TheUntamedEarth in Konkan Schools
29 th Pakshimitra Sammelan in Sawantwadi was the catalyst and this paved the way for the Konkan tour of TheUntamedEarth in January 2016. During this trip we were to cover four schools from four different villages in Lanja Taluka , off Ratnagiri.
The villages were Talawade, Khanavali, Poonas and finally Vangule.
We thought that it would be most appropriate extension of our Educational and Awareness activities on Biodiversity and Environment. This is an ongoing programme and this activity has been taken to schools in certain villages off Pune. We thought that a visit to rural schools in konkan will give us a different perspective … and it did !
Geographically , the Sahyadris - Maharashtra part of the Western Ghats create the Coastal Belt, or the Konkan and the Deccan Plateau, which is at a higher level. Geographically, culturally and economically these are totally different. The lush green, undulating terrain, contrasting shades of green of coconut palms, beetle nuts, jackfruit, mangoes, cashew against the characteristic brick red soil. Typical houses built with the large blocks of laterite stone – ‘jambha chira’, with sloping tiled roofs dot the area, peeping out of greenery.
This region of Maharashtra is blessed with ethereal beauty, the beaches, the forests and an amazingly rich biodiversity. Unfortunately because of its hardy terrain, this region has never been integrated in the mainstream and even today so many of its areas are inaccessible by a vehicle. We have communities of small residential complexes or ‘Wadis’ in such areas. There are many children here and all of them need schooling. This alone will tell you about the basic difficulty of primary and secondary schooling in Konkan. In keeping with the Government Policy, there are educational facilities even in the remote areas like a ‘Dhangarwadi’ or the shepherd colony, typically outside a village in a hilly terrain. In fact, we were acquainted with one teacher who regularly hiked to reach his assigned school in a dhnagarwadi.
Typically schooling can be in stages - primary education close to residences, then schools up to 7th standard with a slightly larger draining area and then 8th to 10th standards in a larger place, often catering to children from a few adjoining villages. Larger villages had a school right from primary to 10th standard. In some larger localities there are plans to set up Junior colleges.
The terrain in these four villages varied from typical undulating lush green Konkan to harsh, hot, bare, barren, laterite plateau.
This is where TheUntamedEarth presented its lectures. Surprisingly the schools had a good infrastructure. They were all equipped with computer labs and had their own projection facilities ( except one but it was arranged). One school even boasted of a Gymnasium. Presentations were arranged in makeshift areas but one school had its own hall. These schools were built on land donated by some philanthropists and run by educational trusts. If there was anything lacking it was more than compensated by the sheer enthusiasm of the students and the phenomenal support and involvement, not only of the school principals of the individual schools but their entire staff and even some members of the trusts governing these schools.
We found that the trusts managing these schools were very progressive and dyanamic with the involvement of some locals. The staff, the students seemed to have bonded as a family. Our reception was very warm, enthusiastic, even bordering on elaborate. Some students actually walked to school. Even a small walk in this terrain with its ups and downs is no garden walk. And there were those who walked 3 to 4 kms. one way to reach school. One girl, a resident of a Dhangarwadi actually hiked , yes hiked, almost an hour over 4 kms. one way to reach school. We were highly impressed with their sheer dedication. It seems that they and their parents do realize that education is their salvation and a gateway to a better life . There are enough incentives from the government but the prospects of better life are hard to beat. Perhaps this is the reason why we felt there was a sheer emphasis on education….
The compatibility issues between our systems were very patiently eliminated while the students waited expectantly and with curious excitement. The initial distance between us and the students evaporated as they became our friends. Their animated faces reflected their emotions, as our visuals hit the screen. We also made it a point to share our findings with the students, like the images of Malabar Pied Hornbills at a ‘Devrai’ or ‘Sacred Grove’ near one of the villages….incidentally we were fascinated to see such a large no. of hornbills, at least 8 together.
We found that these kids were extremely talented, capable of varied tasks because of their circumstances, extremely hardy because of their terrain and very aware of their beautiful environment in a general manner … for eg. we met a young girl who not only takes care of household chores, but also helps in cooking, milking the cows and has even helped in the delivery of a cow … now how many from a city can match this ?
We seriously felt that they could be made more aware of their rich natural wealth and environment and shared our documentation with them. We also felt that introduction to subjects like environmental sciences, wildlife sciences, various new branches of botany and zoology etc. which might even lead to career choices would be a good idea. They would also do well with vocational courses. Most of the schools had good results at SSC and there were quite a few who were pursuing higher professional programmes like engineering. We sincerely and seriously feel that it is this and such groups of students who must be accorded concessions as well as reservations in higher education – without any considerations to their caste etc – so as to enable them to be at par with the mainstream students from our urban areas.
… it is impossible for a typical urban dweller to even imagine this kind of life, unless they experience it first hand !
We have suggested that certain continuing activities can be planned with the participation of interested students under supervision of teachers and look forward to further interactions.
Of course there are distractions as well as problems … commuting as well as lack of opportunities … but we are positive of a bright tomorrow and happy that we were a part of their lives, albeit for a short while. It would not be out of place to mention that this entire exercise was one very enriching experience for us in more ways than one and we probably gained as much or even more than what we offered
Drs Ujwala and Sanjeev Shevade
VIVANT UNTAMED EARTH FOUNDATION
The entire exercise was made possible because of some wonderful help and co ordination of the following.
- Shri Avi Bagav -Javde and Lanja, for putting it all together
- Shri Vasant Shevade – Vangule and Pune for facilitating our stay at Vangule
- Shri Raja Shevade – Vangule, for hosting us for some unforgettably delicious dinners.
Amazing biodiversity of Konkan …
While it is impossible to document the rich natural splendour of this beautiful terrain in just one visit and that too in one season, we have decided to showcase at least a few from our visit … here they are as some representative images !
We shared them with our audience and urged them to look around and document as well !