DRISHYA, an educational movement spearheaded by DRRT (Dwaraknath Reddy Ramanarpanam Trust) in 2001 emerged as aresponse to the need for innovative and empowering education for children living in urban slums of Bangalore. DRISHYA developed as a joint effort of DRRT and AVAS (Association for Voluntary Action and Services) was a much-needed corollary to two decades of work in the slums of Bangalore where AVAS had established the land and shelter rights of the poor. DRRT pioneered the DRISHYA movement through its networked platform of DRIK-DRISHYA-VIVEKA.
The conventional education system, limited as it is in vision and scope, provided no answers to resolving the vital issues of poverty and lack of purposeful opportunities that enabled children growing into youth in urban poor and rural communities.DRIK and AVAS worked together to search out a new model of education, to provide these deprived children with new choices to carve out their lives, and to evolve the best system and framework for leadership development. DRISHYA addressed these fundamental inequities by shifting the notion of a school from a fixed place to a set of spaces that exist and operate simultaneously within and outside of the community. That was the hub and spoke model. DRISHYA succeeded in doing this by channeling knowledge and understanding created at many levels – physical, emotional, cognitive and psychological, in ways that interact together, resulting in a holistic and transformative educational experience for the students.
This education model based on a hub and spoke concept, located in communities, was guided by Geetha Narayanan, who, with her years of experience and expertise in other educational programs could help us formulate a learning module to help empower young children from indigent families. For over a decade and more, the RC Foundation led by Anju Chandashekhar and her magnanimous philanthropy reached out in support of the DRISHYA Kalika Kendr as (activity and learning centers as they were called), and gradually DRRT founded the DRISHYA Foundation as an independent entity.
DRIK Drishya founder Mr. Dwaraknath Reddy is led by the children of indigent communities for whom Drishya was established. The first steps were taken in 2001.
DRISHYA, an education movement pioneered and established by the DRIK initiative of the Dwaraknath Reddy Ramanarpanam Trust, was set up as learning and activity centers in response to the need for innovative education for children living in urban slums of Bengaluru.
Drishya Students were not only taught basic reading, writing and mathematical skills, but are also encouraged to think creatively and act independently. The DRISHYA curriculum is evolved with a focus that is realistic and socially responsible, derived through freedom of expression and thought.
Providing Rights Based Education
Education for change is what the DRIK was established for.
Change from what?
From inequality to justice, from violence to peace, from ignorance to knowledge, from weakness to strength, from fear and diffidence to courage and confidence, from depravation to a revitalized and collectivized society so that the lives of indigent communities are transformed.
DRIK initiatives and networks were established essentially to bring in transformation wherever there was exploitation and oppression. And so transformation became the overarching theme in DRIK PATASHALA from where we derived different rights-based relevant topics that not only stimulated an interest in the children but also became a tool for change in the communities.
A spiral curriculum was created and each theme was progressively developed from standard 1 up to standard 7. From the 8th standard to the 10th the children followed the same rights based thinking but in preparation for the 10th standard and eventually exams were completed by doing the Andhra Pradesh open school secondary certificate examination.Today many children are in colleges and doing graduate and post graduate studies.It is very heartening to see how many of them are class, school and college leaders.
Ants and Bees
Story of Mahalakshmi
A young girl from Shankarraiah Gunta, a slum in Andhra Pradesh stood in her community observing her mother and other families queue up, anxiously waiting for the water tanker that came to their community only once a week.
She was little Mahalakshmi, who was studying at 6th grade at DRIK Patashala in Chitoor, Andra Pradesh, India. Her learning at DRIK Patashala made her think and question why was it that only in the poor neighborhoods such as her own community, there were so many issues of survival.
Even water, a bare necessity, was so elusive for many people, including her community members. And, despite that there was so much of leakage and wastage of water. There were fights and squabbles all the time when the water tanker arrived.
She felt the need to get better organized to fetch the water and also seek help from the responsible government committee and her own community people.
So she met the local Municipal Corporator and sought his help. She mobilized all the families in her community and motivated them to stand in line so that everyone got their fair share of water and that was the first step and the best way to resolve the issue.
They watched her and obliged to her, more in admiration of the child than with an aim to resolve the issue, but today there is awareness of the problems and when the water tanker arrives to this community there is a lesser chaos and quarrels to fetch water.
