Teacher's Day Special: Where Learning Is the Greatest Lesson

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), August 31, 2016 | Go to article overview

Teacher's Day Special: Where Learning Is the Greatest Lesson


New Delhi, Aug. 30 -- As a teacher imparting lessons to his students in conflict-ridden Dantewada and Sukma, Chhattisgarh, Ashish Shrivastava has learnt some big lessons in life.

"I learnt a lot from my students. They taught me that there is no such word as 'teach'. The only word that exists in schools is 'learn' and all of us are learners sharing our wisdom and experiences. That has been my key driver. I believe children can be co-creators of the content for learning and co-own their learning journey," says Shrivastava, who has been working in two districts in the tribal and rural areas of Chhattisgarh, the hotbed of left wing extremism.

Through his initiative Shiksharth, Shrivastava works with the local government and tribal community to improve the quality of education in schools with a belief system that communities should take ownership of their own institutions by contributing actively in the learning of its children.

The greatest challenge is working in the Naxal-affected area and mobilising resources to effectively and efficiently deliver. Accessing communities which are hostile to outsiders, access to logistic and technical expertise are some other challenges. Because of the conflict arising due to left wing extremism, thousands of children were forced to drop out after schools in villages were destroyed in Naxal violence.

Talking about what moves him most, Shrivastava says, "We all had a childhood that was peaceful (in most of the cases), fun and full of life. Our work in Sukma has given many surprises but one surprise that has stayed with us has been the hope and zeal towards life that the tribals here have. They have been going through pain, misery and suffering, still they continue to live with a smile. Our team members did a painting exercise with their children. For the first time in school, the children were asked to draw whatever they wanted to draw with nothing to copy from the board. And interestingly, the students drew only two pictures: one of a village fair and other of a combat situation between police/security forces and rebels. Close to 90% students had drawn the latter," says Shrivastava.

This made him realise that he needed to work on the fear and pain hidden deep inside the little ones instead of just working on competency, learning levels and value systems. …

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