Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Sasi and the Gairampalle school - 1.

Schooling is simply a way of making  wise villages serfs and clerks for us. That is the intent and result of schooling.

The knowledge and strengths in villages and in village children are too vast to be provable in the limited schooling system, and to be judged therein. In the schooling system,  those from educated upper class families have all inherited strengths. And there these village children of  multiple wisdoms are judged on the single yardstick of their literacy and book skills. They fail. A village needs a world outside of modernity, outside of the centralized, industrialized system. They need the gram swaraj. 

Sasi, from a landless poor village, aged 11, is too wonderful to end up as an also-ran, and as a clerk to one of the children from educated families who will be the managers.  He has his million strengths from climbing trees, to making catapults, to fashioning images from the clay in the tank bed, to caring for the cows, to knowing about all medicinal plants, to being the natural leader for all village children, to an infinite and unpremeditated generosity. He is from those children with deep inherited community values, who co-operate and share, and help the slowest to run faster, and never think of personal 

aggrandization over community well being. With all this, we try to strait jacket him into a schooling system where competition counts over co-operation, where a single dimensional learning is the norm, and where he will be a mediocre or poor student.

But because modernity requires those qualifications for success, and the traditional and rural world is crumbling, so schooling has become the be all of village children. And there they struggle their way to success or failure.  Usually to failure and unemployment.

Sasi’s story
A young officer had come from Hyderabad and stayed with us as she looked at the unemployment situation here. She and Sasi became friends. Sasi is an orphan, and brought up by his grandmother Eashwaramma, herself wise and wonderful, but poor and assetless and blind in one eye.

One day later, the officer called me to ask whether Sasi should not go to a hostel now. That at this age, with nobody to control him except an old grandmother he may go haywire. That worry which had been nagging me for a while now, she articulated. She said she would look for a good government hostel for him, and I asked that it be within the district so that Eashwaramma could also go and see him. She asked me to immediately send a short note on the child that she would follow up on.

I asked Eashwaramma, and she assented wholeheartedly saying that this was what was worrying her too and that at this age he could easily get into habits like drink and so it would be best to place him in a good   place. I sent the note on Sasi. The next day there were some phonecalls from government officials from Hyderabad, and I was requested to have Sasi come to the AP residential school at Gairampalle.   This was the best possible option, and I gave Eashwarama the money to get things ready. She got the caste certificate, the TC, and bought a new trunk and bedsheet, and went and admitted Sasi.

Paalaguttapalle (Dalitwada)
Finally the documents have all been got. The SC certificate, the health certificate, the TC, the sarpanch's note that he is an orphan. And tomorrow he leaves the village for the hostel. When I spoke to him now he was so subdued, that is broke my heart. I tried to chirp and tell him how wonderful it would be, and how he should buy the best truck and the best bedsheet and the best bucket at Piler as his grandmother takes him to the hostel. His voice wouldn't rise and only I chirped like a twit.
I spoke to Kavya and pulled her leg, "So your brother will not help you any more !". She did not rise to the bait and say, "Madam, he never does any work !". She was also very subdued. The brother sister bond is deeper than was shown by their constant wars. As orphaned children they had only each other.
The whole village has pulled together in getting Sasi ready. Simhadri, Varalu's brither, has been running to all the offices to help with his documents. A village child is everyone's child. And a child without a father is loved even more deeply by all. I hope his stay is happy. That his possible academic backwardness, and his caste not affect the goodness that he has always charmed from people. Next few weeks I will keep thinking and worrying pointlessly.

Day 1.
I called up Sasi, Eashwaramma's grandson, at the residential school he has been put into at class 7. The headmaster  called him on line. I reassured Sasi as well as I could. Last night he had called up Varalu and wept long asking to come back to the village. He is feeling totally lost in an English medium setup from his Telugu medium school. He said the academics was too much for him. It is possible other children look down at him, his poverty, and his academic backwardness, and his SC status. I hope they do not, and that they are kind.

An anger wells up that a child from a community with inherited strengths in agriculture and animal rearing and much else should have to prove himself in the school setup which is alien to their many million strengths. I hated schools then in a cold and dispassionate manner.

Day 3
Eashwaramma called me  to ask if I had spoken to Sasi thro' the headmaster.  I told her I had not called the headmaster again after the first day when he was so distressed, and that he would settle down, and to not worry. And all my own worries, carefully supressed came to the fore again.

Day 7
I called up Sasi, and it seemed he wept thro’ Sunday as his grandmother Eashwaramma did not come to see him. It seems he developed a fever. He sounded so subdued on the phone that it broke my heart.  The village world and employments have died a thousand deaths, and the children from there have to adapt to systems that can kill their naturalness and vivacity and sparkles.

And I continue to hope that he fits into the school. We have failed to create a vibrant village with livlihoods for all. It is our collective failure.

October 2015

One month down school we went to see him - his grandmother Eashwaramma, I, Turiya and Siva who drove the auto. It was an hour by auto.

When he got his football, which he had requested, his face glowed with unshed smiles. As the ball was passed from hand to hand his chest swelled visibly with pride. Eashwaramma gave him vadais she had made at home, and he distributed it around and all the boys were munching.
A child from a vernacular background, into the 7th where the textbooks in English baffle. The teachers are supportive ... still can he cope. A child who only has his unlimited zest and a fundamental generosity of spirit on his side. Orphaned, assetless, and only a grandmother to care for him. The grandmother equally assetless and also blind in one eyes. How I wish the skills of a village child of climbing trees, and making pots and thatching has the same unlimited value as an English education ... but we have not yet created that world ... and this is the ladder they have to climb.

But his face has lost that gaunt look, and he has 'Boost' every morning, and 'Coffee' every evening and the lunch was good . And we pray.

A month later ... 

He decided he would return. He stopped eating and this was a hunger strike, and the headmaster fearing health consequences, sent him back. That was maybe his initiation into the power he could wield. The tired grandmother ran around to the old school and pleaded many times and got him readmitted there.  

But a little later he dropped out. 

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