effective age during which mental capabilities such as grasping, understanding, memory of a kid are developing.

Rameshkaka made us think from the simplest things (right from seating arrangement for kids) to the complex things (the curriculam nature and its effects) about this education. To know more about Ramesh Panse please click here.

Nature of the problem

People as well as our education system thinks that baal-shikshan is obvious and it is not needed to pay much attention. Sagar pointed out the principle that Nayna told - try to identify a problem which the socienty/communitiy feels that it is a problem. But for this education, there hardly seems an demand or urge of people because they do not feel that it is a problem. Panse kaka's reply to this : Some problems of the society are not even known to people that they exist. Panse kaka mentioned that for such problems, one is needed to work at multiple levels - spreading awareness, scientific research and studies, hitting at the right points in the administrative network (such as approaching the education ministry for changes to implemented throughout), giving "proof-of-concept" for the theories/principles. Some of these steps might not show results immediately, but they are needed.

Principles of Gram-Mangal (as I understood)

We didn't have a discussion on education in higher classes, nor have I read any book of Panse kaka yet, so, for time being, I am writing considering only baal-shikshan.

1. Importance to children/students rather than importance to teachers : As an example, why is it needed for a teacher to have a table and chair (or a dias) in the class? Why can't he just sit with students? Also, why is that benches are needed till 4th standard? Can't it happen that children are sitting on covered floor which is more suitable for their sporty/unstable nature? etc.

2. No homeworks till 4th standard : Panse kaka and the teachers in school mentioned that all studies till 4th standard can be done in class only.

3. Project based learning : Rather than teaching all subjects independent of each other, can they be somehow combined? For example, consider a learning scheme based on web-charts. Consider water as a project/subject - there will be a chapter related to water in science, there can be a poem on water/rains in languages, there can be environmental awareness regarding water, there can be essay writing on usages or water, and a lot of it. For the exact benefits of this scheme, I guess one has to read the books on this subject.

4. School as something enjoyable : Students should love to come to school and they should feel homely there. As a simple example, the principal of the school (Kadekar sir) mentioned that, the sir and madam are not called "sir" and "madam" by the students. Instead they are called "kaka" and "mavshi" which makes children feel more closer and secure.

5. Group based learning : Rather than teaching the whole class, where students of different capabilities are addressed together, group based learning is emphasized. What that means is, one student might have more interest in languages and less interest in science. So, for a languages class, there will be some students who will lead the others - form groups of students of same level for each subject and teach/address the students in groups rather than as a whole class. Group based learning assures attention to every student and it caters to student's learning needs.

Different fronts that need to be worked on

As already mentioned, Panse kaka is working at various levels to tackle the problem.

1. Research is needed and is motivated. He himself has done lot of research in this and written a number of books based on his research.

2. Spreading awareness : He's running a monthly educational magazine

3. Gathering people who have similar thoughts and exchange thoughts: Baal shikshan parishad is an organization to which Panse kaka has contributed a lot (I am not sure if he founded it, sorry for my ignorance). The conference (adhiveshan) of the Parishad is conducted once a year which is happening in November this time. I will post the details in a separate mail.

4. Running schools implementing the principles/ideas at Vai and Aina (may be at some more places as well).

5. Creating a movement which will pressurize the government to take concrete actions

In my mail, I have just tried to give an overview of Panse kaka's work and thoughts about बाल शिक्षण.This by no means is complete. Interested junta can read his books for more understanding.