Education by villagers versus education of villagers


    Crores are spent every year by different government departments including the health, rural development, drinking water and sanitation, education and women & child development on sensitising rural populations on several issues and motivating them in many cases for behavior change.

    For instance, the much hyped Swachh Bharat Mission recognises that mere construction of toilets would not make a community open defecation free. Along with provision of toilets, behaviour change was necessary to ensure people do not follow the old practice of defecating in the open.

    On the other hand, increasingly rural communities have been cynical about the attempts of urban people to change them, and they feel that such groups are not really interested in their welfare but have come merely to do their job and make their money. Moreover, the villagers themselves are never seen as having any knowledge or capable of any significant work because of which people had come from outside to educate them and change them.

    Let’s meet Sujit Mahapatra, a social worker who has experienced the root level problems faced in the rural parts. “When Bakul Foundation, my organisation and I got an offer to work in rural Odisha for the first time in 2011, we recognised these challenges and decided to address them as part of our strategy. We were requested to support field based organisations working on motivating people to build and use toilets and follow safe sanitation practices,” mentions Mahapatra.

    Although they were to educate people on water and sanitation, but they decided that contrary to existing practice of educators zooming in and out of the villages, doing their ‘educative’ act and leaving. “We decided to take an entire team and camp in a village for 6 days, stay with them, eat with them and work with the,” adds Mahapatra.

    The Foundation even has its own education under the aegis of a larger ‘Festival of Learning’ that takes place in the community with an aim that the community open up their ideas and thoughts being the part of the festival and gain knowledge on the issue of water as well as other major issues related to rural health, education and development.

    Not to ‘educate’ the villagers but ask the villagers for their support in ‘educating’ others is the aim of Mahapatra and his foundation working together to bring change in the rural segment.

    The team has resource persons that include storytellers, filmmakers, artists, photographers and making more who create awareness and motivate villagers and help them to understand and recreate themselves to bring change as a whole.

    They even focus on motivating people to be representatives to bring in change in the village.
    The community would participate in engaging themselves in creating the art works of their own, and certified for an ownership card, ‘Popular Education through the Social Arts’.

    “The major objective is to make the community link their notion of pride with the issue of water. And the problems identified and expressed by them are be taken into account and development practices implemented bringing a small step for change,” highlights Mahapatra.

    Suck kind of workshops have a sustainable impact on the villagers and give them confidence to express their issues, attain knowledge of social arts and help them to get engage in the community programmes.