Saturday, April 28, 2012
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Students Skype with Aussie varsity
April 26: The distance separating two groups of students — one in a hamlet on the outskirts of the city and another in Australia — were thousands of miles over ocean and land but they connected in an instant.
In a first-of-its-kind online interaction between a group of 20 post-graduate students of Flinders University, Adelaide, and 15 students of Parijat Academy in Pamohi this morning, the discussion revolved around indigenous communities of Garbhanga near Pamohi and its surroundings and their sources of sustenance and lives.
“During the hourlong interaction that began at 6 this morning on the video chatting site, Skype, the students of Flinders University, who represented nine different countries, wanted to know about the livelihoods of the indigenous communities and how significant were forest-based resources in their lives. Besides, the importance of school education for children of the hamlets in and around Pamohi, was discussed,” Uttam Teron, principal coordinator of Parijat Academy, toldThe Telegraph.
The academy, opened in 2003 at Teron’s initiative with just four students, currently provides free education to over 550 students, most of whom were school dropouts from nearby Garbhanga — an area around 20km from the city, inhabited by Karbi and Bodo people. The novel project of Teron, who hails from the area, has drawn the attention of national and international organisations.
Udoy Saikia, a teacher at the School of the Environment, Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, coordinated today’s interaction.
“The need for such an interaction was felt a couple of weeks ago by Udoy Saikia who asked me if I could share information on topics such as primary education, community development and the local environment with students of Flinders University. Saikia, who hails from Jorhat, has been working with us through a South Australian charitable organisation for the past four years,” Teron, attired in a traditional red Karbi jacket during the interaction, said.
The inter-relationship between tribal livelihoods and nature, especially forest, and threats to the community owing to deforestation, man-animal conflicts and wetlands, among others, were also discussed.
Asked about the questions raised by the students of the Australian university, Teron said: “One of them, a female student, had asked me why investors were not attracted to Assam and the Northeast. Another student asked how difficult it was to get funds for the school when it was set up. To the first query, I told them that some areas in the Northeast still lacked connectivity, which affected investment, and to the second, I shared some of my difficulties when I set up the school in a cowshed. I also shared my dream of making all the children of the locality literate.”
Teron also spoke on how the villagers coped with the problem of man-elephant conflict and how youths of hamlets in the vicinity needed to be weaned away from deforestation activities and encouraged to take up agriculture on a small scale.
About the feedback from Australia, Teron said: “Saikia informed me after the interaction that, as a first step, it was fruitful and more interactions needed to be organised in the future. He said the students were eager to come and work in the community sector in Assam.”
Sankar Bongjang, a student of the academy who appeared in the matric exam this year, said: “It was a unique experience. They asked us our names and which classes we were in. Bhal lagil (Loved it). We also sang the song We shall overcome... in unison. They loved it.”
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Volunteer from USA, April 2012
I’ve been staying at Parijat Academy for 10 days now and I can finally start sharing my stories. Right now we are having a holiday called “Bihu” and we will not have classes again until Monday. The next few days I will be partaking in some culture activities and I will have some extra time to update my experiences.
First, I will say that this experience has been quite the challenge for me. I am currently the only volunteer here and sometimes it can be overwhelming for me because I have never volunteered solo before. However, this is a great learning opportunity and it has really pushed me to put more effort into connecting with people around me. Uttam and his family have been fantastic! They treat me like I am part of the family and they always make sure I am well taken care of.
Now let’s talk about the fun stuff, the children at Parijat Academy. I just recently finished a teaching job in South Korea. I was there for almost 2 years and the education system is extremely different from India. In Korea children are overwhelmed with education and in India children are thirsty for it. The kids here are eager to learn and they are very excited to have a foreigner in the classroom. The energy level is very high and seeing the glow in their eyes is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever experienced. The English level is very low, so sometimes it can be discouraging, but yesterday I started to notice that some of the children were starting to catch on and I could hear them using simple phrases that I commonly use…phrases such as, “high five,” “excellent,” “fantastic,” “Are you ready?,” “Is it okay?”. After noticing this I started to feel more hope. Also, they have pretty much mastered the “Hokie Pokie” and I have a blast every time I lead them in the song/dance.
I still can’t believe I’m really in India working with kids and getting immersed in the culture…I used to dream about this! Anyone can do this if they are willing. I want to encourage you to get involved and to take the leap of faith to come to India. I have met so many people that want to be involved with social justice, but usually volunteering in another country is very expensive. Fortunately, this is not an issue with this organization, so start considering it…and please try to bring a team. I can’t even imagine the progress that could be made if we had a group here. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I will post more later.