7/10/2013, SNC, Guptkashi
I wrote this post a couple of days after coming to SNC but I always thought there is so much I want to say about them that it is far from complete. That is the reason why it has stayed on my phone for the last two weeks!
22/09/2013, SNC, Guptkashi
A few days ago, we were sitting with Archana and her team after dinner in a circle of sharing. As I shared earlier, the idea was to understand their work and explore how we can contribute; but it ended up a session where we were completely mesmerized by their journey and the wisdom.
In the heart of Himalayas, they were a group of 10 girls on a journey of self exploration, running a school on alternative education principles and being a sister as well as a mother to each other and to the 14 children who live with them.
Archana Bahuguna tells me that she owes it to her father that he always gave her the freedom to do what she wanted to do. After her schooling, she found herself out of place in a college. She was troubled by the politics, by the fact that most students didn’t come to really study. So, after some time she left and came back home saying she didn’t want to study anymore. Her uncle, Devendra Bahuguna then said “What will you do if you will not study? Will you pick up cowdung? Will you cook food?”.
Archana’s response: “Yes. Anything but go back to college”. To teach her a lesson, Devendra Ji sent her to Laxmi ashram in Almora for a course on Gandhian values and principles. He didn’t think she would last and for the first couple of days, he stayed in the ashram guesthouse, to take her back if she cried. But, she loved it there. There would be times when she was homesick and would cry in private, but never in front of teachers or family.
After the course, she returned to Garhwal and started working in villages with youth and women. Everyone complained about corruption and lack of support, but she said that if we need to address this we have to work with children and youth from beginning.
After a year, Laxmi Ashram called her to run the course she had attended few years back. She went there and ran the course for 6 years.
Henceforth, she went on a journey to explore alternative education schools in India and 14 of her former students joined her in the journey.
For one year, they travelled across India and then the next year they came back to Garhwal and spent the year in inner exploration. managing a household, reading a lot of books and holding discussions within and with the group, bringing out their questions and exploring answers. There was a month when everyone went to their homes. During that visit, their family as well as other villagers could see the positive change in them and some sent their little children with them. They said “we don’t know what you are doing but we can feel that its good and we want our children to grow with you”.
And that’s how Space for Nurturing Creativity started with 5 children. This was 4 years ago. slowly more children came and right now they have 14 children from 6 to 13 years of age. Archana says creativity is not about outer creativity but about how we can nurture our lives, how we create our lives.
The basic principle the school runs on is of freedom. Freedom of thought, expression and action. This is what I felt when I first interacted with children. they are not following any fixed curriculum that a 6 year old will learn from std 1 books and a 10 year old from std 5. Every child learns at his/ her pace and of his/ her interest. There is of course some structure. But the idea is to learn from nature, as one’s nature allows. And they are ideally located for it. one house in the middle of a mountain.
The teachers (who are also sisters and mothers) and the children all live in harmony in the house learning from life and nature.
The day starts with meditation when everyone sits in silence. Then is the cleaning and cooking time. At 9:30am, everyone has lunch. From 10 to 3pm is studying time. The children are in loose age groups… the youngest (6-7 years of age) are together; after that it’s according to the children’s interest.
I have never seen such keen interest in reading and learning in any of the traditional school kids.
Imagine a 6 year old quoting a story from Bible or an 8 year old telling atomic numbers! Then is the tiffin time.
In the evening, the kids and elders are free to do their writing, painting, playing at the river bed or the waterfall or the fields :). And the everyone comes together for dinner preparation and eating :).
It’s a beautiful harmony of co-living and co-existence. Learning with and from nature and being one with it.