“In the bid of going ‘mainstream’, what is richly local (or native) is not leveraged enough. There is a visible distance between the understanding of that which is internal, accessible and highly resourceful, and that which is external and commonly sought after. It is in this distance that Native begins and continues to exist, not to bridge it, but to scaffold programmes that turn lenses inwards and facilitate growth that spreads equally outwards.”
Making choices is a consistent, almost inevitable process one can hardly escape. Choices exhibit a variety too, starting from those exercised daily, like appropriate clothes to suitable books to shades of makeup to holiday destinations to drinks, to those that make visible difference like suitable groom, to better leaders, to universities for higher studies. Choices are subconscious and deliberate, untamed and imperative. In most cases, choices determine identity and the ability to make them is liberating.
When choices are imposed, however, or made for us by factors beyond conscious control, they weigh on us, belittle our capacity and leave us with energy enough only to conform to the circumstances leading them. These are choices one dreads and wishes never to face.
One such choice (or the absence of choice, if you may), which children, belonging to economically humble communities, make is that of dropping out of school to help meet financial needs of their families. And this is true of a large section of our society. Adults drop out of school or refrain from getting educated formally, indulge in labour at an early age, and when they grow up their children follow the same trend. Earning for them means survival, and learning, depending upon time and circumstances, becomes luxury, be it children, young people or adults. However, this does not take away from their willingness to acquire knowledge. Yet, since the general perception suggests that schooling is equivalent to being educated, the latter becomes subservient to socio-economic conditions. Individual lives become far removed from education in the same struggle. And, for some children, who do manage to go to school, there is little connection between what they learn there and what they do to make a living. Being able to provide oneself education, while also trying to manage a living, often becomes taxing and eventually one tends to give up on one or the other.
Education, as mentioned earlier, is associated directly with schooling or training formally from recognized educational institutions. However, what is taught in schools is not particularly and necessarily relevant to what they experience and engage with daily. The suggestion is not that schools are redundant. But there is definitely a need for education to be contextual, exploratory and relevant, which empowers children physically, spiritually and mentally, as opposed to being a medium of mass production of certified labour.
In effect, there is a distance between education as an institution and life-led processes/experiences.
In the bid of going ‘mainstream’, what is richly local (or native) is not leveraged enough. There is a visible distance between the understanding of that which is internal, accessible and highly resourceful, and that which is external and commonly sought after. It is in this distance that native begins and continues to exist, no to bridge it, but to scaffold programmes that turn lenses inwards and facilitate growth that spreads equally outwards.
In a situations as relevant as this, some questions demanding immediate attention would be:
1) What does education mean to people belonging to socio-economically poor backgrounds?
2) What kind of learning must it involve?
3) What are the needs, aspirations and limitations of the people concerned?
4) What are the opportunities of learning within those people’s realities?
Having said this, then, can an individual’s education stem from his livelihood/act of sustenance/skill of labour?
Tagore says, “The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”
The idea is to explore the possibility of education being rooted in and emerging from the act of sustenance. Instead of letting economic and social circumstances lead children to making a choice between earning and learning, it is possible that their education is deeply rooted in their acts of sustenance, such that this process of being educated is uplifting and not merely academic.
Native, hence, steps in to engage with, explore in practice and share insights into the idea of making one’s native context (which involves one’s surroundings and practices of earning and living) a medium for their learning, where the framework of learning is determined by their age, economic status, living conditions, parental/familial/societal situation, social issues, levels of literacy and working time.