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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A SCHOOL UNDER TREES By: Raghu Babu AN ASHRAM SCHOOL, Pinakini satygraha asramam.

A SCHOOL UNDER TREES
By:  Raghu Babu
AN ASHRAM SCHOOL


A few Gandhians of Nellore district too desired to start an ashram on the banks of river Pennar. So, they started
“PINAKINI SATYAGRAHA ASHRAM” at Pallipadu about 10 Kms from Nellore town, in 12 acres of land. There
are Coconut, Mango, Tamarind, Sapota, Casuarinas trees on which are dwelling the parrots, owls, mynas, and squirrels
with often a large group of visitors called cranes. Fields like Brinjals, Groundnut, Ladies fin-gers, Maize, Sesamum,
Settle
nut crops are surrounded the ashram....
Twice Gandhiji visited this ashram and spent some time here in the past. After independence a few activities were
conducted for some time by the Gandhi-ans. After that a few private persons took the ashram for a lease.
From sixties this ashram was neglected. The land was occupied by the smal1 farmers and the ashram was ruined.
In, 1983, Sri Sivaram and Sri Devkumar, two close friends have visited this place and decided to start a school for
the poor village children of Pallipadu. Sri Sivaram, is a poet and philosopher educationist, likes Jiddu Krishna Murthy’s
talks very much, and likes to introduce JK’s insight into education. Sri Devkumar was the student of Rishivalley School!
They started rebuilding the ruined ashram, and named it “SRUJANA SCHOOL”. At this stage Mrs. Eleanor Watts,
an educationist from England, has joined Sri Sivaram. It was an experimental school, aided by “Action Aid”, a funding
agency from England, which helps many voluntary organisations, particularly for child education.
They did many educational experiments from 1983 to 1987. They gave some sort of insight to education; gave new
creative touches to teaching; inte-grated various subjects, arts and crafts into education. Invented very simple techniques
with the use of locally avail-able-waste material! It was a creative school!
In 1987, due to different reasons, Mrs. Eleanor Watts left the school. Then I joined the school. For her convenience
Mrs. Eleanor made the school as English medium school. I turned it into Telugu medium. I tried my best to follow
integrated teaching methods and take care to retain the creative potentiali-ties among the children, which ‘were devel-
oped by Sivaram and Eleanor. And, along with another teacher Rama, we tried to give a shape to “AGRICULTURE
BASED EDUCATION”! We faced lots of problems from the villagers, from the politi-cians, and from the parents!
The ashram building itself has our school and our residence too! We used to meditate in the beautiful, quiet nature
around us! Meditate while we teach to children in that calm and peaceful nature’s lap! Irrespective of success or failure,
meditation has it’s own place in our lives, it lead us to understand the present moments and enjoy whatever we do .....
There were no classes in the school. There were four groups. We named each group with the name of trees, which
are in the ashram campus. The senior chil-dren’s group is called as “TAMARINDS” — they had 9-11 years age and
completed four years in the school. The second group is “COCONUNTS”. The third group is “SAPOTAS”. “MANGOES”
is the name given to the newly joined children’s
group.
These four groups are divided according to their mental abilities and standards of the children. In this school, there
was no scope to get promotion one class after another at the year end. We had our own evaluation techniques to assess
children’s’ abilities and if they reach the required standard, they will be promoted to the next level! So, every year the
groups will be shuffled accord-ing to their standards!!
The school never compromised with the present existing educational systems. The school not at all recognised the
present educational systems.......  All the present educational systems are suppressing the creative potentials and natu-ral intellectual development among the children and forcing them to by-heart a few answers, or committing to do
malpractices during the examina-tions;  And of all the above, it makes children to be dependent, non-peaceful, aggressive
and violent citi-zens!! — Isn’t it? The present educa-tional system gives valueless education both for physical and
mental
developments! So, Srujana School had its own curriculum - which was linked to the Nature; linked to the life
of
their families; linked to the society where they are 1iving; linked to all the problems, situations, struggles and clashes
they
are facing or have to face in future ......
We can not separate children from the Nature and from the social life!! We are part in the Nature! .....
There were, lots of pressures from the parents, from the politicians of the village, and small farmers who occupied
the ashram land -- but, amidst all these, the school never compromised with the present educational system.
This non-compartmentalisation gave a great strength to us, to be more innovative, more creative, and more sensitive
to love children....

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