The theme that influenced Mahalakshmi’s action is the life story of Ants and Bees.The idea of a community togetherness, the strength in being united, the power of disciplined and persevering action, leadership of the queen bee, the mutual love and respect equations that ants reflect, hard work with dedication, were all the values and real life lessons taught, linking it to the community they lived in. This awakened in the children a spirit to emulate the “Ants and the Bees”, and strive for unity and leadership.
War and Peace
Whether it is Mounika or Taslima, or their friends Meena, and Afrin, these students of DRIK Patashala in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, felt deeply stirred by theme based learning on the subject - War and Peace, and began to recognize their calling to serve others who were in need.
To them, the story of Florence Nightingale and the Crimean war was not just another subject to study, but a stimulant to inspire them to help people in the hour of crisis.
They could not see little children suffer during times of war, and families being torn apart in war zones. They were part of communities where families lived and died in poverty, and for them deprivation took on the same connotation as families being torn asunder in war. It was just as frightening when illness and the exorbitant costs of medical care pushed their families to the brink of penury.
But these young girls did not want to feel defeated. Instead, they chose to pursue their vision for a better world through the noble profession of nursing care. Today as they pursue their vocational aspirations inspired by the theme based learning at DRIK we feel confident that they will be remembered for their service to the sick in the years to come.
Earth and Protecting the Five Elements
The right to land, water, and air were all linked to the larger subject of Earth. The most important outcome of this evolving curriculum was the children’s understanding and action on some of the below environmental issues.
Destruction of environment by destroying forests in their neighborhoods and cutting of tress, petitioning on controlling the air pollution caused through indiscriminate use of vehicles and companies in the vicinity, water pollution and the drying up of lake beds near their living spaces. The discussions and debates went in depth into the understanding of land usage both in villages and in the towns through exposure to encroachments that had developed where once beautiful lakes existed.
The children met forest officials and registered their protests against cutting down of trees. The children made models of potential town development ideas after community mapping and shared it with officials. They spoke to the elected representatives and fought for their right for a clean environment.
Amongst the notable impacts that these capsules had is the story of little Soundarya, who stopped the mayor of chittoor in her tracks as she made the round of the slum areas where the little child lived. Soundarya told the mayor that such cleaning activities only took place as an eyewash when the politicians and high level officers made a round of that community. She demanded that garbage be cleaned regularly, that spaces for dumping garbage be allocated so that it is not strewn everywhere, and she went on to say that they were not just demanding for better facilities but if given they as a community would also be responsible to keep the environment clean.
Deeply touched by the abilities of the DRIK Pathshala children in analyzing the real issues, the mayor in fact responded positively to Soundarya and her friends.
The learning and knowledge base established through a curriculum that actually helps find grass root ideas and alternate solutions to the daily problems of the poor and their communities and that is how the DRIK is approaching education.
Survival and Migration
Another way in which the children began to understand about land rights issues was in a very interesting capsule on migration. Linking the migration of birds in the Nalla Pattu Bird Sanctuary, near the sea coast off Nellore, in Andhra Pradesh to the migration of families from rural areas to urban areas in search of employment and sustainable survival opportunities, The children recognized the fact that migration becomes inevitable when a resource for survival is lacking in the original place of residence. As they gradually saw so many birds with their little ones searching for food, leaving a spot, and migrating to another one, the children immediately linked their right to accessibility of land to till in the villages that would yield food for their families. This unit also emphasized on housing patterns, housing programs of the government, building of houses and the builders of those houses ie the construction workers. They compared the learning by watching the birds build their nests, lay their eggs, protect their young ones, and when disturbed by the vagaries of nature or by lack of opportunity to survive the birds would fly away. In the same way, unless everybody has access to land they cannot survive and will be forced to migrate from the rural to the urban where they end up in chawls and slums.
The children took time to discuss and analyze the right of everyone to live with security and dignity.
Tree System and the Communities
At DRIK Patashala campus, there was a Neem tree under which the children often sat and learnt their lessons. They loved this tree and climbing it was one of the fun things for the little ones.
Watching the relationship between the tree and the children we developed a capsule on communities and the tree system. It helped teach the children about life from when a seed is planted to how a sapling is nurtured and until it grows big, enough to give us fruit or shade that helps our wellness in many ways.
The story of the Giving Tree became the base for this lesson that was full of values, lending itself to creating lessons to teach math, chemistry, physics and language. The tree became the focal point of observation.
As often one of the chapters in the formal textbooks is dedicated to plants and the ecosystem, we developed a spiral curriculum that the students could identify with and understand the energy flow in their surrounding ecosystem. As one lesson lead to another the children began to imbibe the value of being responsible and taking care of the environment in the communities. Relating with all creatures around them, be they cats, dogs, birds, squirrels or insects. It was indeed heartening to see the relationship build up between the students and their natural ecosystem.
