Almost all of us are aware of the impact created by the movie ‘3 idiots’. It was indeed a masterpiece. Initially, many of us considered education as a process of ‘gaining knowledge’. This movie created a paradigm shift in our insights and redefined our perceptions about education. Education is much more than just gaining knowledge.
Poor is an education system that emphasizes on teaching facts. One which focuses on discussing concepts is good. However, a great system is engineered in such a way that it gives prime focus on ideas. It is based on principles that recognize the importance of imagination and creativity in learning. Teachers in such a system are less a coach and more of a guide. They are mentors who not only impart knowledge but also equip students with skills and develop among them the aptitude to use this combination and apply it to their day to day life to make it more comfortable. They help them relate with what is taught in the class to the real world. They try to make students realize their true potential and explore it. They acquaint them with experiences which influences the way they think, feel and act.
A glimpse of a school based on above philosophy regarding education was depicted in a scene at the end of the above mentioned movie. It showed a school run and managed by none other than our favourite character RANCHO a.k.a Phunsukh Wangdhu. What if such an illusion turns into a reality? To your amaze Team Sociovigil presents one such initiative started way back in 1988 in the same place as described in the movie, ‘LADAKH’.
SECMOL (The Student’s Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) is the brainchild of Sonam Wangchuck. It is an Indian non-governmental organization based in Ladakh which was started in 1988 by some ladakhi youths who returned from university with a vision to equip ladakhis with the skills and knowledge which will enable them to suffice their needs and make them independent. They tailored the government school system of Ladakh to help ladakhi youths overcome challenges faced by them in their academics, enhance their communication skills, awakening them to the problems stemming from inappropriate and insensitive schooling, producing related videos and radio programmes, designing and building solar-heated eco-friendly buildings. Ladakh has 300 sunny days a year. SECMOL realizes the utility of this resource. It teaches youngsters about how they can develop solar heated buildings and used other forms of solar energy to make Ladakh self-reliant for its energy needs.
SECMOL Campus is located near the village of Phey in the Indus valley 18 km from Leh. It was developed between 1994 and 1999 and was inaugurated in 1998 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Entire campus is built using simple, low-cost traditional techniques and now comprises three residential houses, 20 cell rooms and a large school building, all solar heated. More than a thousand trees have been planted in the campus. It is home to about 40 students and a few staff and volunteers, who live, work and study here. From time to time, it hosts trainings, workshops and youth camps for up to 100 additional people. The campus is maintained, and to a large degree run, by the students themselves on a democratic basis. Buildings here are heated without emitting CO2, burning anything like firewood or gas, or electric heaters. This ‘passive solar design,’ is distinct from active designs which use circulating water pipes, air blowers, or moving parts. With passive solar design the SECMOL buildings stay warm and don’t need any external heating even when the minimum outside temperatures falls to -25°C. Solar electricity is used for all their electrical and pumping needs. The campus has two solar cookers and solar water heaters for bathing. The vegetable garden produces vegetables even in winter.
SECMOL Annual Camp
SECMOL runs annual camps for rural youth who have just taken the 10th class exam (i.e. aged 16-18). The purpose of the camps is to build self-confidence and create awareness about cultural and environmental issues. A camp for Ladakhis who study outside Ladakh is organized which includes training in areas like vocational guidance, environmental awareness and action, and entrepreneurship. Life during camps conducted is great. Students, staff and volunteers from other parts of India and the world live together on the campus, creating a rich and lively atmosphere perfect for inter-cultural exchange which makes camps grow ever more popular. Students take care of everything on campus, and have responsibilities for everything from maintaining the solar electricity to milking the cows to buying the food for the kitchen and cleaning. A typical SECMOL Youth Camp includes classes on subjects like basic English conversation with volunteers, Ladakhi history and geography, solar energy, health, Nature, Ladakhi language, painting and educational games. A daily morning talk is conducted to expose students to education problems in Ladakh, current issues, and self development. Other Activities include singing, dancing, Ladakhi and English videos, debates, quiz contests and sports like volleyball, cricket, football, or other games taught to them by volunteers. Campers and volunteers work daily for an hour to keep them physically fit and ready for Ladakhi village life. This also keeps camp expenses low for the Ladakhi participants. They pay only basic food costs so that even those from the remotest villages can afford to come. Ladakhi campers pay no fee for teaching, rooms and other facilities at SECMOL summer camps.
They have volunteers from all over the world which work as English teachers, ice skating or hockey coach etc. They also teach basic mathematics and give them exposure of all over the world. So far, more than 1900 Ladakhis and volunteers from over five continents have been part of this program.
Team Sociovigil’s take over SECMOL
Education is process that teaches an individual the ideals of how to live a good and balanced life. However, how you will lead a good and balanced life is largely decided by the habitat in which you live and the situations you face. ‘Relativity’ or ‘Quantum mechanics’ is of no relevance to Eskimos. Education for them is to know the art of making an igloo, weaving, hunting or how to excel in fishing. Thus, the meaning and context of education changes from one place to another and from person to person. This should be realized by social entrepreneurs who are willing to work in area of imparting quality education to people. This would even lead to foundation of a strong economy having skilled professionals in various fields of their interest. Implementing such ideas would turn our country biggest resource ‘humans’ into a skilled workforce supplying manpower to the whole world. In this sense it is aptly said,
‘Padhega India, tabhi toh badhega India.’
To get better insight : www.secmol.org
Present article was worked upon by : Ashutosh Shukla & Vaishali Jain