Synroplang for Social

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Synroplang for Social Transformation (SST), Meghalaya

For Liberwin Mukhim, life meant the drudgery of working as a shepherd from the crack of dawn till dusk every single day. For him, education was an unaffordable luxury. The prevalence of traditional systems of governance that pose no challenge to unjust social hierarchies rather deeply establishes inequitable clan based rules could be the major reason behind the plight of Liberwin and so many other children like him. The oligarchy would rather not allow children of poor families receive an education lest that comes in the way of getting their domestic chores done. However, thanks to Synroplang for Social Transformation (SST), today Liberwin is hopeful of a better future.

In the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, another state in Northeast India, NFI supports Synroplang for Social Transformation to run Alternative Schools. Called KJAs , these schools have children’s aspirations at the center of their focus. Initiated after seeing the plight of village shepherd children who are victims of rigid social institutions, class stratification and discriminating rule by village elites through traditional and regressive governance structures, KJAs today have expanded from one to four villages and cater to 100 children of four to 14 years age. KJA believes in organic growth where whole village is school campus, home and school are classrooms, kitchen and crop fields are laboratories.. There are no formal grades, text books, blackboards or benches. Their objective being ‘Education, Not Schooling’, children are highly encouraged to examine (learn), re-examine (participate) and recreate (critically define) Knowledge. Synroplang’s KJA schools have identified ‘Knowing Home’, ‘Knowing Village’, Mathematics, ‘Reading-Writing-Computer’ Skills, and ‘Life Skills’ as their five subjects. Synroplang and KJAs believe that for education to be meaningful, there has to be one unit for pre primary, lower primary and upper primary. Having done so, they would adequately prepare children to undertake examinations of State run Boards at relevant levels (grade X). Today, Synroplang’s methods of using ‘sticks and stones’ as learning tools are highly accepted by people.

NFI and Synroplang for Social Transformation (SST) have together completed around eight years of partnership. SST’s journey is indeed interspersed with various halts as well as milestones covered- the nature of the class structure, efforts at overcoming regressive class hierarchies, the difficulties of finding people motivated enough to work in rural contexts, the incipient antagonism within the organization between its people from urban and rural backgrounds and the fissures created on that account. What is heartening is that despite these odds, SST has been able to create the nucleus of an alternative structure of school that genuinely serves village people’s aspirations for gaining a good education as distinct from an education that is only superficially better. The establishment of a cadre of village teachers is of pioneering significance.

Meghalaya is an area that is governed under the sixth schedule where exposure to ‘new’ knowledge systems and modern processes are often restricted owing to the political legitimacy that is granted to traditional leadership structures. These structures often tend to be conservative and elitist. Under such circumstances KJA schools are practically the first ‘sites’ where the agenda for ‘education for equitable development and social justice’ has been introduced and deliberated upon. KJA schools have now become a reality. Both the poor and the dominant groups have appreciated the values and pedagogy underlying the functioning of the schools. Schools of this kind have for the first time created among the poorer sections of society, especially shepherd children bonded to village elites, the desire that their children seek formal education and feel autonomous in their ability to learn and think. In a politically turbulent region like Northeast where civil society is yet to become vibrant, the SST program is sowing the seeds of preparing the younger generation to build a more just and non-violent society. Its work is informed by the vision of making education a means to good citizenship and building an inclusive and just society.

At the policy level, acknowledging its efforts at campaigning for a curriculum that is locally sensitive and relevant, SST was engaged by the Government of India to formulate the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) since 2005. In so doing, SST became the sole and proactive representative from the Northeastern region of the country. In continuation of this involvement, SST was instrumental in expanding the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in the region and establishing the Northeast Regional Institute of Education (NERIE). The chief functionary of SST serves on the Advisory Board of NERIE.

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