Above are a few samples of the curriculums we developed for children to learn life sciences, think out of the box, become discerning youngsters, and understanding their rights live responsibly in society.
Survival and Rights
All living beings on Earth have a right to a decent and dignified life and survival with access to the minimum needs including food, water, air, work, and an environment of peace and happiness. These are every individual’s right. However this is a distant dream for many. At DRIK we therefore chose to take the topic of food as the first relevant chapter for learning in school. In fact even all textbooks touch up on this topic but taking it for granted that every child who is learning has had a full meal that day. The reality is that the student is very often sitting in class with a hungry stomach. Teaching about food without the sensitivity of understanding the poverty of these families does not help in establishing a knowledge base that will enable them when they are older to actually recognize something as basic as food as everyone's birthright.
In this context the DRIK taught the children about the right to food security starting from the very elementary steps of looking at different kinds of food, growing them in the kitchen gardens, learning about the marketing of different vegetables and fruits, etc. until they understood how farmers in India grew food for the whole nation. But the real change was seen in the children when they began understanding the government policies and programs for farmers and food security to all. They realized that it was the State responsibility to ensure sufficient supplies of grains for all families where instead they were stored in go-downs that reeked of corruption and waste. It hurt the children to see piles and piles of sacks full of grains rotting in the Food Corporation of India go-downs. They asked the officials present in the go-downs if all the food that was eaten by the rats that were scurrying around could not be given to the poor families in their communities instead. They said that the rats and the cockroaches seem to have a better deal when it came to having a meal rather then the poor. Disatisfied with the answers given to them by the officials, the children visited a fair price shop to understand the flow of food from the granaries to the public. At one such Public Distribution System centre, Sadiq, a young student of DRIK Patashala saw that the balance scale weighing the vegetables had metallic magnetic pieces at the bottom of one side of the scales. This was pure cheating.
So Sadiq took it upon himself to complain to the owner of the shop and prevent him from continuing in this corrupt way. However the shopkeeper only shouted at the children. Angered by the situation the children took the issue to higher officials and succeeded in having the corrupt shop owner relieved of his duties and responsibilities in the Fair Price shop. This success reinforced in the children the need to stand up for their rights and struggle for justice until the goal is reached.
DRIK – Nacoldev (Nakkala Colony Development) Learning Centre was set up striving to impart knowledge and creative learning that will make the change in the lives of these indigenous community. This was the first time that these families had access to any form of education.
The school is currently run by the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
Many children went on to study high school to learn beyond their elementary education. DRIK helped stabilize the wellness and the holistic growth of children at DRIK Nacoldev.
SATSANG RURAL SCHOOL
Satsang Rural School (SRS), located in the hilly hinterlands of Ma Konda behind Satsang Nagar, Andhra Pradesh, India, was revived and reopened by the Satsang Foundation, in association with Dwaraknath Reddy Ramanarpanam Trust in 2012. Children from the surrounding villages of Mekalavaripalli, Siriguntalapalli, Diguvapalli and Kattragaddalapalli became the first batch of the revived school.
The children at SRS were nurtured in a multilingual environment, where Telugu and Hindi were also taught along with English. Within a year network of villages has spread to Ponnutipalem, Mittamaripalli, Patchetlapenta, and Panasmakulapalli.
Following the DRIK pattern and philosophy of education, Satsang Rural School also followed an unique and innovative approach to education. All lessons were planned based on a community-rights based curriculum that evolved dynamically, founded on the philosophy of making education empowering for the poor and the oppressed, building up self-worth of highly alienated children from marginalized and caste-divided villages, and promoting sustainable model of leadership development. The curriculum is rooted in the inherent strengths of the local rural communities.
Incorporating parents’ concerns and views and welcoming aggregate contribution in their own child’s development as well as guiding them to look at at the Satsang Rural School with a sense of ownership and responsibility is another important aspect of ensuring participatory development and change.
Our team of staff continues to keep the community motivated and is actively involved in regular village gatherings and meetings. Infact the focus now is on community schooling and linkages with Government schools.
Our team continues to be inspired and spurred in creating an environment of self-development and promoting a sustainable model of leadership development such as that was at the Satsang Rural School which has now merged into Satsang Vidyalaya under the auspice of Satsang Foundation.The work continues in the villages by the Grace of Sri.M.