Thursday, August 31, 2017
Inspiration-This Family Did Not Send Their Children to School, but Taught Them by Creating a Forest.
Sarang Hills is a repository of knowledge gathered over 30 years of saying no to formal education, living close to nature and learning from everyday life.Thirty-six years ago, Gopalakrishnan and Vijayalekshmi decided that their yet-to-be-born child will not go to school. As government school teachers, they were themselves disillusioned with the limitations of formal education and how it left children unprepared to deal with life.This dream school, which they fondly named Sarang, was to be nothing like what traditional schools were – no certificates, no rote learning, no ‘one-size-fits-all’ curriculum.
In 1994, the couple quit their jobs and started working on Sarang. Their first student, naturally, was their son, Gautham. Instead of staring at black boards, the children set off their learning on a massive canvas – a barren land that Gopalakrishnan and Vijayalekshmi bought in Attappady, near Palakkad, Kerala.The children of Sarang, friends and well-wishers joined Gopalakrishnan and Vijayalekshmi in their dream to revive the land. The task was by no means ordinary or easy. While their neighbours gave up their battle with the harsh terrain and left the hills, the Sarang family stayed on the hilltop, determined to bring greenery back to the hills.
They learned their physics, biology, geography, mathematics, chemistry and environmental science by seeing, feeling and doing. They also learned language, art and culture.But the children who started this work could only be part of it for two years. By the end of 1995, the 50 odd children who learned at Sarang had to discontinue their wonderful journey.Gautham, who is 36-years-old today, did not go through formal schooling throughout his life. Gautham says, “I saw other children going through the pressures of school while I found myself curious to learn. When I was just 10-years-old, I stayed away from home with my cousin to learn the martial art of Kalaripayattu. We were on our own, cooking our food, washing our clothes and being responsible for each other. Out of curiosity about how a radio works, I became an apprentice at a local radio shop. I cleared the amateur wireless operator’s exam at the age of 14 and became a Ham Radio hobbyist”.