Understanding the Community: First-Generation Learners

Naya Saal me apne dadi ko likhna aur Odiya book reading sikhaungi”, says Rashmita Bag, a class 7th student whose parents have been migrating seasonally since the last six years. “I’ll teach my grandmother to write and read an Odiya book this new year.” During her parents’ migration, she stays with her grandparents to continue her education. She has a New Year resolution, which is to teach her grandparents and make them able to read books in the Odiya language. I meet many children like Rashmita, whose families have migrated or are planning to migrate in the coming weeks in the three villages of Pipalchhandi, Mangurpani and Anlajuba, in the Nuapada block. These children are primarily first-generation learners as their parents have never been to school. Seasonal migration in the districts of Orissa and neighbouring states is a common practice for families to generate incomes for sustainability. In all these three villages of Nuapada under AIF’s Learning and Migration Program (LAMP), Lokadrusti is running a Learning Resource Center (LRC). LRCs are community spaces created to provide opportunities to the children of different age groups to come together and supplement their school-based learning about topics like science and other fields. The idea is to provide an enriching experiential learning environment which is centered around the child. The philosophy of LRCs is to provide a support system to address educational needs at the core.

Mr. TopRam Bariha, Pipalchhandi LRC Facilitator, participating with group in Classroom activity [Picture Courtesy- Niket Sagar]

Community Learning Resource Centers: Bridging the Gap

To cater to various aspects of childhood and providing an encouraging learning environment where children from the community can come together and get support, guidance and mentoring, the LRC acts as a platform and shared space to foster learning. The center provides regular supportive classes to children who come from families affected by seasonal migration. The pedagogy and teaching techniques used by LRC facilitators are innovative and incorporate hands-on learning. Various tools and techniques have been devised by using the “local knowledge body”, an attempt of indigenisation from the village context so as to make a child able to relate and understand concepts. Demonstrations of theories in practice, use of audio visual tools, shadow plays, hands on activities e.g. documentaries and practical demonstration related to the topics are some of the methodologies adopted by the LRC. Emphasis is placed on child learning and exploring the subject knowledge rather than providing knowledge in a “banking mode of education”. In a banking mode of education, the teacher acts as the source of information and the students are at the receiving end of such information. There is no space for enhancing space for critical inquiry and questioning (Freire, 2000). Whereas in a shared learning approach, the opportunities and space are carved, created and explored together by educator and students, which facilitates an environment for dialogue. Once such a space or platform is created, the child enjoys the process of learning, relating with the acquired knowledge and moving forward with the quest to “explore the unexplored horizon of knowledge” (Thapan, 2006).

Mr. Lambodar Rana, Mangurpani LRC Facilitator, working with children [Picture Courtesy- Niket Sagar]

Creation of Shared Community Spaces for Learning

“Center me hamare bache jate hai padhne ke liye, aur hum logon ne hi apne samaj ka bhawan diya hai”, says Umabati Majhi president of Community Resource Centre Management Committee. “Children from our communities are studying at the center, we have provided our community hall for LRC”. Two of her daughters are attending classes at the LRC. The LRC has been established and functioning in rent-free spaces provided within the community, e.g. schools building, community halls, and space allocated by panchayat. These centers are set up in the community within the premises provided by the locals; the allocation of space for establishing LRC are done by the community-led institution, panchayat and SMC. LRCs works closely with various stakeholders and institutions of the community such as government schools, village panchayat and SMCs. Sharing of resources, knowledge body and co-creation of opportunities for improving quality of learning are the central tools and techniques that guarantee their success.

Anlajuba LRC functioning in the space provided by community [Picture Courtesy- Niket Sagar]

Social Interaction and Learning

Social Development Theory (Vygotsky) emphasises on the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition. According to it, community plays a central role in the process of “making meaning.” Vygotsky argues that “learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human psychological function” (1978, p. 90). In other words, the social learning tends to precede (i.e., come before) development. In term of understanding the cognitive development of an individual, their social and cultural context is very important. The co-construction of knowledge starts from the social interaction and guided learning between the child and his/her parents or family. Put differently: adults transmit their cultural tools of intellectual adaptation to their children, which they then internalize. Basically, children are curious and actively involved in their own learning, discovery and development of new understandings. The important learning in the child occurs through the social interaction with their parents or tutor. The verbal instructions provided to the child by the parents or tutor act as cooperative or collaborative dialogue. In this collective process, the child seeks to understand the actions as well as the instructions provided by the parent or teacher, and then internalizes the information. Hence it becomes essential to contextualise education towards an indigenous perspective giving precedence to localized conditions and environment. The pedagogy, language and curriculum details should be worked in accordance to the above discussed considerations.

A child participating in activity of art and craft using Clay at Pipalchhandi LRC [Picture Courtesy- Niket Sagar]

References

  • Freire, Paulo (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 30th anniversary ed. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Thapan, Meenakshi. (2006). Life at School: An Ethnographic Study. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Niket has completed his education from Jamia Millia Islamia. He has done his graduation from the Cluster Innovation Centre at the University of Delhi. In pursuance of his interest to work with marginalized communities, he completed Masters in Social Work from the University of Delhi. It is one of his goals to work for an equitable and accessible public education system. Niket has worked with the Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission, as well as with self-help groups in Gadchiroli district. He has presented paper at the Indian Social Work Congress, and his research has been published in the Journal of Innovation for Inclusive Development. Niket is also passionate about street theatre.

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