Vimukt Shiksha Yatra was an initiative by the ‘Indian Multiversities Alliance’, a first of its kind; “envisioned with an intention to inspire ideas, learnings and collaborations towards re-imagining higher education”. As an individual who have been studying upon various alternate models of education, I was keenly interested in the Yatra. The 6 day long Yatra started from Mumbai on 25th February and concluded in Nashik on 02nd March.
Our first session in Mumbai was hosted by ‘Blue Ribbon Movement’ (BRM), an organisation operating in Mumbai to empower youth to become leaders of change by challenging gender inequality, connecting communities, building peace and sharing knowledge. The twelve Yatris assembled themselves at Don Bosco High School, Matunga and shared with each other, our objectives behind attending the six day learning journey. We interacted with fellows of ‘People’s unVersity’, an alternate learning programme forwarded by BRM. At the People’s unVersity, the fellows co-create and co-curate their teaching-learning modules, independent of an external. Kejal Salva shared with us that the Blue Ribbon Movement was founded on the idea “together we are stronger”.
The other excerpts from interaction with People’s unVersity fellows were: “We believe individuals can create their own learning journeys, not necessarily having to rely on existing institutions to gain knowledge. We come together to re-think learning for a better world. We decide where, when, how and what we wish to learn for ourselves, rather than being pressured by a degree or a job. We created a continuous informal, spontaneous and leisurely learning environment free from the constraints of time and syllabi. Here we don’t hold on to time frames as subjects are considered boundless and learning a lifelong process’.
Later in the day we met Mandakini Trivedi, a practitioner of Mohiniyattam, who runs Shakti Yogashrama Gurukulam in Lonavla. We met her at her residence in Vile Parle, Mumbai and engaged in conversations regarding the Gurukul system and the traditional methods of learning.
Here are a few snippets from the interaction:
On the art of memorising -
Memory is important for an individual for their intellectual growth and the art of memorizing has been affected with changing times and emergence of technology. We emphasise on learning from eyes, ears and experience. Mohiniyattam is a performing art and it should be taught and learned through performance alone. My knowledge of art should live in an other body and not in a book.
On the art of dance -
There are plenty of ways by which humans can interact with each other and also with the nature and environment. Dance is one of the methods. Dance is for self expression and communication. Dance is for peace and happiness. I establish connection with God, one another and nature through my art. Dance is not just an art form, but works wonders in a child’s development as well.
On teaching learning practices -
In the Gurukal system, the primary motive of the student is to receive. One doesn’t always question (the Guru). Whom are you questioning? There are times when you just receive. And you can’t receive without love and trust. If you reach puberty, your body is ready to have a child. In a similar way, the student is to achieve a level of maturity to have their own questions and own creation. Until then, the teacher has to guide (the student). Scepticism is a loss to humanity. A guru’s role is to fill the vessel (which is the student’s mind and imagination), but to expand the vessel.
On Education -
The notion that education is for bread and butter is faulty. Skill building is important. But again, skills can be learned from anyone. That is where importance of Gurukula comes into picture. It is all about character building and value based living. These are what makes one a human being. Now there is a lot of stress on alternate education. It was already there decades back. Generations back. The natural methods of education have now become alternatives. Degrees and certificates are the result of British education. The student oneself is supposed to be the certificate for their knowledge, skills and learning. In ancient models, the system cooperates with you. Now you obey a system that actually stays away from you.