Story of the Merasi School

Let’s start with an introduction about the Merasi community and their background. Hailing from the North western region of Rajasthan, India, they are traditional musicians, story tellers, and genealogists, and they carry a unique musical legacy that is more than 800 years old. As an Banyan Impact Fellow, I got an opportunity to work with Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan, an organization that was established by Dr. Sarwar Khan, a renowned musician from the Merasi community, for the upliftment and welfare of the Merasi community.

 

Dr. Sarwar Khan along with Merasi students

The idea of the Merasi School was first coined by Dr. Sarwar Khan and was supported by Karen Lukas, an art enthusiast who visited India as part of a project and met Luna Khan there, who is the father of Dr. Sarwar Khan. She got an opportunity to spend some time with the Merasi community, and she learned about their vast history and legacy from Luna Khan & Sarwar Khan.  After spending some consistent time with the people of the Merasi community, she learned about their vulnerabilities and was moved by the plight. To uplift the Merasi community and to preserve the community’s intangible history, Dr. Sarwar Khan with FAR intern Caitie Whelan and Karen Lukas decided to start a school for the children of the Merasi community: The Merasi School.

Merasi School

Folk Arts Rajasthan was established by Karen Lukas in the year 2004. Folk Arts Rajasthan and Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan collaborated with a shared vision of a thriving and just future for the Merasi community and their musical culture. Together, they nurtured capable Merasi youth in the face of obstinate hierarchical norms.

The Merasi School was started in 2007 and it offers community-driven classrooms providing elementary tutoring in English, Hindi, Maths, Science and basic computer skills. With basic education in government schools being unavailable for many low caste children and private schools unaffordable, the Merasi School has provided a viable alternative. The school has excellent teachers from the Merasi community itself, who were once students of the Merasi School. Folk Arts Rajasthan provides dedicated volunteers who are committed to having an impact in the Merasi community. Folk Arts Rajasthan along with these dedicated volunteers designed an extraordinary curriculum for the Merasi School that focuses on the overall development of the child.

 

Merasi School with Merasi students and staff

 

Merasi Teachers: Sitara, Saina and Seema
Merasi Teachers: Sitara, Saina and Seema

The school has impacted 600+ children since its start in 2007, and the students eagerly take ownership of their education and workspace maintenance. The school does not only help the students of the Merasi community, it also enables the community members to create solutions for the problems they encounter in the society. The Merasi community reclaims their rightful and dignified identity, the keepers of regional history, and they replaced the derogatory label ‘Manganiyar’ proudly with ‘Merasi’, as a poignant symbol of self-determination.

 

 

Images provided by Akaram Khan Merasi and visiting photographer Ralph Gabriner

References

https://www.folkartsrajasthan.org

Khan, Sarwar. Interview.  By Sireesha. 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sai Sireesha born and brought up in Andhra Pradesh,received her Bachelor of science in computer science from krishna University, Andhrapradesh and Master's in conflict management and development from Banaras Hindu University,Varanasi.she has been a Gandhifellow in Piramal foundation for education leadership and worked in a close conjunction with NITI AAYOG's Aspirational district transformation program in Narmada district of Gujarat.As a Gandhi fellow she worked for capacity building of cluster resource coordinator and Block resource coordinator, Communities and teachers in Narmada District. After her successful completion of Gandhi Fellowship, she joined URMUL Trust as a Consultant for the International Institute of Impact Evaluation(3IE) project in Bikaner, Rajasthan. As a consultant she worked on Monitoring & Evaluation and communication for the 3IE project. She has also worked with artisans and conducted training sessions on pressing social issues like child marriages, Gender discrimination and Domestic violence in the Thar Desert Region of Rajasthan. Her experience helped her to gain skills like Facilitation, communication, data analysis and community engagement activities. As a student of peace and conflict studies she is good at analysing international affairs and understanding different cultures. Her motivation and dedication to work for the wellbeing of communities made her an American Indian fellow.

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