CTC Ainthinai - Volunteering Visit to Cuckoo Forest School
Post Event Write-up by Vidhya
The idea of alternative schooling is not new to India. Even in the Vedic times, gurukulams sowed the seeds of alternative education. Schools inspired by Maria Montessari and Waldroff have made waves internationally. With J. Krishnamurthi and Aurobindo propagating the idea, today this is a sophisticated concept catering to the affluent children in India.
What sets apart Cuckoo Forest School near Tiruvannamalai, an alternative school, is that it aims to address the learning needs of the poor and deprived children of the struggling farmers, poor weavers and people following other small occupations living in the vicinity. The ground reality here is that weavers in the nearby hills close shop and send their children out to work at knitting units in Tirupur near Coimbatore. Similarly, farmers stop farming, sell their lands to real estate sharks, and move to other towns and cities in search of work. Similar is the plight of other locals practicing small occupations unique to the place.
So alternative education in Cuckoo Forest School aims to teach organic farming, weaving and other life skills unique to the villages surrounding Singarapettai, a beautiful hamlet surrounded by Jawadhu hills, where the school is nestled. This is a purely down-to-earth venture and the only driving force is the dream of a handful of people who were closely associated with Dr. Nammalvar, the green crusader who simply asked people to eat locally-produced food, follow local practices, and live one with nature.
True to the beliefs of Ayya, the respectful adage by which Dr. Nammalvar was popularly known, Cuckoo Forest School aims at building itself by involving the local communities and taking support from volunteers who offer to lend their hand. With no ambitious resource in its kitty or no media hype to make it popular, it is a wonder how this institution is taking shape–literally brick by brick. There are artists, architects, educationists, and revolutionaries who are putting all their might in building the institution.
A group of bubbly young volunteers from CTC Ainthinai make it a regular to visit Cuckoo Forest School. Travelling for more than seven hours from Chennai, Ainthinai volunteers contribute their weekends to working at this school. Whether the work involves manually removing large and small pebbles from the ground to smoothen out the kabbadi field for the children or finding volunteers who can donate LCD projector for the school, this group of energetic youngsters are up for it all. This group includes people working on night shifts and in IT companies where extended working hours is the norm. Their idea of “alternative working” on weekends to chill out is truly laudable. It is humbling to watch volunteers from diverse fields contributing to the building of this school with such cheer and enthusiasm. And, most importantly, they work by being sensitive to the local conditions... when they know the locals are struggling for water under severe drought conditions, they become extremely sensitive to using water. This is the true spirit of volunteering!
Still, there is a long way to go. The school is now working on drawing a syllabus for the different subjects it wishes to cover. For example, for weaving, the learning starts from identifying the right cotton to spinning the yarn, and goes up to marketing the woven product. A formal inauguration of the school is planned on the , where academicians and other large-hearted volunteers, who can contribute to this humble yet ambitious venture, will be participating.
True to Ayya’s belief that education is a means of freedom, this venture aims to empower local communities by offering the right kind of education. Knowledge breeds pride, and it is the need of the hour. When children take pride in the place they live in and pride in what they do, there can be no fear of the future.
More beautiful clicks from the event :